One thing we love here at Ebbets almost as much as old uniforms is old ballparks, and for pretty much the same reasons. The seeming randomness of many of these buildings led to unusual parks and very distinct stages upon which the game was played. The charm inherent in this randomness is evident because in many of the faux-retro parks built since Camden Yards there have been attempts (largely unsuccessful, in our view) to engineer these qualities into the planned design of the park. What made these features unique in the original ballparks was, of course, the fact that they were a necessary part of the initial design, and oftentimes they seemed rather haphazard or hodgepodge. For example, Fenway’s fabled Green Monster (now marketed as such) was really just a function of the limitations of the plot of land on which the park stood, and the fact that Landsdowne Street lies directly behind right field. Decks were added to accommodate additional seating or press boxes as the need arose, and the new features were simply added to the existing building. Many parks now considered “classic”, including Ebbets Field, Shibe Park, Forbes Field, and others, developed in this fashion.
One of my favorite examples of this “stadium evolution” is the 50s era Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota. Built in the suburbs (Minneapolis and St. Paul traditionally each had their own ballpark for their respective minor league clubs), the Minneapolis Millers moved in in 1956, though the real purpose was to attract a major league tenant. The New York Giants actually seriously considered moving to Minnesota before settling on San Francisco. The original infield-only triple-deck configuration was augmented by an 8,000-seat addition in 1961, when the Washington Senators moved to the Twin Cities in 1960 to become the Twins. That same year the Twin Cities were awarded an NFL expansion franchise and in 1965 another addition of a double-decked section of stands beyond left field was added to increase seating capacity for Vikings games. Each addition to the park enhanced its improvised feel. Fans in the bleachers had to actually exit the stadium to enter the grandstand, as a concourse connecting the sections was never built. Add the spartan colored metal exterior facade and you have a mid-century classic. We won’t claim this was the best facility in professional sports, but it was of its time, and compared to what came after it – the Metrodome with its parking garage atmosphere and beanbag roof – it looks absolutely charming. Did you attend games at The Met? We’d love to hear what your experience was like.