The Story of Ballparks Is the Story of American Cities

A new book looks at the evolution of American ballparks and the changes that have mirrored urbanism.

1 minute read

May 17, 2019, 6:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink

Wrigley Field

Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock

Ballpark: Baseball in the American City is a new book from Paul Goldberger that traces the history of ballparks in the United States. "From the utilitarian beauty of early 20th-century ballparks like Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park—each nestled into its respective neighborhood—to the doughnut-shaped, concrete structures that sprouted in suburbia after World War II, baseball’s growth has neatly paralleled the rise, fall, and rise again of U.S. cities," says Patrick Sisson.

The first ballparks sprung up in cities, and they were very enmeshed in the urban landscape. In postwar America, they moved to the suburbs, writes Sisson. "This was the time of the 'concrete doughnuts,' which Goldberger argues were bland, multipurpose, municipal parks often set far from the city center, ones like Oakland Coliseum, Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, and Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium."

Ballparks then returned to the city, along with urban renewal. The most recent era, according to Goldberger, is one where ballparks are part of commercial and entertainment megadevelopments. "With Atlanta’s new park, as well as recent developments around the St. Louis ballpark and Chicago’s Wrigley Field—where the surrounding Wrigleyville neighborhood is gradually being turned into a more generic, mall-like destination—Goldberger is disappointed to see team owners trying to control the city inside and outside of the gate," notes Sisson.

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