Friday, August 14, 2009
And they tore it down
The following is written by David Kamoe, a life-long sports fan whose sister is a close friend. David is an avid A's fan, wen to to high school with Drew Gooden and can't believe that Giants commentator Mike Krukow used to refer to the right-centerfield expanse at Pac Bell Park as "Finley Alley," referring to Steve Finley who remarkably wore a Giants uniform for a season. David will likely be stopping by these parts a few times a month, so treat him right. And no sister jokes.
They are many a fine building, ballpark, and stadium in the world of sports. Wrigley Field is a Mecca of good times, Old-Style beer, and Harry Caray’s oversized sunglasses. Fenway Park is the home of screaming matches, narrow seats, obstructed views, and the song Sweet Caroline. There is even Joe Louis Arena where octopi are hurled onto the ice and Stevie Y used to rule.
And then there are those places lost to history. The most recent of these was Tiger Stadium, formerly at the corner of Michigan and Trumball in Detroit. As a kid, I can remember watching the commemorative video covering the 1988 A’s season. In it, there is footage of Tiger Stadium with Bill King narrating about the A’s prowess. I used to watch that and be amazed by Tiger Stadium. Yes, it was cramped, hitting a ball out to center required being Cecil Fielder or Reggie Jackson, and the bullpens weren’t great. It doesn’t matter. The bulk of the Tiger’s history was written there. The 1968 World Series was won there. The 1984 World Series was there. Mark Fidrych talked to the dirt at Tiger Stadium. It was great and the wrecking ball keeps taking it away.
In basketball, there was Boston Gardens. A place with uneven parquet floors, Red Auerbach’s cigar smoke, Johnny Most’s voice, and Boston sports fans. DJ’s lay up, Bird being Bird (take that Manny), and Havlicek. And now there is the TD Bank North Gardens and it isn’t the same. Sure, there’s “The Big Ticket”, “The Truth”, “Jesus Shuttlesworth”, and “Big Baby.” Forget it, doesn’t have the same cache.
I would go into the numerous football stadiums that have been torn down but the truth is that it is more about teams being ripped from fan bases. Cleveland losing the Browns, Baltimore losing the Colts, and Houston losing the Oilers. The only great stadium in football is Lambeau Field and it still stands -- for now.
We come now to hockey. Hockey too has its history of poor relocations but for the purposes of this blurb, I’ll stick to buildings. The building in question is the Maple Leaf Gardens. The hub of Leafs hockey from 1931-1999, it saw Lord Stanley held aloft 11 times. It had multi-colored seats, a live band and an organ, and Bill Barilko. Who was Bill Barilko you ask? Well, a Leafs hall of famer, Barilko scored an overtime winner in 1951 to win the Cup against the Canadiens. Oh, and “Canada’s house band”, Kinston, ON own Tragically Hip immortalized him in their song “Fifty Mission Cap.” Toronto, of course, is the home of the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame. Yet even this building, even in Toronto, home of the Leaf, even there they tore down this gem.
Why does it happen? People shame young athletes for not knowing their history. Yet with sports it seems to be bigger and better. Maybe sometimes, but definitely not always.