Astrodome supporters fighting the good fight
If only these saviors could have helped Tiger Stadium, Crosley Field and others
Here we are, nearly 44 years after its last Major League game, and I'm thinking about Crosley Field, which joins Tiger Stadium as my two favorite ballparks that don't exist anymore. I'm thinking about Crosley Field, because various groups in Houston are scrambling like Cesar Cedeno around third base to keep bulldozers from crashing into the side of the Astrodome any time soon.
That is so cool. The Astros have spent the past 14 seasons inside their splendid new place called Minute Maid Park. There also isn't a consensus as to what to do with the Astrodome, which opened in 1965 as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," along the way to creating the first indoor baseball games. Still, with the old place gasping for breath these days, those various groups in Houston rejoiced earlier this month after the National Park Service (NPS) used a defibrillator on the Astrodome by adding it to the National Register of Historic Places.
That NPS designation doesn't mean county and city officials have lost their rights to decide the Astrodome's fate. It also doesn't mean those various preservation groups should stop searching for financial solutions to keep those bulldozers away. It means the Astrodome is now eligible for significant economic help from the feds through tax credits and other things, but it mostly means there is a decent chance the Astrodome isn't going anywhere.
I'm jealous. As the traditionalist of traditionalists in sports, I wish these potential Astrodome saviors could climb into a time tunnel to save Crosley Field and Tiger Stadium from the future. Not only that, let's hope those saviors are around if -- or should I say "when"? -- evil folks talk of going after Wrigley Field and Fenway Park again. Such talk won't happen this decade, and maybe not the next.
But you know it will happen.
It happened to Crosley Field, the Reds' quaint home in Cincinnati from April 1912 through June 1970. Crosley remains deep in my soul: the terrace that was the left-field warning track, the sun/moon deck in right, the gigantic Longines scoreboard that was the center-field wall, the wonderful smell of freshly cut grass, brats on the grill and popcorn. My two brothers and I lived at Crosley during the summertime, and we went to the last Saturday afternoon game played at the place. I have a picture on a wall at my house of the final at-bat at Crosley on June 24, 1970, when the Reds beat the Giants. Plus, I have an original seat from Crosley sitting solid and red in my home-office room.
Anyway, without anything as effective as these Astrodome groups operating in an attempt to save its sacred walls and foundations, Crosley Field was demolished within two years after its last game. Oh, well. At least Tiger Stadium lasted nine years before it was sent tumbling to the ground. It survived that long, because similar to Houston right now, Detroit had a number of entities back then trying to keep Tiger Stadium relevant as a facility for as long as possible.
Some sought to turn parts of Tiger Stadium into condominiums, with hopes of keeping the field of Ty Cobb, Al Kaline and Lou Whitaker intact as a way to attract sentimental tenants. Then came rumblings about turning Tiger Stadium into a Minor League ballpark with space for conventions and a museum dedicated to the old team. When all of that failed, there was an attempt to make Tiger Stadium a haven for soccer. There even was speculation that it would help Detroit get a Major League Soccer franchise, but it didn't happen.
So Tiger Stadium went the way of Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Forbes Field and other ballparks built in the early 20th century.
In addition, other Major League ballparks came and went without much of a fight in their communities. There was Milwaukee County Stadium, for instance, built during the early 1950s for the Braves' move from Boston to southeastern Wisconsin. It was more functional than wonderful. It's charm solely was derived from hosting the Vince Lombardi Packers a couple of times during each NFL season while serving as the baseball home of future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn. Milwaukee County Stadium was closed after the 2000 season, and then it was soon demolished to become a parking lot for the significantly more captivating Miller Park that opened nearby.
Speaking of Aaron, he made Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium famous for a lot of reasons after it was built for the Braves' 1966 move to Georgia. Most noticeably, on April 8, 1974, he slammed homer No. 715 over the left-center-field wall to become baseball's all-time home run king.
Even though Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was torn down near the end of the 1997 season, when the Braves were spending their first year at Turner Field, the spot where Aaron's No. 715 landed is preserved by a large plaque in a parking lot next to its replacement.
That plaque represents the old place. Which reminds me of something else involving Crosley Field: It sort of lives as a new place these days. Local officials of a Cincinnati suburb decided in the late 1980s to build a replica of Crosley by using as many of its original artifacts as possible. They even recreated the scoreboard in center field, and then they offered use of the new Crosley to youth leagues. My brother, Dennis, lives in Cincinnati, and his son, Sam, played one of his high school games at the new Crosley.
It inspires memories of the old Crosley, but these groups in Houston want something more than a recreation of the old Astrodome.
They want to keep the real thing.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.