BALLPARK: Baseball in the American City is the highly-anticipated and much-acclaimed new book from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Goldberger. Unlike any book ever written, Ballpark captures the romance, the history, the architectural wonder, the neighborhoods and the pure, unadulterated love of baseball that make up America’s major league baseball stadiums, both past and present. In Ballpark, Goldberger combines the elegant and compelling writing of the country’s pre-eminent architectural writer/critic with the eye and soul of a true baseball fan to produce a book that captures the spirit of the old and new ballparks that we love and their importance and value to the cities they call home.
Ballpark relates the inextricable bond between the American city and America’s favorite pastime. In the baseball park, we see how Americans went from viewing their cities as central to the idea of community in the first decades of the twentieth century to wanting to run away from them in the decades after World War II, and then how we have used baseball parks to get our cities back.
In Ballpark, Goldberger shows how the first ball fields were essentially open playing fields on the edge of cities that gradually became more elaborate “playing grounds” with seats and grandstands. By the 1880’s, the grounds had begun to take on some of the characteristics of the ballpark before giving way to the first true baseball stadiums. Then, with Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Tigers Stadium came the “rural ideal” within the big city before the “monument” phase took over with Yankee Stadium (and later Municipal Stadium in Cleveland). Suburbanization came next with pressure on professional teams, like department stores and churches, to follow their customers out of the inner city as stadiums become structures amid a sea of parking and lost their neighborhood charm.
The 1960’s brought the “concrete donut” style of baseball stadiums such as Shea Stadium. Houston then gave birth to the domed stadium and how the move inside removed a key element of baseball, a connection to its surroundings. Camden Yards in Baltimore led to a new kind of ballpark that revitalized the direction of ballpark design while taking advantage of the preference of a new generation for city living. That led to the second wave of “retro” ballparks as downtown stadiums replaced their suburban counterparts while historic ballparks like Fenway and Wrigley were restored and thrived. BALLPARK also poses the question as to whether the ballpark is destined to become a theme park—or has that already occurred?