What’s the Best Ballpark in Baseball?

Of course, Fenway Park is the best ballpark in baseball. Many fans though don’t get to venture outside of New England to see other ballparks though. There’s two in New York City. Then there are ballparks in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C., which are all within a days’ drive. But how many baseball fans have been to multiple baseball parks?

The Best Ballparks in Baseball

I’ve been to eleven ballparks in my lifetime. I’ve been to Fenway Park 200+ times (seasonbest ballpark ticket holder). Runner-up is Camden Yards in Baltimore, which is one of the most gorgeous parks in the country. It’s a throwback to the old ballparks that were built before the cookie-cutter stadiums of the 1970s. The Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park is baseball’s best-kept secret in my opinion. Parking is easy and close by. It has the cheapest food of any other stadium I’ve been to as well. And contrary to popular opinion, their fanbase is actually pretty cool and friendly. I also enjoy going to Nationals Park in Washington D.C. They have the best hot dogs. It reminds me of Fenway Park too because of the close proximity the fans are to the field.

Citi Field in New York is also cool, especially since it’s modeled after Ebbets Field. Historically speaking, Progressive Field in Cleveland has one of the nicest stadiums. Take the time to go to their monuments park. The Indians have a long and under-appreciated history that shines inside their stadium (they also have Genny Cream cans!).

The Not So Best Ballparks in Baseball

So what’s the not so best ballpark in baseball? Well, there’s a few. While it’s no longer in use, Turner Field looked like a dump the last time I went there. Rusty interiors, nasty bathrooms, meager food options, and outrageous prices didn’t make it a fun place to go. I’ve heard better things about Sun Trust Park though. I got the worst sunburn on my legs at Comerica Park in Detroit in 2005. There’s almost no shade anywhere in that stadium. Plus it’s in Detroit.

I might get flack for this, but Wrigley Field isn’t all it’s made up to be. For starters, it doesn’t have a lot of character. The inside is dark. On a larger level though it reminds me of the U.S.S. Constitution. Both have a great and significant history, but they’re no longer what they originally were. The U.S.S. Constitution was built in 1797 but so much work has been done on the ship since then that only about 10-15% of the original ship remains. The same principle applies to Wrigley Field. It’s undergone so many renovations throughout its 104-year history that it hardly resembles what it once was, while Fenway Park’s retained much of its look. That doesn’t mean Wrigley Field isn’t a great place to see a ballgame. But there’s so much commercialism surrounding the ballpark that it takes something away from the aura. Their fanbase isn’t the nicest either.

So while Fenway Park is the best ballpark in baseball, I’d argue that the ballparks in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Cleveland rank up there pretty highly too.

Do Strikeouts Make Baseball Fun or Boring?

One of the may things that I love about pitching is the art of the strikeout. For some fans the lack of action equates to boredom. According to “Real or Not? Striking Examples of Failure Becoming a Turnoff,” Major League teams have averaged 8.72 strikeouts per game this season, a 1.01 increase from 2015, and 1.95 from 2008. “That means about four more strikeouts between both teams per game than we had a decade ago,” according to the same article. So do strikeouts make baseball fun or boring?

Back in 2016, my friend Chuck Fountain and I attended a Red Sox game. David Pricebaseball fun faced off against Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Chris Tillman. Price was superb by striking out eleven in eight innings. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the 3-2 deficit. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop hit home runs for the O’s while Jackie Bradley Jr. took Tillman deep in the seventh inning. Aside from those home runs, Fenway Park was pretty quiet that night. Looking around the stadium I noticed how bored a lot of fans looked. Chuck and I talked about it on the walk back to his car. We thought it’d been a very interesting game to watch because the pitching had been so strong. Price and Tillman had a combined eighteen strikeouts. Price and closer Craig Kimbrel didn’t even walk a single O’s batter. It wasn’t the home run derby that many fans look forward to, but for two baseball writers, it was like watching a duel between two skilled marksmen.

Do Strikeouts Make Baseball Fun? More Than You Think

Many baseball fans go to the ballpark hoping to see as many home runs as possible. Fewer fans though seem to appreciate the art of the strikeout. Fans complain about the pitch count, fouled off balls, and other aspects of an at-bat that can draw a game out. What they don’t understand though is that it’s not a drawn out affair as much as it’s a duel between a pitcher and a hitter, both of whom are trying to overpower the other. A skilled hitter will foul off ball after ball until he gets the pitch he wants. In the process he’s trying to wear out the pitcher. The same goes for the hitter. A skilled pitcher throws an arsenal of pitches that are designed to deceive the hitter. There isn’t a baseball fan who doesn’t already knows this, but it’s also something that many fans don’t seem to appreciate.

Instead of complaining about the lack of home runs, focus instead on the pitching duel that you see in every game. It’s a mental game between two of the top athletes in the world. That makes baseball fun for this writer!

The Big 50: The Men and Moments that Made the Boston Red Sox

Have you ever been at Fenway Park watching a game, and begin to wonder about the Red Sox’s team history? It’s not difficult to do. Signs, monuments, and vintage artifacts are seen throughout Fenway. Those relics of the past and present can (and do) catch people’s interest. With so many Red Sox history books out there though, which would you pick? Evan Drellich’s The Big 50: The Men and Moments that the Boston Red Sox, is a great book that gives brief but excellent details about the fifty biggest moments in Red Sox history.

With a forward written by former Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis, Drellich divides the book into fifty sections. EachThe Big 50 section spends about five or six pages detailing a famous event or player from the Boston Red Sox. What makes The Big 50 such a great book is that Drellich doesn’t just talk about Ted Williams, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez. Drellich discusses major events in the nation’s history, and how those events affected the Red Sox. For example, there’s an entire chapter about Ortiz’s famous words: “This is our F’ing city,” that details Ortiz’s message to Boston in the wake of the marathon bombing in 2013. Drellich also mentions Bucky “F–kin” Dent’s home run (still a sore subject in Beantown). While I think Drellich should have ranked Ted Williams #1 instead of #3, I still think his short bio of “The Splendid Splinter” is amazing.

The Big 50 is a Great Companion Book for Any Fan Going to Fenway

The book magnificently balances older history with more recent events in Red Sox history. Drellich spends time discussing Tony C, and 1986. He mentions more modern era players like Dustin Pedroia and Curt Schilling, too. I particularly like how Drellich includes quotes from interviews with players like Jim Rice, Jim Lonborg, and Theo Epstein. This book is one of the more thorough and detailed books about the Red Sox to come out in recent years. That’s not to discount other books about the team. But if fans are looking for something concise about Red Sox history without wanting to read a 500+ page book, the The Big 50 is perfect.

The Big 50 is an excellent book that no Red Sox fan should go without. It’s small enough to fit in a bag and take with you to Fenway Park. So whether you’re a die-hard fan like me, or just a casual fan, you’ll appreciate this book!

Yawkey Way Is No More – Who is Next?

Who is next?  When the PC Police, embodied as John Henry, asked the Boston Public Improvement Commission to change a street name because he has been “uncomfortable” with the Yawkey Way street sign outside his office window, then who isYawkey Way next?  When we start applying the morals (and I used that term loosely) of today to our own history then no one is in the clear.  Not Tom Yawkey, not George Washington, not Peter Faneuil, not Arthur Fiedler, not John Singleton Copley of Copley Square fame and I would bet every soybean dollar of John Henry’s family farms not his own family either.  Who wants that magnifying glass on their father, grandfather or even their own soul?  John Henry, do you?

Yawkey Way and John Henry’s Fallen Bostonian Park

So Henry is “uncomfortable” with Yawkey Way being Yawkey Way because Tom Yawkey was a racist?  Was he?  I don’t know because I did not know Tom Yawkey.  Then again, neither did John Henry.  I do know he was the owner who integrated last in the major leagues and had few non-white employees.  Let’s just assume that a man born in 1903 probably did have certain opinions about people of any color.  Why?  Because that was pretty much the norm of the day when Tom Yawkey lived.  Segregation was the norm.  Not mixing of the races was the norm.  Not wanting to mix the races was the norm.  Court ordered forced busing in Boston, to deal with the city’s continued segregation in its public schools, did not happen until 1974. Tom Yawkey died in 1976.  Tom Yawkey was loved in this city not because he may have held opinions that today we find “uncomfortable” but because we would not have the Boston Red Sox as a team if Tom Yawkey was not the owner.  He devoted himself and his finances to the Red Sox – in an era when no one wanted the team.  As a bequest in his will, he also established the Yawkey Foundation whose philanthropy goes beyond words.  They did not just give money to “white people” causes, by the way.  Ever think that maybe, just maybe, Tom Yawkey did what we hope all of us do in life?  Maybe just maybe he grew as a person.  Maybe the man of 1956 was not the man of 1976.  Maybe that is why he was mourned by this city.  But before John Henry’s PC Police minions start jumping up and down, I ask, what makes Tom Yawkey so special to John Henry’s PC Police?  Let us take a look at a few other Boston iconic names and places and see how they stand up.

If you walk from Park Street to Fenway, you probably walk through the Public Garden and pass the statue of George Washington, father of our Country.  Well in 2018 you can walk in the Public Garden, the first public botanical garden, but it was fenced for a reason, to keep the commoners out – they were over in the Boston Common, not the pristine Public Garden.  Anyway, even if we are somehow okay with that sectionalism, there is the George Washington statue, our first President riding a horse, as a great welcoming to Boston.  It was unveiled in 1869. A little irony there since the Civil War had ended four years earlier and well, George Washington was a major slave owner in Virginia.  He and his wife Martha owned hundreds of slaves.  Hundreds.  So as father of our country, do we hold him to the standards of today too, and tear down the statue like the hundreds of Lenin statues in Russia?  There is a fallen monument park in Moscow where the statues of hundreds of felled Soviet statues and busts now reside. Maybe John Henry can ask Boston to set aside a piece of the Common, or even better maybe Henry can donate a portion of his own land in Brookline, where we can place all of the felled Bostonian monuments?  We can call it John Henry’s Fallen Bostonian Park.

From Yawkey Way to Copley Square

Speaking of slave-owners, let’s talk about Peter Faneuil.  He both owned and traded slaves.  The money he made as a successful merchant, including of human cargo, paid for Faneuil Hall which he donated to the city of Boston.  As the National Park Service website states, ‘there is some irony to be found in its nickname however, because a portion of the money used to fund ‘The Cradle of Liberty’ came directly from the profits of the slave trade.”  So again, do we now refer to Faneuil Hall as, say, Old Boston Towne Market, because we need to suppress any history that makes us “uncomfortable”.  John Henry, are you on the Old Boston Towne Market name change bandwagon too?

Now Arthur Fiedler is synonymous with the 4th of July.  He brought music to the people, literally, which is why the footbridge and statue near the Hatch Shell is named after him.  He was like all of our grandfathers wrapped into one – a loving man who loved the people.  Fiedler gave us the Pops with its popular, traditional and classical music.  Yet his daughter wrote that he was a terrible father, who drank too much and who caused “wreckage” in their family.  Do we believe her every word?  Do we now see Fiedler as less of a Bostonian because his personal life was not as successful as his professional life?  Do we expect him to be perfect in order for him to be remembered fondly?  If so then we have another statue for John Henry’s Fallen Bostonian Park.

Closer on any walk to Fenway, will bring you to Copley Square.  The square is named for John Singleton Copley, renowned artist.  His square is next to the John Hancock building, which is also a bit ironic since Copley hated Hancock.  You see Copley was a Loyalist, who abhorred the Thirteen Colonies push for independence, also known as the American Revolution — so much so, that Copley sailed from Boston to England in 1774 and never returned.  Copley considered himself British.  Would have loved to have heard Sam Adams sitting in a pub in Colonial Boston verbally brandishing Copley as a traitor to the cause.  So do we now change the name of Copley Square back to the original name of Art Square because Copley never wanted America to be its own independent nation?  Do we ignore his talents as a premier artist, especially his portrait paintings of our Founding Fathers? John Henry, do we remove Copley’s name too to the Fallen Bostonian Park?

How This For Uncomfortable, John Henry?

This all began because John Henry was “uncomfortable” seeing the Yawkey Way street sign out his office window.  I wonder how Henry would fare if the microscope was placed on his life and business interests where every comment and decision is scrutinized ad nauseam.  We could begin by examining Henry’s great grandfather who emigrated from Londonderry, Northern Ireland and farmed in the slave state of Arkansas in the mid-1800s.  In addition, we could look at Henry’s grandfather and father’s soybean business in Arkansas and Illinois and see exactly how many people of color were employed.  We could even evaluate John Henry’s tenure with the Marlins and Red Sox and count the number of African-American, Hispanic, women and LGBTQ workers he had in high paying positions as Chairman and Owner.  No one wants that kind of spotlight, where the complete picture of someone’s life can so easily be lost.

The Yawkey Way sign being removed does not change racism or bring comfort to Boston or anywhere else.  History is not about comfort.  And our history as a city is not easy.  Yet we cannot learn from the past by whitewashing it away from public view like George Orwell in 1984, or because people are “uncomfortable”.  Errors and transgressions are part of our processes, it is how we learn and get better as people.  No human being would pass the perfection test, especially if we start placing the moral compass of today on times gone by.  If that is how we look at our city’s history, then each and every one of us would be relegated to John Henry’s Fallen Bostonian Park. Imagine how “uncomfortable” John Henry would be then.

This article was written by Maura Porter, Editor in Chief, Yawkey Way Report

Keep Yawkey Way So We Don’t Forget His Mistakes

Calls to tear down Confederate monuments are making headlines throughout the United States. Violence in Charlottesville has brought attention to our nation’s history that leave many divided. Personally, I think most of them should come down and be placed in museums. Racists erected them to intimidate African Americans, and they represent nothing but treason and oppression. Calls to rename other parks and streets that bare the names of ambiguous persons of history echo those same demands. One of those demands includes renaming Yawkey Way. While I think Confederate monuments should come down, I think they should keep Yawkey Way the way it is.

Yawkey Way was named after Tom Yawkey, the owner of the Boston Red Sox from 1933keep yawkey way to 1976. Many remember Yawkey as a racist. During his reign, the Boston Red Sox were the last team to integrate when Pumpsie Green took the field in 1959. Before then, the Red Sox had chances to sign players like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Sam Jethroe, all Rookies of the Year. Additionally, he employed Mike “Pinky” Higgins, a manager who made no effort to keep his distain for African Americans a secret. Higgins is the primary reason why the Red Sox didn’t integrate for years. Yawkey not only kept Higgins around, but he even promoted him through the years. Unlike owners like Branch Rickey and Bill Veeck, Yawkey chose to play along with the rest of the owners in baseball and drag their feet before integrating their teams. That will always be a part of his reputation and deservedly so.

Keep Yawkey Way So We Don’t Forget, and Repeat, The Past

Going back to my introduction, Confederate monuments need to come down because they represent a time in our nation’s history when traitors tried to tear this country apart. For many years after the war ended, its sympathizers tried to retain the honor of the south by erecting monuments, partly so they could continue terrorizing and intimidating African Americans who they’d oppressed for years. Many of these Confederate monuments were built specifically and deliberately to push back against integration and Civil Rights. That’s why they now need to come down. In fact, Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate forces, discouraged monuments. He thought they “keep open the sores of war” (Boy was he right).

Was Yawkey Way given its name for the same reasons? Of course not. Yawkey Way was named to honor Tom Yawkey, not to intimidate African Americans from coming to Fenway Park.

Keep Yawkey Way To Hold Yawkey’s Legacy Responsible

Yawkey Way bares the name of an owner responsible for modernizing Fenway Park. He played an important role in the history of the Red Sox and in baseball. Many ballplayers, black and white, remember him as being a very generous and approachable man. Deep down, he probably didn’t harbor racist sentiments as intense as Higgins’. However, he’s still responsible for that racist legacy. He could have done what Rickey and Veeck did and integrate the Red Sox before any other team. But he didn’t.

So instead of letting Yawkey and the Red Sox off the hook, the team needs to keep Yawkey Way. Of course, the current ownership doesn’t hold the same views Yawkey did, but they chose to buy the team and its dark legacy comes with that. They don’t get to “erase” that. It would also enable people to forget about the terrible mistakes Tom Yawkey made. Instead of erasing that history, the Red Sox should use this opportunity not only to remember a dark past, but take efforts to ensure they don’t go down similar paths.

Keep Yawkey Way To Ensure We Don’t Forget

There is no easy solution here. People will remain angry no matter what’s done. But let’s keep things in perspective here. This publication, which also bears the Yawkey name, looks to a future that includes equality and opportunity for everyone. To rename the street would jeopardize those efforts to craft a better future. Personally, I write for Yawkey Way Report because I want to help create a future with more equal opportunities so that everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. have a chance to thrive, whether it’s in baseball or in other aspects of life. Renaming Yawkey Way would indirectly disrupt those efforts because those involved would have to start from scratch to associate itself with a new title. That takes time, and frankly, I don’t see how that’s a better approach. That’s like tearing down an entire house just because the kitchen is unstable.

So instead of looking at Yawkey Way as a symbol of racism, look to it as a symbol of change. Tom Yawkey, while he could have done much more, tried to change his views for the better. Does that excuse his behavior? No. But renaming a street isn’t a zero sum solution and it never will be. We need to take the good with the bad. We can remember Tom Yawkey as an innovative owner while also holding his legacy responsible for its reprehensible actions. To change the name of Yawkey Way would be to erase and rewrite a history that, despite its darkness, is important to remember so we do not repeat it.

Christian Vazquez: Red Sox Secret Weapon

Christian Vazquez never got much attention before this season. His dismal batting average kept him in Pawtucket for much of 2016. His .227 with only eleven extra base hits wasn’t exactly impressive. What did impress everyone though was his fielding percentage. He currently has a .990 fielding percentage as of August 2nd. Fortunately for Vazquez, his bat finally caught fire this season. Vazquez was outed as the Red Sox secret weapon Tuesday night after hitting a walk-off home run defeating the Cleveland Indians 12-10.

Vazquez’s home run came at a critical time for the Red Sox. After a rough post All-Star losingred sox secret stretch, the Red Sox relinquished first place to the Yankees. The ongoing feud between David Price and Dennis Eckersley didn’t help their performance either. The game itself didn’t seem like a sure victory at all at first. Chris Sale surrendered eight hits and seven runs in five innings in a rare poor performance on the mound. The Indians’ Austin Jackson robbed Hanley Ramirez of a home run that just might go down as one of the greatest catches in the history of baseball. So for a while, it looked like the Red Sox weren’t going to win.

Then Christian Vazquez stepped to the plate. Little did anyone know, but the Red Sox secret weapon was about to push back at the Indians.

The Red Sox Secret Weapon Came At a Critical Time

As I stated before, the Red Sox really needed a victory here. Poor publicity, bad pitching, and lazy offense allowed the Yankees to snatch first place away. But in a game that had everything from drama, to suspense, to the perfect climax, you can’t say the Red Sox didn’t snatch back first place in style. More importantly, after years of writing him off as a sure out, opposing teams now have to take Vazquez much more seriously as a hitter. It’s bad enough for them that he has a high caught stealing percentage, making opposing runners think twice about stealing.

No one, not even those in Red Sox Nation, thought Vazquez could come through in the clutch like he did last night. But there’s only one thing that makes me angry about the whole thing.

I wasn’t in the mood to go to the ballgame and I gave my tickets away, so I wasn’t there to watch it live.