Best-ever ballparks

Fenway, Wrigley topped by an underrated Midwestern gem

Fenway Park turned 100 on Friday, standing grander than ever. No place does better combining history with technology, and the clam chowder's awfully good too.

In honor of Fenway, here's one guy's take on baseball's best-ever ballparks. The only caveat is I can't rank 'em if I haven't watched a game in them, which eliminates places like Forbes Field and the Polo Grounds.

1. Tiger Stadium

Surprised? When romantics talk about the smell of Italian sausage on the grill at Fenway, they're talking about the vendors outside the ballpark. Here, it was all in that tight, vertical square of real estate that opened in 1912 and closed in '99. Loved the upper deck overhanging the warning track, the 125-foot flag pole in play in center field and the tiny dugouts, where Eddie Gaedel would have bumped his head.

Best memory there: Then-Tigers owner Tom Monaghan, who also owned Domino's Pizza, ordering a helicopter to land in the infield to deliver pizza to reporters and others stuck in the stadium during the 1984 World Series riot.

Wish I had seen: Any game against the Yankees in 1923, with player-manager Ty Cobb leading the Tigers against Babe Ruth.

2. Fenway Park

The best park ever for a night game. When the lights shine at the Fens, you can feel a city's heartbeat. It's every bit as quirky as real life.

Best memory there: Ted Williams, when he was introduced as a member of Baseball's All-Century team at the 1999 All-Star Game, getting surrounded by Tony Gwynn and others.

Wish I had seen: Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, when Carlton Fisk willed his high drive to stay fair.

3. Wrigley Field

The best park ever for a day game. Lee Elia got it right when he called it "a playground.''

Best memory there: Pete Rose, wearing outrageously gaudy gold sunglasses, holding court before and after games in his final road stop before breaking Cobb's hits record in Cincinnati late in the 1985 season.

Wish I had seen: Ruth's called-shot homer in the 1932 World Series.

4. AT&T Park

The best of the modern parks, an acreage-challenged beauty where a long homer to right carries into McCovey Cove. Architects got everything about this place right, including the ease to walk from the seats behind home plate to the plaza behind the left-field bleachers, where some of baseball's best concession stands are located.

Best memory there: The joy San Francisco fans felt leaving after Game 5 of the 2002 World Series, not knowing what heartbreak was ahead in Anaheim.

Wish I had seen: The Jeff Kent-Barry Bonds dugout fight earlier in '02.

5. Oriole Park at Camden Yards

CHICAGO

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