Friday, October 24, 2008


It's strange to think that a baseball stadium built in your conscious lifetime could be considered stylistically outdated (or even retro), but sure enough, watching the World Series, I've gotten the feeling that the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field is truly out of its era — though that era (the late '80s) is something I can distinctly remember.

True, parks such as Wrigley and Fenway are very out of their eras, but their old feels are a link to a past — echoed in the newer "neighborhood-style" parks of the '90s and '00s — teams want to cultivate. A purer time, so they believe. But the Trop — one of the last cookie-cutter stadiums of the '70s/'80s — is a different kind of reminder: one of lower attendances, the unsettling first decade of free agency, the mercenary nature of the DH and of general fan unfriendliness. (It's even media unfriendly, offering a high and off-center location for the center field camera.)

But when I see those blank, high pads against the backstop — an area that would now be filled with premium seating at places like PNC Park and Petco Park — I'm filled with a kind of strange nostalgia. And when Fox cuts away to full-stadium shots of the Trop, I can't help but think that it does looked outdated, though for such a long time that was what baseball looked like to me: a fixed dome, fake grass and multiple, vertiginous decks miles in the distance. Can you be nostalgic for something ugly and poorly planned? Definitely. And I'm growing to really like the Trop.

As a side note, it's very ironic that, years later, the Phillies are battling in the World Series in a fixed-dome stadium. Their last October visit had them facing the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 at that king of '80s era baseball venues: the SkyDome.

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