Baseball Judgments

Baseball Judgments |
My top five ballparks


By Roger Weber


This top five list was computed statistically and subjectively. The study was approved for publication at and an explanation of the top five is available both at and on Graham Knight’s “Top Five Ballparks” section.


1. Jacobs Field


Architect: HOK

Cost: $175 Million

Opened: April 4, 1994

Capacity: 42,865

Surface: Grass

Dimensions: 325-LF, 370-LC, 405-C, 375-RC, 325-R


"The Jake," located in the heart of downtown Cleveland, has a white steel design that mirrors the industrial side of the city and the three levels of luxury suites separated by thin white dividers that give the park a uniform, classy look. Easy to access from anywhere downtown and with ample parking for boisterous sellout crowds, Jacobs has one of the best environments in baseball on a sellout night. Unlike many modern parks, Jacobs has a consistent look throughout the structure and does not rely on many forced features. It simply has a classy look emphasized by sharp lines, the best scoreboard in baseball, and all the amenities a baseball fan needs. Cleveland baseball crowds and Indians' teams have adapted to this park and even 12 years after its opening, Jacobs Field is still my favorite. It seems like the only "retro" park that may stand out in the future like Fenway and Wrigley do today.


Based on what I see as important to a ballpark, and what I have experienced, read about, and inferred about the major league ballparks of this country (and the one in Canada), I can conclude that the best one for my tastes is Jacobs Field in Cleveland. It won by all four decision methods.


It has arguably the best scoreboard in the game (I would say Cincinnati's is better), and it is a simple, easy to navigate ballpark. There are more food stands than I can count offering food of every variety. The Mad Drummer, the Singing Beer man, Chief Wahoo, the dark infield dirt that used to be there, and the white Indians' uniforms with the sharp red trim made this park one of the best looking in the league. Plus, the three levels of luxury suites and the sharp corner in the right field corner, along with the mini green monster in left and the bleachers give this park a unique feel and look that is exciting and pleasing.

It is one of the older modern parks, but has seen a great deal of history. An unobservant visitor might think it is too similar to Camden Yards or Coors Field, but it truly is unique. Unlike those, which are encased with orange and red brick, the Jake is adorned with visible white steel, which gives it a hip, modern, classy look. I enjoy the small lower deck. One of the problems I see with many new parks is that there are too many seats at a too gradual slope in the lower deck.


The concourses are wide double concourses, and the lower one is open to the field. The left field line social area is not the best social area in the game, but it is a fun place to be. The catwalks are interesting, and the lights are the brightest in baseball, supported by industrial looking, unique light stands.


The location is not on the ocean, or on a river, nor is the view the best in the game, but for the city it is in, this is the best location for the view, comfort, and functional accessibility. There is no better park for access from downtown. It is right downtown, with tons of parking nearby, and there aren't even a bunch of ugly parking lots surrounding the park. The park was designed nicely to use the location to its advantage for the view. Seeing Gund Arena and Cleveland's most famous skyscraper down the left field line is great.


It is perfect for Cleveland. It has the memorable, classy design that could exist as a landmark for a long time, and it has the amenities and modern features of the nicest new parks. This is perfect for Cleveland, one of the great old cities going through a new renaissance.


Amenities: It has everything a fan needs. There are different types of food stands at every corner of the park. The Jake has a double concourse, which means it is wider than an average concourse, and it contains lots of space for food stands and restrooms, both of which the Jake has in excess of need. The concourse on the lower level overlooks the field, and in the left field corner, there is a nice large social concourse area. The scoreboard is one of the top two or three in baseball, as it is large and in full color. It has a large videoboard, plenty of stats, and is all in large, clear writing. The out of town scoreboard is just as nice, as it updates each score and what runners are on base. The sightlines are good. The upper deck is somewhat higher than in many parks, but that only is because the park looks so classy with three levels of luxury suites. It is a simple park and is easy to navigate.


History: It once sold out 455 straight games. This park is only 11 years old, but it has seen two World Series' and six division titles by the Indians. Recently, the Indians declined a bit, but they seem to be back on the way to the top, so this park should develop more history.


Location: This is about the most functional spot in the majors. The team claims there is enough parking in the area for every fan in a sold out park to park his car. Whether this is true or not, there is plenty of parking nearby, and there are loads of bars and restaurants by the park. For the location, the Indians did a great job choosing the best possible view without sacrificing fan comfort, as Lake Erie can blow in some cold winds.


Atmosphere: When this park was selling out every game, there was not a more exciting atmosphere in sports. The Mad Drummer, John Adams, was banging away throughout the game. The Singing Beerman was leading whole sections of the park in drinking songs. Plus, the fans were loud and knowledgeable. These features still exist, just with smaller crowds. It is still a fun, urban atmosphere great for baseball.


Aesthetics, Uniqueness: The iron and sharp corners give this park probably the sharpest, classiest look in baseball. On the exterior, it is recognizable and beautiful. Inside, the sharp right field corner looks great. The green seats blend well with the white iron, and having three levels of luxury suites give this a good look. The 19 foot left field wall also looks nice. The light stands are sharp and old fashioned, matching the park well, supporting the brightest lights in baseball.


2. AT&T Park


Architect: HOK

Cost: $255 Million

Opened: April 11, 2000

Capacity: 41,503

Surface: Grass

Dimensions: 339-L, 364-LC, 399-C, 421-RC, 309-R


A compact intimate stadium, SBC Park is a perfect setting for big moments or casual Saturday afternoon visits to the ballpark. While a nice park with amenities and comforts about as good as any other park, SBC gets vaulted to the top of the list because of its miraculous view. Some say PNC Park's river and skyline view is more impressive, but seeing the mountains, the Bay Bridge and a sparkling bay above the sights of a giant Coke bottle and Barry Bonds splashing bombs into McCovey Cove is one of baseball's "can't miss" experiences.


Amenities: The food is some of the most unique fare in baseball. Fresh fruit and garlic fries are available in many locations. The seats are average, but some have internet connections. The scoreboard was only average, which is really the only major negative of this park. There are plenty of food stands, although the concourse is somewhat dark and dirty. I felt a little cramped, and there are a lot of bleachers, but after all, the land on which this park is build is smaller than the footprint of Coors Field.


History: It opened in 2000, and the Giants made the playoffs that year. They made the World Series in 2002. San Francisco won 2 of 3 at Pac Bel. The biggest piece of history here, though, has obviously been Barry Bonds. What a perfect park for a hitter like that. The bay is the perfect setting for a left handed power hitter. Bonds home runs numbers 71 and 700 were the most memorable nights at this park.


Location: Best in baseball? Maybe. I prefer this setting to Pittsburgh's. The bay and the bay bridge are beautiful. Plus, the park is only a short walk from the center of downtown. The park is still a little subject to heavy winds, but it's really not that bad.


Atmosphere: It has remained a consistent big draw for fans. Plus, with so many bleachers, this park can look sold out even when it's not. The fans are loud, decked in Bonds gear, and ticket prices can get expensive. Mine was $100, for a game against the Brewers! The female public address announcer is also a unique touch.


Aesthetics: The outside is done in a unique brick style different from that of Camden Yards or Coors Field, and it looks really nice. There are palm trees on the concouse behind home, and the bay even made Candlestick look nice. The seats are usually filled, so their green color isn't a problem. The Giants did a nice job tucking the luxury boxes under the third deck, so they don't show very much. It is a typical three deck park, but with the brick and bay, it doesn't look bad in any way.  


3. PNC Park


Architect: HOK

Cost: $216 Million

Opened: April 9, 2001

Capacity: 38,365

Surface: Grass

Dimensions: 325-L, 389-LC, 399-C, 375-RC, 320-R


PNC Park was the first retro park to actually be a little different. The Pirates' fan base isn't huge, so PNC is a small park, and especially designed to give fans great sightlines. The highest seat in the place is just 88 feet above the field. The design is nice, and the way architects opened up right field to a movie set-like view must be applauded.

“Finally what appeared to be a step in the right direction. A ballpark meant to emulate a Minor League ballpark more than a Major League one…It’s a great original”

-Eric Pastore, webmaster of

Amenities: This is another park that is average, but not overly excellent, in amenities. The concourses are nice. It would be better if the right field concourse were more open to the field. The scoreboard is one of the better ones, but it lacks a real info board, and can only display one lineup at a time. Views are excellent, as the top row is only 88 feet from the field. For me, though, that leaves something lacking. I like to visit really high seats, but obviously it isn't a real problem. I'm sure most fans would rather sit close to the field. The spiraling ramps in right are also interesting places from which to view the game. This park is only two decks, which is unusual for the new parks. One thing I don't like is that to ensure that the seats are so low and close to the field, the sloping of the decks is very gradual, which can make for bad views. Food is good. There are two full service restaurants under the scoreboard.


History: The Pirates themselves have a long, storied history. Unfortunately, this park opened at a bad time in their history, and at a time when Pittsburgh was really becoming more of a football town. This park was built small, but even so, attendance has been low. Luckily, it's a nice enough park not to need great attendance. The Pirates have performed poorly here.


Location: Well...I guess it's o.k. No. Actually, this is one of the best views possible for a ballpark. The bridge, the skyline, the river, the hills of Pennsylvania...those don't come in combination very often, and this park includes all of them. The walk to the park can take time, as it requires crossing a fairly narrow bridge, but once inside, the view makes the park.


Atmosphere: It isn't great. Crowds are small, but the fans that do come are pretty good baseball fans. Occasionally the Pirates will draw big crowds, and on those nights, this is a very fun place to be.


Aesthetics: Outside, it is beige stone. It is unique, and it does look nice. Inside, the seats are blue. It seems strange they would choose blue when the team's colors are black and yellow. The field is nice, but I think the infield dirt is too light a shade. The green of the outfield walls is a little lighter green than most parks, so that is nice. Other than the view and the ramps in left, there aren't really any unique features in this park, but when you have that view, what more do you need?


4. Oriole Park at Camden Yards


Architect: HOK

Cost: $100 Million

Opened: April 6, 1992

Capacity: 48,876

Surface: Grass

Dimensions: 337-L, 417-LC, 406-C, 375-RC, 320-R


It was the original. More recent parks have improved upon its amenities, sightlines and overall designs, but Camden Yards was the original. Its concourses, even if they don't have a view of the field, are jammed with the smells of crab cakes and the right field concourse is an attraction even without the ballpark next door. The design isn't overdone and brilliantly mirrors its location.

“The beginning of the end. This retro park was perhaps interesting because of its usage of view and the buildings surrounding it for an impressive display.”

-Eric Pastore, webmaster of

Amenities: As the second park of the modern era, Camden Yards was the one that really kicked off the amenity fight. The concourses are wide, although they don't overlook the field. The right field concourse is one of the best social areas in the game. Crab cakes and other regional specialties make the food decision tough. The seats are comfortable, and most have good views, but for a small portion in right center. The scoreboard is attractive, but not that informative.


History: The Orioles, ready to leave decaying Memorial Stadium, asked fans where to build the ballpark, and the warehouse district was chosen over 11 other possibilities. In 1992, the park opened to much fanfare. In 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. set the games played record, and the Orioles' new home was cemented as one of the great parks. By the way, in center field, just outside the park, is the spot of Babe Ruth's original home.


Location: The park is accessible from downtown, though it's not an easy walk. There is plenty of parking nearby, as the football stadium is right next door. We couldn't mention location without mentioning the warehouse. This park wouldn't be the same without the giant orange warehouse in right. There is also a small view of downtown out center field.


Atmosphere: The Nationals were expected to take away some revenue from the Orioles, and that does look to be the case, but the Os will survive. They get large baseball-saavy crowds, many of whom still wear Ripken gear to the games.


Aesthetics: I won't fault the park since it was the original to do so, but having a brick exterior isn't unique. Green seats, unpainted cement, metal old fashioned gates, three decks...all very typical of new parks, but mostly because Camden did them so well. The field is nice enough, but nothing special. It's a clean park, at least cleaner than some others its age. Again, though, what makes this park unique is pretty much the warehouse.


5. Wrigley Field


Architect: Osborn Engineering

Cost: $250,000

Opened: April 23, 1914

Capacity: 38,965

Surface: Grass

Dimensions: 355-L, 368-LC, 400-C, 368-RC, 353-R


Its concourses are dark, smelly and the concrete occasionally crumbles, but this is a cathedral to many baseball fans. There are few sights more pleasing than the marquis board in front and the wide open outfield view of Wrigleyville as one walks into the stands. The atmosphere, the history, the ivy and the bleacher bums can be overwhelming. It wouldn't be a list of great ballparks if Wrigley Field was not on it.

“If I were a Cubs fan, it would probably be my favorite.”

-Brian Merzbach, webmaster of


“A great ballpark to me is one that would be considered “classic” regardless of how new or old it is. Wrigley is the very definition of this.”

-Joe Mock, author of “Joe Mock’s Ballpark Guide” and webmaster of

Amenities: What amenities? It's Wrigley Field! Actually, the food is pretty good, even if the concourses are dark, dirty, and down a set of steps from the field. With the recent concrete falling incident in the concouses, you may want to wait for the vendor to come around. The scoreboard, although historic and unique, is just about the most pathetic, least informative in baseball. I try to overlook that, remembering that this is Wrigley Field, even if it does have posts blocking some views. I rank this park 11 out of 30 because for a fan who has to come here many times per year, the lack of amenities and discomfort of some of the park can get irritating.


History: In 1914, this park was built for the Chicago Whales. In 1916, the Cubs moved in. The park was renovated in 1920, and again in 1926, when an upper deck was added and the field lowered. In 1937, the scoreboard and bleachers were added to the outfield. In 1942, lights were supposed to be installed, but Phil Wrigley decided they would be better used in the war effort. As a result, it was 1988 when lights were installed, and in the first night game...there was a rainout! So, after around 90 years here, the Cubs still haven't won a World Series! (Thanks Bartman). In 1945, the curse was started, when the Cubs wouldn't let a local businessman bring his goat to a world series game. The effects have been felt numerous times, notably in 1984 and 2003.


Location: Wrigleyville is a unique neighborhood shaped by the ballpark. Residents fought to keep the lights off the park, but for how much Wrigley has done to help them, I think they'll live. With so many bars and businesses around, Wrigley is viewed as some as the best park ever built. Rooftop bleachers and great views make Wrigley's location one of the best, although there is virtually no parking, and it's a ways from downtown.


Atmosphere: Mostly, it's a bunch of rowdy, stupid college kids, but there are some real baseball fans. It's an interesting mix, and it makes for a loud, crowded park. The bleacher bums are the most talked about fans in baseball, with their shirts off, and their drunkenness and tradition of throwing back opponents' home runs. The park usually sells out.


Aesthetics: The red info board outside is very recognizeable, and improves a dull exterior. Inside, it can be beautifully lush or coldly brown depending on the weather. The ivy doesn't come in until late may, so there are differing opinions on the view. Wrigley has just two decks, so it feels smaller than it is, and you can see the outside world under the upper deck, which is unique. The brick walls have been duplicated at new parks, but Wrigley is still the classic.


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