Friday, August 17, 2012
Setting the scene
Location, location, location.
That's how the old real estate saying goes.
The same thought process can be applied to the world of baseball cards.
One of my weakest areas of baseball expertise are some of the stadiums from the past. As much as I think I should know it, I couldn't tell you what the Kansas City Royals' first stadium was. (Okay, a quick Google search says it's Municipal Stadium. Now I know.)
However, while I might not know about venues from before my time, I've learned to appreciate all of the 30 stadiums that are in use today. Each has their own little intricacies that should be appreciated by baseball fans everywhere.
That's not to say I'm not partial to a few of them. More specifically, I've found that certain venues make for better all-around photos, especially when it comes to baseball cards.
True, a great baseball shot can make any card look great. But a few stadiums have provided collectors with great cards on a more consistent basis, in my view.
Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) in Cleveland is one of the more underrated venues in my book. There have been some great checklist cards over the years, but few of them could ever top this one.
For this post, I've narrowed it down to my top three stadium backdrops.
Unfortunately, Jacobs Field didn't quite make the cut, but it deserves an honorable mention, at the least. Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park also came close, but couldn't quite crack the list.
My top two were never in doubt, but it took a little mulling over to decide what would take the number three slot.
I ended up giving it to...
For as long as I can remember, the Angels have been my favorite non-Chicago sports team.
They've had a lot of my favorite players wear the "halo" over the years (like Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter), and their style of baseball under manager Mike Scioscia is a ton of fun to watch, at least on the rare occasion when an Angels game pops up on TV here.
It helps that Anaheim is host to one of the most elegant ballparks in baseball history.
The flagpoles and shrubbery that sit beyond the centerfield wall in Angels stadium is one of my single favorite aspects of any ballpark in baseball.
The folks at Upper Deck could not have done a better job in snapping this amazing shot of Chone Figgins at the plate.
I'll admit, I'm not the biggest Red Sox fan out there.
However, there's no denying the amount of history and sheer beauty that Fenway Park holds.
The greatest venues in sports all have that one, single aspect that makes it stand alone from all the others.
While that's definitely true in sports like football and basketball, no sport exemplifies that fact more than the glorious game of baseball.
It's hard to say what the single most unique stadium characteristic in all of baseball is. I'd bet that a lot of baseball fans would say the legendary Green Monster that can be found in left field at Fenway.
My favorite part about the "Monster" are the array of dents that can be found on it. Some rookie could line one off the wall one day, having made a permanent mark in the annals of Fenway Park.
And who knows. Maybe his dent is right next to one that Ted Williams made in his .400 season.
With all that mystique surrounding it, it's no surprise that the Green Monster sure makes for some terrific baseball cards.
Just ask Andre Dawson.
As great as Angel Stadium and Fenway Park might be, the number one slot on this list was never really in question for me.
It's Wrigley Field.
I've been fortunate enough to go to games at Wrigley over the course of my life, which is something I can't say about any of the other venues I've mentioned in this post.
However, I don't think any of them could ever top Wrigley.
As it stands, I've probably attended about a dozen games on the North Side of Chicago over the first twenty years of my life.
I find myself loving it more and more with each passing trip.
Every part of the stadium is unique. Everything from the "basket" in the outfield to the rooftop seats on Waveland Avenue across the street.
And, of course, the ivy.
My single favorite characteristic of any ballpark in the world. (The Green Monster is a close second.)
It's hard not to like any baseball card that features the famous Wrigley Field ivy. The great thing is, there's so many of them.
Few cards capture the beauty of Wrigley better than this spectacular Mark Grace issue, probably taken during the heart of summer when the ivy was in full bloom.
It's true that the Cubs have fallen on some hard times as of late. They can be straight up hard to watch at times.
Sometimes I'll ask myself, "Why do I keep coming back for more?"
It's not just my devotion to the team itself. It's everything that the words "Chicago Cubs" captures.
A big part of that is the stadium. I can get sick of watching errors and strikeouts day in and day out, but I'll never tire of seeing Wrigley Field each season.
It makes me appreciate the game of baseball more than any other ballpark in the world.