The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

A Requiem to Old Ballparks !

If you write for a blog on a fairly regular basis, you will at times find yourself challenged to come up with the next idea to write about. This week’s post came to me while riding into work last week. As usual I was listening to music on my iPod on my 40-minute drive into work when a song came on that I hadn’t listened to in a long time since it’s not on any of my regular playlists. It’s a song by Frank Sinatra which he released in 1973 called “There Used to Be A Ballpark”. The song is written by Joe Raposo who was referring to the old Polo Grounds ballpark in Harlem, New York where the Giants played until 1957. The Mets would go on to use the old ballpark for a short time while Shea Stadium was built. After that, the Polo Grounds would succumb to the wrecking ball. Sinatra sings this song beautifully and as you listen, you can’t help but think about a lot of the old ballparks, as I did on that morning riding into work.

Ballparks all over the country play a vital role in helping communities come together to cheer for a common cause. Fans celebrate together and suffer together, all of which helps a community to bond, whether you are in a big city or small town. In fact, in small towns, it is often the main source of entertainment for much of the summer. We can hem-and-haw all we want about the justification for the costs of some of these grand structures but the payoff in pride and community is something that can’t be measured monetarily when looking at return on investment for a city or town.

I’m sure you have heard elderly people talk about their memories of going to ballparks past and how special they were to them and how bigger-than-life they were in their eyes at that time. When you look at pictures of old ballparks, it is amazing to see just how grand so many of these were. It’s hard not to love an old ballpark and to harken back to the old days. Heck, it was an old ballpark, Wrigley Field, that inspired me to want to become a Major League Baseball groundskeeper. And I did. Then, I got my chance to shut an old ballpark down… Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. There are times when I remember back to many fond memories of my first six years in Major League baseball there. It was a very special place. Back in the day when baseball was much simpler.

So, with those thoughts I present to you a short presentation below featuring just some of the ballparks that had served their fans so well during their lifetime, but have now disappeared from the American landscape only to be passed-on by memories. Take it away, Frankie…

Paul Zwaska

Paul Zwaska

A former head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1984 with a Bachelor’s in Soil Science with a specialty in Turf & Grounds Management. Paul took over as head groundskeeper for the Orioles’ final season at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and then was heavily involved throughout the design and construction phases of Oriole Park at Camden Yards which debuted on April 4, 1992. Paul has led Technical Sales Support at Beacon Athletics since the summer of 2000. In 2012, Paul authored and oversaw the launch of “Groundskeeper University”, the first online ballfield maintenance training venue. Over the years, Paul has donated thousands of hours working with West Madison Little League, which also plays a critical role in the research and development for many of Beacon’s innovative field maintenance tools.

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