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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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One Bad Team, Three Lovely Parks

On Sunday Emily and I were driving across Pennsylvania when I realized it was time for the Mets game. I started to turn it on, then hesitated. My wife — who’d watched as I turned on Saturday night’s game just in time to see the Mets lose on a play at the plate that their manager saw no reason to challenge — raised an eyebrow and asked me if I really wanted to torture myself.

You know what? I didn’t. I found out later that the Mets had won, said “that’s nice” and got on with my day.

On Tuesday the Mets lost to the Diamondbacks. Neil Walker hit another big home run, but Hansel Robles came in and was jobbed by the ump and then torched by the visitors. The Mets then stopped hitting and that was that.

I know this team remains tantalizingly close to the second wild-card spot, but that says more about a wan wild-card chase then it does about the Mets. Only their record in long-ago April has kept them from sinking completely out of sight; they’ve have been bad since the calendar turned to May, their overall record a slow leak to who knows what miserable level. Their badness is somewhat forgivable, given that they’ve been savaged by injuries, but they’ve also been deeply boring — they’re uninspiring when they win and flat-out unwatchable when they don’t.

If this slow jog in pursuit of being named “second-least-mediocre mediocre National League team” inspires you, well, God bless. I don’t care and I’m no longer interested in pretending that I do.

So I’m going to write about something else instead: the three ballparks I just added to my MLB list, which now stands at 24. They were all a lot of fun to see, and each had some ideas the Mets would do well to emulate. They also had some surprises for me.

progressive-viewOur first stop was Progressive Field, the home of the Indians. It reminded me a little of Petco, with its white architecture and city view. (Greg’s take from the Jake days is here.)

Progressive has good food, kind and attentive folks on duty and is a fine setting for a ballgame. Where it really shines, though, is how it’s meshed the history of team and city. That starts with the statues outside — Larry Doby, Bob Feller and Jim Thome greet you — and continues inside. Walking the concourse, you run across features about Cleveland neighborhoods, tributes to players such as Feller and Nap Lajoie, and plaques commemorating great and even just strange moments in Indians history.

cleveland-historyUpstairs there’s a simple, straightforward Indians museum and an Acela Club-style restaurant dedicated to Feller. Emily and I skulked around the latter two before realizing that since this wasn’t Citi Field, the staff was more interested in seeing if we needed anything than in policing where we should or shouldn’t be. (By the way, we only saw the Indians’ unfortunate Chief logo on a couple of t-shirts in an upper-deck store; the team’s clearly slowly phasing it out in favor of a plain red C that’s a likely placeholder for some new stab at a logo.)

Another thing we liked about Progressive Field: the A/V folks let the game breathe. You aren’t bombarded with replays, or music, or exhortations to do something. And guess what? The game works perfectly well when that stuff’s delivered in moderation.

What doesn’t work at Progressive Field? The only knock I’ll give is the upper levels are bland and missing the neat touches that make the field level so lively. (This is also the case at Petco.)

From Cleveland we headed for Detroit and Comerica Park, a stadium I’d never thought much about and so approached with few expectations.tigers-everywhere

Here’s Greg on Tiger Stadium, which he loved; I found myself loving its replacement. Comerica is an architectural gem, exuberantly crowned with tiger heads and Old English D tilework and bats-and-balls friezes — it looks like a revved-up 1930s project, with an army of WPA sculptors told to go bengallistic. Right now it’s still new, but it’ll age beautifully, with fans of the 2060s marveling that someone could have loved tigers that much.

flagsComerica doesn’t skimp on the details, but revels in them. For instance, the Corner Tap Room, a pub that’s half-in and half-out of the park, celebrates the Tigers’ former homes with exhibits, photos, and little touches such as flags that trace the evolution of the Tigers’ signature D. One side of the bar is labeled Michigan; the perpendicular side says Trumbull. Why can’t Citi Field do that? Rather than McFadden’s, a sterile barn that’s cut off from the park, have the Shea Club and the Polo Grounds as entry points to the new stadium and celebrations of the old ones.

ride-em-tigerInside, Comerica continues to exult in its tiger theme — there’s a tiger carousel for kids (of whatever age) to ride, and the various bars feature tigers in different art styles. But the park doesn’t forget its team — each decade of Tigers history gets an exhibit with milestones, replica uniforms and much more besides: you can get a deep dive into franchise history by making a single circuit.

togetherComerica also zeroes in on a subtle but important idea: that the Tigers and Detroit are deeply interwoven and inextricable. My favorite touch: the Tigers, like the Mets and most modern teams, have a brickwalk with fan messages. But Comerica takes this commonplace theme a smart step further by mixing in bricks for each of the players in franchise history, putting Tigers and Tigers fans together.

Comerica’s presentation of the game itself needs a little work; they have an on-field “host” whose ubiquity is irritating. But that’s easy enough to fix, and what surrounds the game is really good. A park I’d never thought about turns out to be one of my favorites.

Our third stop was PNC Park, which I’d been pretty much assured would be either my favorite or runner-up to AT&T. So I was surprised to find that I merely liked it. To be clear, I liked it a lot; it’s just that I didn’t love it. (Greg weighs in here.)

clemente-bridgeLook, PNC does a lot right. It’s fun to walk in and out across the Roberto Clemente Bridge amid a sea — take the Citi Field stairways in full LET’S GO METS cry and turn that dial to 111. Folks in the park are helpful and attentive without being in your face, and there are interesting quirks that reward exploration. And yes, the setting is undeniably beautiful: the park frames the Pittsburgh skyline perfectly, and it’s fun to stroll along the promenade behind center field overlooking the river.

on-the-riverBut I’m a little hesitant to award PNC the crown based on its city’s skyline — to borrow a line from recent politics, they didn’t build that. And while it took me a while, I eventually figured out what I felt was lacking about PNC: it doesn’t have enough Pirates in it.

Progressive Field is a valentine to Cleveland neighborhoods and Indians history; Comerica’s got tigers and Tigers competing to come out the wazoo. But PNC struck me as surprisingly lacking in team history — there’s a wan museum of sorts in the restaurant, but few of the exhibits and history lessons and little touches I’d found in Cleveland and Detroit.

postcardThat’s frankly baffling given the team’s rich history and the city’s full-throated love for that team. Why not take a page from Comerica and give fans a goofy, gaudy pirate ship that fires cannons after home runs? Or if that’s too much for you, at least fill the concourses with Piratesiana. Tell me about the nickname’s origins, Bing Crosby, Vern Law, the original Kiner’s Korner, Danny Murtaugh, “We Are Family,” the Stargell stars, the Cobra, Andy Van Slyke, the Killer Bs and so much more. Let me learn about that stuff and revel in it, so that I can moon over the history as much as I do over the prettier-than-a-postcard view.

(If you like, a full photo gallery‘s over here on my Facebook page.)

28 comments to One Bad Team, Three Lovely Parks

  • BlackCountryMet

    Great reviews Jason

    I’m currently 17/30 (gonna lose Atlanta next season as well) and have yet to do Detroit or Cleveland so was interested in them both. Both seem good, particularly Cleveland although I’m guessing both should be done in warmer weather ;-) I LOVED PNC although agree more historical references could have been added

  • Dennis

    Great summary of all 3 parks and pictures! Always look forward when you do this. My oldest son has been to Progressive Field several years ago and came back with good reviews as well.

  • Dave

    Lots of fun. Been to a few parks but nowhere near a complete set, and a few that were sold off piece by piece for souvenirs. But the corporate naming rights drive me nuts…nothing specific to the team or city, makes it hard for me to identify stadiums by their actual names. I think of it more as I’ve been to the Indians’ stadium, White Sox, Rockies, etc. Obvious exceptions are Wrigley and Fenway. And as much as it pains me to admit it, I guess that’s something the team in the Bronx does right.

  • eric1973

    Detroit and Cleveland?

    The only two people who vacation there are you and Murray the Cop!

    Heartbreaker last night.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Thanks for the writeup on the 3 stadiums. This probably isn’t news to anyone here since this is, of course, a “baseball blog for (Mets) fans who like to read”, but there’s an excellent book on Tiger Stadium’s Final Season:

    https://www.amazon.com/Final-Season-American-Ballpark-Honoring/dp/0312291566

  • Steven J

    I have been to games in 23 of the 30 MLB cities but only 19 of the current ballparks. I will make it 24/20 next Tuesday night when I take my Mom to see the Mets play those super fired-up and difficult to beat Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

    Sadly, Jason, I declared the season over after the back-to-back Familia Fiascos against St. Louis and Colorado a couple of weeks ago.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    I have been to 22 of the MLB cities, 20 in current ballparks, having added Seattle last month. Oddly, I saw the Phillies play in Connie Mack Stadium in 1968 and in their current park in 2011, but never in Veterans Stadium.

    Just curious about how many stadiums Wally Pipp’s Headache or whatever he calls himself these days has been to.

  • argman

    Thanks Jason. Comerica is the only of these I’ve been to and I agree it’s great. Had an opportunity to go to the old Tiger Stadium in its last season and it was a blast, too.
    I went to Wrigley for the first time last month for the first game of the Mets’ series there. I liked your comments about how the Indians let the game breathe – that is something that they do well at Wrigley too. Organ music during batting practice. And limited music blasting during the game and between innings. The Mets can indeed take some lessons here. And given a competitive and exciting team, Mets fans provide plenty of atmosphere on their own.

  • Dave

    I was at Cleveland in April and it’s one of my favorites. It’s not as pretty as PacBell and it’s not as modern as it used to be but I really liked the way it’s integrated into the city. You walk into that patio and it’s as though you haven’t left the streets and are somehow in a ballpark at the same time. I dig that. Baseball should be accessible, not played in some vast marble temple. As for the Mets, I am troublingly ambivalent about the rest of the season. Like Bart said, you need baseball to mark the time. I hope they can do something to spark my interest back up. Firing Terry would be a start. He doesn’t seem to have his head entirely in the game these days. Letting Neise pitch to Cabrerra twice, blanking out on the challenge…it just feels like the season has passed him by too.

  • Greg Mitchell

    For what it’s worth I saw Ted Williams play at Fenway in 1957. Sat in leftfield to get closer. Piersall had a little freak out and had to be taken out of game.

  • Mikey

    I lived in Cleveland from 1992-2003, so I went to a few games in the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Let me tell you, that place was a gigantic dump, and when Jacobs/Progressive Field opened in 1994, it was a re-birth for the city as a whole and just awesome to witness and be a part of. the fans there are great, and now that the Cavs brought a championship to Cleveland, there is less pressure for the Tribe to win it all….not that much, but a little bit less pressure. I’ll be pulling for them in the AL and if not us, the Cubs in the NL.

  • Mikey

    oh yeah, and if the Nats and Marlins both make the playoffs, let’s hope they are both extinguished from this season as painfully as possible

    • Eric from BK

      Sadly the Met’s cruel luck would lead me to believe the National’s will of course get hot and win it all with Murphy redeeming himself in the WS. I hope it doesn’t happen but I’m sure it’s a though that has crossed most Met fan’s minds.

  • joenunz

    Did you miss Ralph’s hands at PNC? A bit odd, but cool.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/5948782060

  • Jacobs27

    PNC’s the only one I’ve had the pleasure of so far. May be the best-situated stadium in the league.

    Comerica and Progressive, despite their unfortunate monikers, sound really nice, Jason. Almost like the people who built them knew what they were doing!

  • MetFanMac

    “I don’t care and I’m no longer interested in pretending that I do.”

    Me in a nutshell. I also had a similar experience to Sunday’s game: I forgot there was a game and didn’t even bother checking, then was informed the game was in progress when it was already the ninth inning and didn’t bother tuning in until afterwards. Apathy as a shield against enragement.

  • Carlos Gomez' DFA'd Hips

    Left Coast Jerry,

    My hips have played for the home teams in Queens, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Houston. They have also been on the field at every other stadium in the country.

    CGDH

  • President of TWWAM

    Rob E.,

    If you were just watching the top of the 8th when the Mets pitched to Goldschmidt with runner on 3rd and 1 out, Gary Cohen came as close as you will hear Mets announcers indict TC. He openly questioned why the Mets kept pitching to him when he kept hurting them and said that stats are important but you have to pay attention to what is going on in the current/recent games. Darling agreed.

    It was a not-so-veiled shot at the manager. So I guess others that are paid to offer opinions and commentary DO in fact not always agree that Collins is doing a great job.

  • eric1973

    Interesting, Mr. TWWAM,

    I was watching yesterday’s and today’s games without sound, so glad to hear that our respected announcers finally speaking their minds instead of being their usual diplomatic selves.

    Both yesterday and today, TC pitched to Goldschmidt with 1 out and a man on third, and twice he turned a 1-run lead into a 2-run lead. I might have mentioned it, had the fire not gone out of the season.

  • Steve D

    Without Cespedes and to some extent Reyes, this offense is the most boring, bland, unclutch group ever assembled. When they are clutch, like Kelly Johnson tonight, they blow the game anyway.

    Fundamentals such as bunting, stealing, hit-and-run are nowhere to be found. We have developed and kept one star hitter in 55 years. Our only hope to be competitive is to rely on the fragile arms of 5 young starters, who management will not be willing to keep together.

    Glass half full tonight…sorry.

  • Matt in Richmond

    I love Cohen, and he is certainly entitled to his opinion, but speaking about that situation as if it’s an obvious call is simply wrong. Lamb, the guy hitting behind Goldschmidt is by some measures having a better season than Paul and is left handed. Having Reed go after the right handed is certainly a defensible move, particularly considering how effective he’s been this year as you guys were just noting a few days ago. This is a classic scenario where you can make solid arguments on either side. I would say walking the right hander to bring up the left hander with better numbers is probably slightly more outside the box.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Goldschmidt vs RHP .279 BA .464 SLG
    Lamb vs RHP .311 BA .640 SLG

  • Lenny65

    Well, I guess it’s looking more and more unlikely that they’re suddenly going to go off on a season-defining tear here anytime soon, huh? Man but they are a sorry, sad-sack bunch, are they not? Like most of you I’ve probably said this dozens of times over the years but man, this might be the most flat-out disappointing Mets season ever. They’ve obviously had worse ones, they’ve definitely had more crushing ones but as far as expectations vs. results go, maybe 1987, I guess. But I thought this team was going to make a spirited run at the division at worst and go all the way at best. My bad for believing in them, I suppose, I should have taken the more classical skeptical approach and poor-mouthed them instead. Freaking Mets.

    • Mikey

      i think the biggest difference between now and 1987 though is that only 2 teams in the NL made the postseason then. now 5 teams get in, so you could argue that not making it this year will be way more disappointing.

  • eric1973

    Found it, Steve D.

    “Those Who Want A New Manager (TWWANM)”