Chat with Rob Neyer
How old are Wrigley Field and Fenway Park? Since they opened -- Fenway in 1912, Wrigley in 1916 -- dozens of stadiums have been built and then torn down. Currently, Dodger Stadium is the third-oldest ballpark in the majors (or the fourth-oldest if you count the rebuilt -- and soon to be demolished -- Yankee Stadium); compared to Wrigley and Fenway, though, Dodger Stadium is shiny and new. Both of the old yards, then, serve as baseball time machines, the only two of their kind. But which is better?
The Case for Fenway
The Case for Wrigley
The ChoiceWhich do I prefer? I'm not saying quite yet, and in fact I don't know that I know, yet. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I probably should mention that I once saw 81 games at Fenway in one season. And with that, let's pick our favorite old ballpark! Vote: Which ballpark is better?
Archive: Hot Stove Heaters
Rob Neyer (1:02 PM)
Okay, here we go!
Wrigley is better because of the apartments that overlook the game, the day games, and quite frankly, Boston fans are just obnoxious....as people, not passionate, obnoxious, and Chicago fans are much more friendly... and I am a West Coast fan
Rob Neyer (1:05 PM)
I will agree that Chicagoans might be marginally more friendly than Bostonians, generally. But obnoxious fans. I've been to only eight or nine games at Wrigley, and on two occasions I've heard fans screaming incredibly vile things at opposing players.
John (Washington, DC)
Wrigley by a mile. Fenway lost a lot of character when they ripped up the main concourse and went contemporary. It's like Disneyland now. Interestingly enough, Wrigley has no JumboTron. Hence, no replays or elaborate fan fare. It's 100% baseball all the time. If you have to watch the game, that builds more knowledgable fans. Sorry Boston, but Wrigley is old and old school.
Rob Neyer (1:08 PM)
John, I'm just wondering ... Have you been to Fenway lately? Because I have, and one thing that has NOT changed is the concourse. It's still as dark and narrow as ever, and it still takes 15-20 minutes to get from the outside gates to your grandstand seat. Fenway's definitely changed a lot, and in some ways for the worse. But it's a far sight from Disneyland.
Daniel (Seattle Washington)
I know the popular pick is going to be Fenway, but as a fan of baseball who has been to both, my vote goes to Wrigley field. It is basically the same since it was built, very little advertisements. Its build right into the neighborhood, with fans lining roof tops to get a glimpse. There is no were better to watch a baseball game on a lazy summer afternoon.
Rob Neyer (1:09 PM)
No real arguments here, and all those day games is different. I will dissent on that point, though, as I actually prefer night baseball (at least once the weather warms up).
Andrew: (White Plains, NY)
Forget about Wrigley and Fenway. Forget that the Yanks are moving into a new stadium. The current Yankee Stadium is the most historic place in all of sports. There is no question that the green grass within the House That Ruth Build is part of the best ballpark ever.
Rob Neyer (1:11 PM)
Great history. Non-great ballpark. Aside from the ground itself, what's so great about the Stadium? It was gutted and rebuilt in the early '70s, and the results were neither pretty nor comfortable. If I'm making a list of the dozen best ballparks, Yankee Stadium doesn't show up.
Matt Carlozzi, Cleveland, OH
Do you think the masses of people who visit Wrigley Field who know nothing about the game or the organization detract from its allure?
Rob Neyer (1:14 PM)
Yeah, some. Many years ago I described Wrigley as "the world's largest beer garden," and a significant percentage of people in the ballpark are there primarily to get drunk and be seen, with the game only a secondary diversion. This is definitely a negative.
Chad - New Hampshire
Obviously I'm a little biased being from New England, but I've got to pick Fenway. It's unique dimensions and Green Monster give it an identity that is unmatched by any other venue in sports, save for maybe the Coliseum in Rome.
Rob Neyer (1:16 PM)
I love Fenway's dimensions, and the Monster. But I'd say Fenway's uniqueness is balanced by Wrigley's ivy, and all those homers that land on the neighboring streets.
Rich (Sun Valley, ID)
Rob, side bar question, please. When will you be doing your next straight baseball chat? Hey, pitchers and catchers are packing their bags! Thanks.
Rob Neyer (1:18 PM)
Rich, I generally chat every Tuesday at noon Eastern.
Wonderful topic! How do you choose with the history of both of these ballparks. I have to go with Wrigley. With minor changes the ballpark is the same as it was when it was built. If Babe Ruth ever came back and went to the stadium he would instantly recognize the stadium. Wrigley is surrounded by the city, and in some ways is the city. With our suffering this has to be the better ballpark. Fenway has had their winning lets us Cub fans win this one!
Rob Neyer (1:21 PM)
Good point about Ruth, Charlie. The same could be said of Fenway, though, right? Also, I believe that in 1932 -- when Ruth played in Wrigley -- there wasn't ivy on the wall but there *were* signs.
You couldn't pay me enough to go to either of those dumps!
Rob Neyer (1:21 PM)
Not really into the history, huh?
Ashley (Logan, UT)
As a fan of the Cubs, I should say Wrigley but having been to games at Fenway my vote goes to Fenway. While Wrigley is a great field and the atmosphere inside the ballpark is great, nothing beats what Fenway has got going on outside its ballpark. You can be at the game on the streets outside of Fenway, without setting foot inside the stadium. Tha fans in Boston are also twice as crazy because all the talk about all year long is the Red Sox. It doesn't matter that the Patriots are 17-0, they are all looking forward to the next Red Sox season.
Rob Neyer (1:23 PM)
Oh, that might have been true when I lived in Boston (in 2000). But given how well the Patriots and now the Celtics have played, I suspect the Sox are on the back burner in some quarters. I agree, though, that the atmosphere outside Fenway is just electric.
Rob, you couldn't be more incorrect about the party atmosphere and lack of fan passion within the Friendly Confines...that is an antiquated thought. It is not like that anymore and is only perpetuated by White Sox fans.
Rob Neyer (1:25 PM)
Really? When did that change, exactly? It sure looks the same on TV as it did when I was going to games there...
Jack, Chicago, IL
Rob, what about the food/drink in each stadium, that has to count for something if we are going to compare the experience at each.
Rob Neyer (1:26 PM)
That's last on my list of concerns, if it even shows up at all. Anyway, I don't think either ballpark distinguishes itself in this regard.
One of the best things about Fenway is the atmosphere on Yawkey Way a few hours before the game.
Rob Neyer (1:29 PM)
Yeah, but it was a lot better before they gated off the street and reserved it for ticket-holders. One of the few recent changes that I despise.
I have to say Fenway - maybe a little biased - but to walk into that stadium and see that monster and think of all the greats that roamed that field... wow Tris Speaker - Duffy Lewis and all the other greats - and just think... it was the back page on the opening due to a little sinking of a little ship....
Rob Neyer (1:30 PM)
Agreed. Nothing matches that shiver you get when you exit the tunnel and see the Monster and all the rest.
Kevin (Kokomo, IN)
When you debate this question, it's hard to discuss such intangibles as "the atmosphere being electric." You have to really get specific and look at the stadium. I pick Wrigley, because I think not only the Ivy, but the massively imposing scoreboard being changed by hand beats the Green Monster by a mile. Plus, the concept of fans out in the streets catching home run balls is great- like San Francisco kayakers.
Rob Neyer (1:32 PM)
Wrigley's scoreboard does trump Fenway's, and you didn't even mention the lights and the flags, used to indicate whether the Cubs won or lost that day.
Brandon (Morehead, KY)
What about walking to Wrigley Field and seeing the big red sign on the front of the stadium? I get chills seeing pics of it.
Rob Neyer (1:34 PM)
You're right: it's a great sign. I have to say, I started this thinking Fenway, but now I'm coming around to Wrigley. Can I call it a draw? Or is that just weaselly...
They are both out of date structures with beautiful fields. The Cobs should play at the Cell for a year or two and Wrigley should be re-made in the same configuration with state of art facilities. Same for Fenway. I'm sure the Sawk could survive a season in pawtucket or using one of those college stadiums in town.
Rob Neyer (1:36 PM)
Ugh. When you change the structure you lose what makes it great. I'd rather see a game in Fenway or Wrigley than any of the new ballparks, even the best of them. Why? Because narrow concourses and cramped seats are a *good* thing every once in a while. Do we have to be comfortable 24/7? If so, stay home and watch the games in your La-Z-Boy.
I read an article once in the Wall Street Journal that named the best ballparks for a family outing. The criteria went into all the experiences that you could have at the game. For instance, the slide area at Miller Park and the pool at Bank1 ball park. At what point did we need to add entertainment to the entertainment. I have not been to Wrigley, however, Wrigley and Fenway get it, as both reek of history and memorable experiences. I would pay good money to view a game at either, anytime. Hopefully they never change the standard of what they are.
Rob Neyer (1:37 PM)
Great point, Chad. It's funny that the oldest ballparks -- the ones that don't have slides or cigar bars or hot tubs -- happen to be the ones that sell out all summer long. Maybe somebody will figure this out eventually.
Kevin (Kokomo, IN)
I remember walking the doubleheader that ended the Cubs' regular season in 2003, the second win putting them in the playoffs. That celebration was unlike anything I've ever seen. Quite literally, the entire stadium, no exceptions, starting chanting "bring on the Braves!" It was reportedly heard a mile away. Just a fun little story.
You keep talking about how important the history is to these 2 parks, but the history of Yankee Stadium doesn't even get it into your top dozen stadiums? interesting...
Rob Neyer (1:40 PM)
But the only thing that survives of the pre-1973 history is the ground under the playing field. Most everything was torn out and turned into landfill. So yeah, the land is historical. But the building itself is not.
Brad (Kansas City)
Which stadium do you think has a better chance of still standing in 2030?
Rob Neyer (1:42 PM)
Wow, that's a good question, and I'm sitting here, struggling to come up with an answer that makes sense ... I'm going to go with Fenway, if only because there's still room for expansion and renovation.
How about the fact that most of the games at Wrigley are during the day, the way baseball was intended? Nothing beats an afternoon at Wrigley when you should be at work...
Rob Neyer (1:44 PM)
Intended? Baseball began as a day game because nobody'd invented, you know, electricity. Once it was practical to play night games, that's when people wanted to watch. Maybe it's just me, but wearing SPF30 and squinting for three hours isn't my favorite way to spend an afternoon.
Jesse (Los Angeles, CA)
How long before Dodger Stadium gets mentioned in this category? It's not as old or run down as Wrig or Fen, but come on, it's nicer than some of the newer park.
Rob Neyer (1:46 PM)
I don't know about that, but I'm quite fond of Dodger Stadium, which is a sort of time machine in itself, little changed from the early '60s. Really a great place to see a game, though its location and inaccessibility (unless you drive) cost it a few points.
DODGER STADIUM??? isn't that the place where 74 percent of the fans leave by the 7th inning in order to beat traffic?
Rob Neyer (1:47 PM)
Yeah. There go a few more points.
dave (boston, ma)
you don't like yawkey closed off ... because i find it to be a good addition, sort of like camden yards in baltimore (which its obviously designed after, since the architect is the same) ... i see the point about when you don't have tickets, but when you are at the game its a nice addition.
Rob Neyer (1:50 PM)
But Dave, it's supposed to be a public thoroughfare. One of the things I like about Fenway is that it's a neighborhood ballpark, and not set apart from its surroundings. But now, if you want to walk from your apartment in the Fens to Kenmore Square? If there's a game on, you have to detour around the ballpark.
I've never been to Fenway, so I can't say anything about that ballpark, but I think Wrigley might be the best sporting venue of any kind. Every seat at Wrigley is close to the action. You're not staring at some drab shade of green or whatever. It's red brick, ivy, a beautiful hand-operated scoreboard, and baseball uninterupted.
Rob Neyer (1:51 PM)
Well, there are seats at Wrigley -- same as Fenway -- where you're staring at a steal beam. Which I think is a good tradeoff, and one I wish every ballpark would make. But there are some bad seats.
Scott (Charlotte, NC)
I've been to both, albeit a few years ago, but I have to go with Wrigley in a close selection of ivy over the 40ft monster. I'm also amazed at what generally good condition both parks are in. I attended a game at Cinergy (nee Riverfront) in 2001 and it was a dump at less than 30 years old.
Rob Neyer (1:55 PM)
It's all about maintenance. In 2000, Red Sox ownership said the ballpark was in lousy condition and getting worse. They said the building simply wouldn't make it for another decade without collapsing. Well, sure ... if you don't do any work on it. All these buildings will be fine with the appropriate upkeep. We could still have a working Tiger Stadium if anybody had cared.
Chris (Beacon Falls, CT)
Rob, no one has mentioned any of the small, unique touches in Fenway, like the TAY and JRY morse code initials on the scoreboard, or The Red Seat. More bonus points for Fenway there.
Rob Neyer (1:55 PM)
Yes. But just a few bonus points. I love the small touches, but most ballparks have them.
Both parks are great but Wrigley has really held onto the classic look. I love Fenway but all the advertisements everywhere, especially on the monster, kinda take away from its grandeur.
Rob Neyer (1:59 PM)
I think I'm going to end on this note, Ken, because I happen to agree with you. I've always had Fenway ahead of Wrigley by a nose, mostly because of the fans. But the rampant commercialism in Fenway has dropped it, just barely, behind Wrigley in my mind. Shoot, the Green Monster's not even all that green anymore.