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The Host With the Least

With Marlon Byrd and the Pittsburgh Pirates having taken the all-important first game of their one-game playoff series [1] versus the Cincinnati Reds — teams that go up 1-0 in these situations [2] tend to build insurmountable advantages — the sentimental favorite of every decent otherwise-unaligned baseball fan moves on to face St. Louis Cardinals in the Division Series round. Here’s to the Buccos keeping their ride going, at least until the Tike Redman flashbacks [3] fully kick in.

And here’s to beautiful PNC Park continuing to host postseason baseball. A backlash will inevitably develop against the Pirates, as every adorable underdog eventually morphs into an irritating overcat (just ask a Patriot-hating nation), but PNC Park should be granted a lifetime bye into the playoffs. It’s intimate, it’s glistening and it’s just happy to be here. I visited it once [4], in 2002, and after taking about five seconds to fall in love with it, I’ve been wistfully waiting for it to shine in October. Tuesday night I felt like a proud distant relative watching it arrive at its first debutante ball.

Pirate fans celebrated by dressing to create a “blackou [5]t” effect in the stands. Meanwhile, a certain ballpark closer to home simply remained dark.

It took PNC Park 13 seasons to get a meaningful October game. Once it entered this month of months, I got to wondering if a) that’s a particularly lengthy admissions period and b) whose current home park has now stood longest with its nose pressed against the window of the postseason cotillion.

You’re not going to love the answer to the second half of that question.

There are 30 ballparks in use by major league franchises. Now that PNC has joined the upper crust, 28 have seen postseason action. The two that haven’t? They are, in ascending order of how long they’ve waited for their first such game:

1) Marlins Park, opened 2012.
2) Citi Field, opened 2009.

That’s it. Every other building that MLB teams call home has hosted at least one playoff game. But not the Marlins’ home field and not the Mets’. The Marlins just got to their stadium — plus they’re the Marlins. As for the Mets…

Can we still claim Citi Field is too new to burden with the tag of “longest active ballpark without postseason activity” and mean it meaningfully as opposed to technically? Is five going on six seasons a particularly long time to go without?

Next to PNC, it ain’t. Next to a bunch of others, it really, really is. Just for fun — and because our entire 2013 postseason spectator experience boils down to staring wantingly at Marlon Byrd at-bats — let’s see how long it’s taken the rest of the contemporary ballpark world to contract their respective first cases of the playoff fever.

Fenway Park, 1912
SkyDome (now Rogers Centre), 1989
Coors Field, 1995
Turner Field, 1997
Pac Bell Park (AT&T Park), 2000
Busch Stadium, 2006
Yankee Stadium, 2009
Target Field, 2010

Dodger Stadium, 1963
Jacobs Field (Progressive Field), 1995
Bank One Ballpark (Chase Field), 1999
Safeco Field, 2000
Minute Maid Park, 2001
Petco Park, 2005

Comiskey Park (U.S. Cellular Field), 1993
The Ballpark in Arlington (Rangers Ballpark in Arlington), 1996

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (O.co Coliseum), 1971
Royals Stadium (Kauffman Stadium), 1976
Citizens Bank Park, 2007

Orioles Park at Camden Yards, 1996
Nationals Park, 2012

We’ll pause in the countdown here to note 21 of the 28 current ballparks had hosted a postseason game within five seasons of their occupancy by their baseball tenant. These 21 teams’ circumstances, competitive standings and eventual fortunes varied before and after those October initiations. It may say something definitive or fleeting about where the franchises involved were coming from or headed to. But just to view this matter narrowly, no, it’s not too soon to instinctively ask after five seasons at Citi Field, where the hell are our playoffs?

As for the rest of the pack…

Comerica Park, 2006

Miller Park, 2008
Great American Ball Park, 2010

Tropicana Field, 2008

PNC Park, 2013

Wrigley Field, 1929
Anaheim Stadium (Angel Stadium of Anaheim), 1979

Quick word on Wrigley: It opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park, home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. The Whales won the Federal League’s second and final championship in 1915 but there was no postseason in the soon-to-be-defunct circuit, just a hard-earned pennant [6]. The Cubs moved in in 1916 and won the National League flag in their third season there, 1918. They chose, however, to play their World Series home games that year at Comiskey Park because it was bigger; more seats equaled greater revenue. The Red Sox chose Braves Field for its World Series home games in 1915 and 1916 for the same reason, so it wasn’t a totally unprecedented decision.

Still, if you’re searching for Cubbie curses, you might want to consider that the first time they had a chance to play a World Series in their new park, they ditched it for a few more bucks on the other side of town.

As long as we’re being historically minded, let’s consider Citi Field’s at least six-season wait for postseason baseball in the context of every ballpark that’s been (to use the word loosely) permanent home to a major league franchise while the New York Mets have existed. Y’know, just for fun.

Forbes Field, 1909
The Glorious Polo Grounds, 1911
Original Yankee Stadium, 1923
Three Rivers Stadium, 1970
Riverfront Stadium, 1970
Renovated Yankee Stadium, 1976 (if they had to move out and share Shea for two years, then it counts as a whole new ballpark by my reckoning)

Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium, 1910 (2)
Busch Stadium, 1967 (2)
Candlestick Park, 1962 (3)
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, 1969 (4)
Milwaukee County Stadium, 1957 (5)
Metropolitan Stadium, 1965 (5)
Olympic Stadium, 1981 (5)
Joe Robbie Stadium/Pro Player (et al), 1997 (5)

Beautiful Shea Stadium, 1969 (6)
Veterans Stadium, 1976 (6)
Metrodome, 1987 (6)
Crosley Field, 1919 (8)
Exhibition Stadium, 1985 (9)
Original Comiskey Park, 1919 (10 for the White Sox…or 9 if you go with the Cubs’ cravenly renting it out for the 1918 World Series)

Memorial Stadium, 1966 (13)
Astrodome, 1980 (16)
Jack Murphy Stadium, 1984 (16)
Cleveland Municipal Stadium, 1948 (17, we’ll say, since the Indians began playing there in 1932, even if they didn’t fully commit to their cavernous lakefront ballpark until 1947, choosing to play some, most or all of many seasons at smaller League Park)
Sportsman’s Park/oldest Busch Stadium, 1926 (18)
Kingdome, 1995 (19)
Tiger Stadium, 1934 (23)

Wrigley Field — The Los Angeles version, home of the Angels for 1 season, 1961, before they killed a few years at Dodger Stadium.
Sick’s Stadium — Where the Seattle Pilots took flight for 1 artistically legendary [7] if competitively unsuccessful season, 1969.
Mile High Stadium — Big crowds for the expansion Rockies in 1993 and 1994, but no playoffs in those 2 years.
Colt Stadium — Drew mosquitoes but not postseason crowds in its 3 years hosting the Houston Colt .45s, 1962 to 1964.
Jarry Park — Where the Expos chilled [8] without results for 8 seasons, 1969 to 1976.
RFK Stadium — The Senators couldn’t agree on a continuing resolution to October from 1961 through 1971; the Nationals were shut down prior to the playoffs from 2005 through 2007. Total: 14 seasons of second-division gridlock.
Municipal Stadium — The Kansas City Athletics were a helluva Yankee farm club [9] for much of 1955-1967, but that wasn’t the idea, so they drifted to Oakland; the Royals were just help K.C. get the hang of legitimate big league baseball from 1969 through 1972. Total: 17 seasons without playoffs.
Arlington Stadium — The second Senators became the Texas Rangers in 1972 and remained spiritually the same sorry lot through 1993 before moving to their gorgeous new theme park. 22 seasons, 0 postseasons.

It’s not likely Citi Field will sit unoccupied post-September forever, but there’s no point in waiting merely so it can gather tenure on these kinds of lists. Let’s get our playoff on, already yet!

Screw the Marlins, of course.