Trip 6: Midwest Classics

Updated: June 27, 2006, 1:53 PM ET
By Bill Evans | Special to ESPN SportsTravel

Previous: Trip 5 - Mid-South to Ohio | Next: Trip 7 - Texas

There's a little something for everyone on this tour through the nation's heartland, one that pays homage to the ancient (Wrigley Field), the new (Busch Stadium), the young (College World Series) and the old (Negro Leagues Baseball Museum). Whether you're a fan of jazz, of movies, of barbecue, of history, you won't be disappointed. And, for those of you with a Homer Simpson palette, we present you "Baseball's Best Burger," presented on a Krispy Kreme bun! Is this heaven?

Look for dates for this trip in the Baseball Road Trip Planner
(Schedules for minor-league teams in independent leagues are not available)


ico_orbitz Chicago: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
ico_orbitz St. Louis: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight
ico_orbitz Kansas City: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NORTH SIDE
Ballpark: Wrigley Field
Address: 1060 W. Addison St., Chicago IL 60613
Capacity: 41,118
Opened: 1914
Team: Chicago Cubs
League: National (MLB)
Web site | Directions | Schedule

With all due respect, Mr. Mouse, the happiest place on Earth is tucked snugly into a vibrant neighborhood on Chicago's North Side, at the corner of Clark and Addison. Baseball's preeminent cathedral -- initially dubbed Weeghman Park -- was constructed at the cost of $250,000. The ivy and scoreboard didn't appear until 1937. The lights arrived in 1988. We're not sure when the Old Style vendors, Ronnie Woo Woo, and the rooftop bleachers arrived, but all add world-class charm to a park still waiting (#$%! Bartman!) for a world-class team, though the Cubs did lose six World Series here from 1918-45.

Take in a day game; if suds and sun are your thing, pay the premium for bleacher seats. For extra ambience (and to avoid the $30+ for parking), take the El train. Afterward, spill into Murphy's, the Cubby Bear or Hi-Tops to celebrate. What we're celebrating, we're not sure, but the party lasts all night long.

ico_orbitz Chicago: Hotel

Driving distance from Wrigley to U.S. Cellular: 10 miles

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SOUTH SIDE
Ballpark: U.S. Cellular Field
Address: 333 West 35th St., Chicago, IL 60616
Capacity: 40,615
Opened: 1991
Team: Chicago White Sox
League: American (MLB)
Web site | Directions | Schedule

Pity the poor White Sox, who win a World Series and still play second fiddle in the Second City. Unfortunately, U.S. Cellular Field -- nee "New Comiskey" -- opened the year before Oriole Park at Camden Yards mercifully ushered in the intimate ballpark era. The result was the last "stadium" -- too many seats, ridiculously steep angles and a complete lack of charm.

The White Sox have gone to great lengths to correct their mistake. To create much-needed intimacy, they removed the last 8-10 rows of the towering upper deck and built a traditional stadium roof. Their remodeled home now compares to many of baseball's new parks, though they'll always fight that initial perception (and the fact that it's not Wrigley Field). The White Sox play in a gentrified neighborhood, they have a winning team and their renovations made the park very family-friendly... especially on Dog Day! If you're leaving the family at home, you'll dig the Bullpen Sports Bar or the center field Fan Deck.

Driving distance from Chicago to Dyersville: 180 miles

DYERSVILLE, IOWA
Ballpark: Field of Dreams Movie Site
Address: 28963 Lansing Road, Dyersville, IA 52040
Opened: 1989
Web site

Since the 1989 release of Field of Dreams, the Lansing family farm in Dyersville, Iowa, has been a destination for baseball fans and movie buffs eager to see the ballpark that Ray Kinsella built in his cornfield. "If you build it, they will come." Truer words have never been spoken by the spirits, because they're still coming 17 years later.

If YOU come, bring a bat, a ball and a glove. Admission is free and you're more than welcome to have a catch if you can conjure up Dad or Shoeless Joe from left field, or wherever it is they disappeared. Proceeds from the sale of Field of Dreams souvenirs support maintenance of the site, so spend freely. If you want to do a little "preparation" for your visit, pick up W.P. Kinsella's novel "Shoeless Joe," the book that inspired the screenplay.

ico_orbitz Dyersville: Hotel

Driving distance from Dyersville to Omaha: 325 miles

OMAHA, NEBRASKA
Ballpark: Rosenblatt Stadium
Address: 1202 Bert Murphy Ave., Omaha, NE, 68107
Capacity: 23,145
Opened: 1948
Team: Omaha Royals (Royals)
League: Pacific Coast (AAA)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (Apr.-Sept.)

College World Series (June 15-27)
Web site: http://www.cwsomaha.com/html/home/index.asp

Since you're on your way to see the Royals' other Triple-A team play in Kansas City, try to plan your trip around the College World Series, when Rosenblatt Stadium will be filled to its capacity of more than 23,000. "The Blatt" first hosted the CWS in 1950 -- the 57-year affiliation is the longest among NCAA tournament sites.

The ping of aluminum bats won't be the only distinction of note at this venue, named for the former Mayor of Omaha. In front of the main entrance, CWS organizers gifted a statue -- "Road to Omaha" -- which depicts three players in victory celebration. The stadium has the distinction of being one of the larger minor-league parks, but its single-tier construction helps maintain a level of intimacy and provides good sightlines.

ico_orbitz Omaha: Hotel

Driving distance from Omaha to Kansas City: 190 miles

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
Ballpark: Ewing Kauffman Stadium
Address: 1 Royal Way, Kansas City, MO 64129
Capacity: 40,793
Opened: 1973
Team: Kansas City Royals
League: American (MLB)
Web site | Directions | Schedule

A lot has changed here since this park was erected in 1973. For starters, it's a lot quieter than it was when the George Brett- and Frank White-led teams were tearing up the American League with six division championships and a 1985 World Series title. The original name -- Royals Stadium -- was changed in honor of its owner in 1993. Grass replaced AstroTurf in 1995. Blue seats replaced the old red seats as the new millennium began. Proposed overhauls will add a Walk of Fame, a restaurant and plenty of kid perks, among other improvements in the not-too-distant future.

One of baseball's oldest stadiums, Kauffman stands up well. The outfield fountains and waterfall provide a picturesque backdrop and give the park a unique signature. As a product of the building's age, you can sit back and watch a game without the sensory overload rampant in the new parks. That would be a bigger plus if the Royals would field a team worth watching.

ico_orbitz Kansas City: Hotel

Driving distance from Kauffman Stadium to Negro Leagues Museum: 7 miles

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Address: 1616 East 18th Street, Kansas City, MO 64108
Opened: 1997
Web site | Directions

Buck O'Neil was a legend in Kansas City before George Brett was out of diapers, but like many Negro League stars, he toiled in relative obscurity because of segregation's hold on baseball before Jackie Robinson changed everything in 1947. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum preserves O'Neil's story and many others from the proud history of the Negro Leagues, whose origin is traced to Kansas City in 1920.

Artifacts, films, photographs and sculptures chronicle the complete history, making this a must-see for baseball historians for only $6. An $8 admission includes entrance to the adjacent American Jazz Museum.

Word to the wise: Arthur Bryant's, arguably the most famed barbecue joint in K.C., is right around the corner at 18th and Brooklyn.

Driving distance from Kansas City to St. Louis: 260 miles

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
Ballpark: New Busch Stadium
Address: 424 South 7th St., St. Louis, MO 63102
Capacity: 46,816
Opened: 2006
Team: St. Louis Cardinals
League: National (MLB)
Web site | Directions | Schedule

Name aside, the similarities between old Busch Stadium and new Busch Stadium are non-existent... and that's a good thing. The last remnant of the humungous multi-purpose cement spaceship era is gone. Its replacement is everything you'd expect it to be -- a successful attempt to one-up each preceding new park with even more extravagance, more sponsored revenue-generating gimmickery, more unique ballpark fare. The new house of Cards will have you seeing Red, from the beautiful brick exterior to the seats inside, nearly all of which will be occupied every night.

Cardinals fans -- widely regarded as the best in baseball -- are rewarded at New Busch with a view of the Gateway Arch beyond the centerfield wall (when they're not admiring one of the best teams in baseball). If history is your thing, head across the street to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, housed inexplicably in the International Bowling Museum. Admission is 2-for-1, so you better know your Bob Gibsons from your Mike Aulbys.

ico_orbitz St. Louis: Hotel

Driving distance from New Busch to Sauget: 8 miles

SAUGET, ILLINOIS
Ballpark: GCS Ballpark
Address: 2301 Grizzly Bear Blvd., Sauget, IL 62206
Capacity: 6,000
Opened: 2002
Team: Gateway Grizzlies
League: Frontier (Independent)
Web site | Directions | Schedule (May-Sept.)

Just across the mighty Mississippi from St. Louis lies the city of Sauget, population 249, a city heretofore most famous for its vast sewage treatment plant. Times they are a changin'! Sauget is now known for "Baseball's Best Burger," a bacon cheeseburger nestled in an original Krispy Kreme glazed donut, available at GCS Ballpark concession stands. The tradition of unique concession offerings helped vault GCS Ballpark into the "10 best minor league parks of 2006" selected by minorleaguenews.com.

The ballpark is home to the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent, 10-team Frontier League. The Gateways lock horns with the likes of the Chillicothe Paints and the always dangerous River City Rascals in front of near-capacity crowds; they've led the league in attendance the last three seasons. The intimate setting is enhanced by two grassy berms for overflow crowds, but spacious seats and wide concourses make for comfortable viewing. Izzy the Grizzly keeps the kids entertained.

Previous: Trip 5 - Mid-South to Ohio | Next: Trip 7 - Texas

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