The book: “The Baseball Stadium Insider: A Comprehensive Dissection of All Thirty Ballparks, the Legendary Players and the Memorable Moments”
The author: Matt Lupica
The vital stats: iUniverse, $29.95, 426 pages
Find it: The self-published book is at the company website (linked here), but there are also links to it at Powell’s (linked here) or Barnes & Noble (linked here). The author also has a Twitter feed @TBSInsider.
The pitch: The Dodgers open the season in San Diego today. You’ve got a hankering to drive down the 5 and see it for yourself, with some time before and/or after to check out the nearby surroundings.
But what do you really know about Petco Park?
This self-published research project by Lupica (pronounced Lu-PEE-ka) can be your guide dog.
Anyone who’s taken ballpark tour trips will get a kick out of this mini-yellow-page collection of facts, figures and historical things of note that Lupica has collected and sorted out concerning every major-league facility — including the new Marlins park that opened Wednesday in Miami, complete with a heads up about the 450-gallon and 600-gallon aquariums that are part of the backstop and you might have seen during the ESPN telecast.
What might you learn?
Lupica says in an email correspondence that these are his top five most unique things he uncovered:
== The Kansas City Royals have one single red seat called the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat at Kauffman Stadium in honor the Negro Leagues All Star;
== Tropicana Field features the first-ever Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar (the first of its kind in Major League Baseball);
== The San Francisco Giants number one fan named Marjorie Wallace was given the distinct honor of being able to greet the players outside the clubhouse at AT&T Park. The lady known as “Ballpark Marge” passed away in 2003 and to honor her, the Giants placed her picture and a dedication plaque outside the Giants clubhouse;
== The replica locomotive at Minute Maid Park in Houston that weighs 50,000 pounds, measures 57 feet and features 25-30 pumpkin-sized fake oranges in the caboose;
== The statue of Al Kaline’s statue at Comerica Park in Detroit takes the cake for most detailed. His likeness features little pins in his glove where, if a ball was hit right on the spot, it would stick in it as though he caught it.
You want more? Gotta read the book yourself. We’re not going to spoil it for you.
An excerpt: From page 407:
“Although it was constructed during a time where cookie cutter ballparks were about to take shape, Dodger Stadium has far surpassed its predecessors of the 1960s and still remains one of the most beautiful ballparks in all of Major League baseball. Thanks to the well-maintained upkeep of the stadium during each and every off-season, Dodger Stadium is one of the few ballparks of the past that has the potential to stick around for another 50-60 seasons. One thing is for sure: whether you have been there before or not, every time will feel like the first time thanks to the beauty and mystic feeling the ballpark gives off.”
From page 427:
“And even despite all the sights that are symbolic of the area around, there is reason to think that Petco Park missed its chance at making something good even better. The ballpark sits just a stone’s throw away from the gorgeous San Diego Bay and the Coronado Bridge arcs gracefully over the clear aqua as navy ships glide in front of the unbelievable sunsets. While that description sounds mighty fine, don’t plan on seeing any of this while your fanny is sitting inside of Petco. The ballpark actually faces away from the water and the view is a less-than-impressive snapshot of empty parking lots, abandoned buildings and what are seemingly non-stop construction zones.”
How it goes down in the scorebook: Going yard, times 30.
Lupica writes in the intro that his goal was to be “so in depth that the average baseball fan could pick up a copy and learn everything they wanted to know about their favorite ballpark.” Mission accomplished. Especially when giving his own assessment of each park’s pros and cons. Everyone who’s ever been to a stadium outside their own region of fandome wants to compare notes on the experience as much as they crave information going in that’ll enhance the experience. Lupica succeeds on both measures quite well here.
A side note: The cover photo for this book? It was taken by me. Lupica found it on my blog, a posting that chronicled my trip to Fenway Park in 2008, which included this shot inside the Green Monster through a window in the new bar that opened up in a former storage facility, The shot shows the “379″ foot marker that used to be on the Green Monster before it was covered up by a newer version. Lupica asked if he could use it. My pleasure.
Check it out: A video story of Lupica’s writing process: