Best of the old stadiums and arenas
Thinking about grand old ballparks and stadiums today. Ebbets Field, the longtime home of Da Bums from Brooklyn, had an anniversary of sorts last week. The stadium, which was demolished in 1960, opened 95 years ago last week. And, of course, this is the final season at Yankee Stadium.
So all this has me thinking about the greatest stadiums and arenas in history — the ones that have long since been replaced by swankier, state-of-the-art stadiums with plush suites and high definition scoreboards and all the bells and whistles. Only a few of the historic ballparks remain. Wrigley Field. Fenway Park. Soldier Field. Maybe another one or two. That's about it. So here's a look back and the best old ballparks and stadiums and arenas -- the ones no longer in use -- of the four major sports. Maybe you agree. Maybe you disagree. You can weigh in, too, in the comments section.
1. Yankee Stadium, 1923-1973
For starters, let's be clear. This Yankee Stadium I'm talking about is not the current Yankee Stadium. The so-called House That Ruth Built is not the same place where Derek Jeter plays today. That's the "new'' Yankee Stadium. The original Yankee Stadium, the one that was home to Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Mantle and Yogi, was built in the early 1900s for about $2.5-million and opened on April 23, 1923. It housed some of baseball's greatest dynasties, from Ruth's teams of the 1920s to DiMaggio's teams of the 1930s and 1940s to the teams of Mantle and Maris of the 1960s. As well as being the home of the baseball's most storied franchise, Yankee Stadium also was the home of the NFL, college football and some of the biggest prize fights in history. The old ballpark finally closed in 1973 to undergo major renovations and the new Stadium opened in 1976.
Most famous characteristics: Monuments of great players in centerfield.
Most famous moment: Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest man on the face of the earth’’ speech on the Fourth of July, 1939.
2. The Polo Grounds, New York.
3. Ebbets Field, New York.
4. Forbes Field, Pittsburgh.
5. Tiger Stadium, Detroit.
1. Orange Bowl, 1937-2008
Built by the city of Miami in the early 1930s as a home for the University of Miami football team. While the Hurricanes filled the stadium with fans and memories — just think names such as Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Warren Sapp, Michael Irvin and so on — the Orange Bowl is just as famous for hosting the Miami Dolphins from 1966 to 1986 and five Super Bowls. The Hurricanes won an NCAA record 58 straight games there from 1985 to 1994 and the Orange Bowl was home to the NFL's only undefeated team — the 1972 Dolphins. In fact, the Dolphins won 31 straight home games (including playoffs) from 1971 to 1975.
Most famous characteristics: Open end zone to reveal swaying palm trees.
Most famous moment: Perhaps the greatest NFL game ever as Chargers beat Dolphins in overtime of 1982 playoff game.
2. Cleveland Stadium.
3. Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minn.
4. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
5. Memorial Stadium, Baltimore.
1. Boston Garden, 1928-1995
The place felt like a closet ... with no air conditioning ... and no air vents. Rats roamed the rafters and the basements. The court had dead spots. Some seats were directly behind pillars, making it practically impossible to see the action. In short, the place was a dump. And awesome at the same time. Supposedly the Celtics would turn up the heat in the opposing locker room in the spring and crank up the AC in the winter. Showers? Nothing but cold water. Whatever they did, it worked because the Celtics would win 16 NBA championships. Then again, maybe Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Larry Bird had something to do with all those championships.
Most famous characteristics: The parquet floor, the championship banners.
Most famous moment: “Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek stole the ball!’’
2. The Great Western Forum, Los Angeles.
3. Chicago Stadium.
4. The Spectrum, Philadelphia.
5. Cobo Arena, Detroit.
1. The Montreal Forum, 1924-1999
Usually, it's the team that makes a building a special place. That's the case here. And you only need to know one number: 24. That's how many Stanley Cups the great Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum. Everywhere you looked, you saw bleu, blanc et rouge — the famous colors of Les Habitants. From Jacques Plante to Rocket Richard to Jean Beliveau to Guy Lafleur to Ken Dryden to Larry Robinson to Patrick Roy. The list of greats who called this place home could fill two of these pages. If there is such a thing as an arena being a church, the Montreal Forum was it.
Most famous characteristic: There is no glass between the home bench and the fans.
Most famous moment: The Richard Riot in 1955 when league president Clarence Campbell suspended Rocket Richard for the playoffs and was pelted with debris. The riot spilled out into the streets.
2. Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto.
3. Boston Garden.
4. The Olympia, Detroit.
5. Chicago Stadium.
What do you think?
Have a favorite memory of a great old ballpark? Do you disagree with our rankings? Did I leave out one of your favorites? Give me your two cents.