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Sports arenas that rocked

Baseball

1. Yankee Stadium, 1923-1973 .

For starters, let's be clear. This Yankee Stadium we're 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 18, 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. 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 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.

BEST OF THE REST:

2. The Polo Grounds, New York

3. Ebbets Field, New York

4. Forbes Field, Pittsburgh

5. Tiger Stadium, Detroit

Football

1. Orange Bowl, 1937-2008 .

Built by the city of Miami as a home for the University of Miami. While the Hurricanes filled the stadium with fans and memories — just think of names such as Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Warren Sapp and Michael Irvin — the Orange Bowl is just as famous for hosting the Dolphins from 1966-86 and five Super Bowls. The Hurricanes won an NCAA-record 58 straight there from 1985-94, and the stadium 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 characteristic: Open end zone to reveal swaying palm trees.

Most famous moment: Perhaps the greatest NFL game ever as Chargers beat Dolphins in overtime of 1981 playoff game.

BEST OF THE REST

2. Cleveland Stadium

3. Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minn.

4. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

5. Memorial Stadium, Baltimore

Basketball

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 A/C 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!''

BEST OF THE RESt:

2. The Great Western Forum, Los Angeles

3. Chicago Stadium

4. The Spectrum, Philadelphia

5. Cobo Arena, Detroit

Hockey

1. The Montreal Forum, 1924-1996 .

Usually, it's the team that makes a building a special place. That's the case here. And you need to know only one number: 24. That's how many Stanley Cups the great Montreal Canadiens won 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: 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.

BEST OF THE REST

2. Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto

3. Boston Garden

4. The Olympia, Detroit

5. Chicago Stadium

We're thinking about grand old ballparks and stadiums today. Ebbets Field, the longtime home of Da Bums from Brooklyn, had an anniversary of sorts: 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 us 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. And that's about it. ¶ Anyway, today we look back at our favorite old ballparks — the ones no longer in use — and pick our favorite in each of the four major sports. Maybe you'll agree. Maybe you'll disagree. You can weigh in, too. First, read what we have to say then we'll tell you how to add your two cents to the Great Old Ballpark Debate.

What do

you think?

Have a favorite memory of a great ballpark? Do you disagree with our rankings? Did we leave out one of your favorites? Give us your two cents. Go to Tom Jones' blog at http://blogs.tampabay.com/twocents.

Sports arenas that rocked 04/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 14, 2008 12:06pm]
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