It’s opening day for baseball fans. The crack of the bat. The smell of a glove’s leather. Baseball is back. Will the Chicago Cubs repeat as World Series champs? Will Cleveland end its baseball title drought? Doesn’t matter; everyone thinks their team is good enough to win it all…right now.
As you grab a hot dog, some Cracker Jacks and a cold drink to watch nine innings, we have a few spots to check out for some great baseball history and attractions.
Before guys like Hank Aaron and Bob Gibson dominated baseball, African Americans were once banned from playing alongside their Caucasian brethren. Negro Leagues Baseball provided some of the best games on the diamond. Guys like Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson and Josh Gibson. Gibson’s home run hitting put him on par with Babe Ruth.
Kansas City is home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The museum sits a short walk from the YMCA on 18th and Paseo, where Rube Foster gathered fellow club owners and organized African American baseball into a unified association.
Negro Leagues Baseball filled its stadiums and even beat Major League Baseball in playing night games under the lights. NLB enjoyed success until Major League Baseball decided it was time to integrate its league. Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946. His success in the Majors led other teams to sign African Americans. Eventually, the crowds faded and the quality of play suffered. Negro Leagues Baseball became part of sports history.
Across town, the Kansas City Royals get ready to make another run at a World Series championship. The Royals have been in two of the last three World Series, winning their second world championship in 2015.
Kauffman Stadium is home to the Royals and their outstanding Hall of Fame. The stadium is fan friendly. The Hall of Fame traces the team’s history from 1969 through recent success.
On the eastern end of Missouri, St. Louisans love their Cardinals. They’ve built new baseball stadiums for the franchise a few teams over the decades. The newest version of Busch Stadium continues to pack ‘em in. The red clad Cards fans cheer their team on, hoping for a 12th World Series pennant to hang in the outfield.
Several professional teams offer tours of their stadiums. The Cardinals are no exception. The Busch Stadium tour takes visitors through the main concourse, the press box, players’ clubhouse and even the team’s dugout. The Cardinals’ press box provides an impressive view of the city’s signature attraction – the Arch.
Across the street, the newest downtown attraction is home to the Cardinals’ museum and Hall of Fame. The museum is located on the second floor of Cardinals Nation, a sports restaurant and bar at Ballpark Village. The museum provides a fun look into the team’s history. Cardinals’ fans love it. Other baseball fans find it an impressive visit, as well.
Ballpark Village is a fun attraction itself. The entertainment facility is home to several bars and restaurants. There seems to be something for everyone there – a Budweiser bar, Fox Sports Midwest restaurant, a PBR country-themed bar, and more.
As a Minnesota Twins fan, I loved our tour of Target Field in Minneapolis. The stadium celebrates its seventh season in 2017, but it looks brand new. The stadium doesn’t have a bad view for games.
The team honors its heroes with some magnificent displays. Kirby Puckett – one of my favorite Twins – has a section dedicated to him, with a mural made from wood. Harmon Killebrew – another Minnesota great – is recognized for his success and leadership.
The stadium’s outdoor concourse houses sculptures of great Twins players, as well as “Peanuts” characters, including Charlie Brown and Snoopy. The cartoon’s creator – Charles Schulz – hailed from the Twin Cities.
Seattle’s Safeco Field is commonly mislabeled as a dome stadium. It actually has an “umbrella” over the field. The stadium is an open-air facility. However, the roof is retractable; thus, the umbrella label. Stadium managers can decide to open or close the roof as close as 10 minutes before game time. Less than a dozen games have been rained out at Safeco since it opened in 1999.
The stadium has been well-kept during its operation. It has an open concourse, which allows fans to roam during games and still have a nice view of the action.
We enjoyed the field level view from the dugout area, as well as checking out the beauty of the area from the press box level.
Nebraska isn’t without its contribution to pro baseball. The Museum of Nebraska Major League Baseball in St. Paul celebrates the state’s players who are enshrined in the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Grover Cleveland Alexander, one of the all-time winning pitchers in the Majors, lived in St. Paul during his playing days, as well as retirement. Other Nebraskans in Cooperstown include Wade Boggs, Richie Ashburn, “Wahoo Sam” Crawford, Bill Southworth and Clarence Arthur “Dazzy” Vance and Bob Gibson.
The museum also honors current players from the state, as well as recognizing about 100 other Nebraskans who have made an appearance in Major League Baseball.
St. Paul, about 128 miles west of Omaha, is worth the drive to visit the museum. The museum is located at the city’s Chamber of Commerce building. Admission is free.
Iowa’s Dyersville is home to the “Field of Dreams.” The movie of the same name was filmed on a farm a short drive from Dubuque. We’ve visited the site twice and want to go back. The farm house is now open for tours.
The “Field of Dreams” has an impact on people – especially older men – that some people don’t seem to understand. For most people, the field is merely a film set. That’s true. But, for some, it’s much more. It takes them back to their youth. Memories rush back to days of playing catch with friends – or maybe even their dad.
The movie – starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones – was about an Iowa farmer who built a baseball diamond in a cornfield after hearing voices. Later, players’ ghosts came out of the cornfield to play a game. Ray (Costner’s character) meets his dad among the players. They play a game of catch. It’s one scene where I am willing to wager no man maintains a dry eye.
The great thing about baseball is that there is almost no place in the United States where the sport isn’t played. There are a few old stadiums left (such as Evansville’s). Regardless, minor league teams, as well as town teams, provide some exciting plays to watch.
Baseball is a great sport to watch live. There’s nothing like sitting in the stands, rooting on your favorite players. When you get the chance, take a stadium tour or visit a museum. The history and little known facts you learn add to the love for the game. Enjoy the season and good luck.