(The non-baseball season is officially over. Two teams from cities who don't even have major league teams participated in the non-baseball championship. But now that's out of the way and we can focus solely on spring training. Pitchers and catchers start reporting in a matter of days! I definitely appreciate this time of year. And here's Cardboard Appreciation. This is the 51st in a series):
I have been fortunate enough to walk out onto the field of a few professional ballparks and stadiums.
It's always a thrill, although I admit I find touring a ball field a lot more interesting than stepping onto an NFL gridiron.
However, it's the few times that I have walked on NFL turf that I have gotten the distinct impression that I was on display. I was standing at the lowest point of the stadium, aside from its underground bowels. And as I looked around, I could see 80,000 seats rise up before me and on all sides of me. This wasn't when an actual game was taking place, obviously, but I could definitely appreciate the feeling that "all eyes are on me" in that situation.
I'll never be able to tell for sure, but it seemed to have the feeling of an old Roman colosseum. I could identify with the players who compete in those circumstances. It felt almost barbaric, like the people on that scrap of field were on display for 80,000 spectators' amusement. Of course, that is actually what's going on, but when you're in the stands or watching on TV, you totally lose sight of that.
The baseball fields that I have walked on did not elicit that feeling in me -- not even Olympic Stadium in Montreal, which made me feel like I was inside of a UFO.
I think that's because ever since the early 1990s, baseball has gone out of its way to make ballparks cozier. There are often fewer seats than football stadiums, and they don't loom ominously on all sides -- in most cases.
But looking at this card of Lindy McDaniel, I can tell that wasn't always the case. McDaniel certainly looks on display in the center of a colossus known as old Yankee Stadium, a massive ode to U.S. Steel.
Look at that thing! Those distant rafters give me a major sense of forboding. The stadium posts are something you rarely see in today's baseball arenas. I look at this card and I can practically hear the stadium creaking as I wonder how many spiders are crawling around in that thing.
And look at the mass of faces staring down at McDaniel. You better do well out there, Lindy. Or else they'll throw you to the lions.
I've read a little bit about the creation of stadiums a century or so ago. They were once little more than open fields. Then they became wooden firetraps that burned down much too often. The early 20th century saw the boom of steel and concrete stadiums, which were extremely popular, but not exactly bursting with the comforts of home.
Now, ballparks are MORE comfortable than what you've got at home. And although a lot of ballplayers will tell you they don't even notice the crowd, I have a feeling it's more comfortable for them, too.