This is a weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: The Philadelphia Phillies' Citizens Bank Park.
Edgy: Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004, by which point our stadium builders had clearly run out of ideas. With the lone exception of a blinking neon Liberty Bell in right, there is nothing to distinguish the place from something that might've gone up in, say, Charlotte. There is plenty of contrived personality, though. Set down in a cluster of parking lots in industrial South Philly, CBP nevertheless pretends to be an old-style ballpark squeezed into a tiny downtown lot. The outfield walls zig and zag simply because, once upon a time, outfield walls used to zig and zag — never mind that they did so because the site required it, as at Fenway. Today, the asymmetrical outfields serve no purpose other than to signal a quirkiness that the ballparks don't actually possess. They're the pre-ripped jeans of stadium design.
Now, you could plausibly defend the practice elsewhere on the grounds that it's entertaining to watch outfielders run a steeple chase any time someone sends a ball down the alleys. At Citizens Bank Park, however, this feels doubly wrong. This is Philadelphia, American midwife of the open grid, a city that prized, and even fetishized, rational design and geometric precision. Philly was the New World. Boston, with the gypsy dips and turns of its streets, was decidedly Old World; the lyric little bandbox that sprang out of its marshland naturally inherited the pompous whimsy of its city. This was nothing to get wistful over. Americans spent the 20th century working feverishly to flee such cramped conditions, only to see their baseball stadiums, at the dawn of the next century, pay homage to those unloved olden days in a spasm of mindless and profitable nostalgia.
Alley oops: I generally don't go in for the corporate naming-rights hysteria, mostly because a lot of the outrage rests on the illusion that baseball was once about something more noble than making money, which it wasn't. But the Phillies could've and should've done better with their new stadium. Richie Ashburn Stadium would've been nice. Or why not, at minimum, Richie Ashburn Field at Citizens Bank Park? Ashburn was the player our television broadcasters now desperately want David Eckstein to be. He was a singles-hitting centerfielder who walked a ton and played with such a motor that Ted Williams nicknamed him "Put Put." He was everything you'd want in a ballplayer. He was Pete Rose without the sociopathy and the Racing Form. An honest-to-god gentleman. Bill James tells a great Richie Ashburn story:
One time Ashburn hit a line drive into the stands, striking a young woman in the side of the face and knocking her unconscious. The stadium gasped. Ashburn stepped out of the box and watched in alarm as medics rushed to her side. In a few minutes the woman revived, the stretcher came, and the ballgame resumed. And Ashburn hit another line drive foul, and struck the poor woman again as she was being carried out of the stadium.
Ashburn visited the woman in the hospital after the game, invited her to come down and meet the players, befriended her and her family, and corresponded with the woman for the rest of his life.
He became a beloved broadcaster, and not long after his death, in 1997, a great many fans asked that the Phillies name their expensive new baseball stadium for Ashburn. The request was of course denied. The ballpark opened in 2004, and above all else people praised the outfield walkway, one of those newfangled stadium corrals where teams try very hard to sell you shit you don't want and where folks who go to baseball games to do anything but watch baseball games can pass an afternoon. This was everything you hate about the modern baseball experience. This, they called Ashburn Alley.
The view from the stands (everything sic'd):
When I saw that you were taking submissions for Citizens Bank Park, the first thing that popped into my head is that you would get all of these responses that said, "Hey, even though the Phillies moved from the craphole /dump/ octorad /shitbox that was the Vet to the new nice/family-oriented/retro/corporate Citizens Bank Park the fans are still total mutants." That could not be any further from the truth. People who say that never actually sat in the 700 level. And yes, you can see horrible displays of drunken meatheads at Citizens Bank Park. It doesn't compare to what used to happen in the 700 level at Vet. Citizens Bank Park has yet to have a brawl in the stands so big that the players and umpires stopped what they were doing in order to watch it. There is no part of CBP that compares to sections 745 and 746 of the Vet, and nobody pees in trashcans at Citizens Bank Park.
The issue with Citizens Bank Park is that it attracts 30,000 more people a game and holds 20,000 less than the Vet. So it seems like there are more drunks and things are more out of control. It's not that there are more drunks. The issue is that there are more sober people to document what is happening. Citizens Bank Park has become the cool place for college kids and angry white kids to go. The Vet was the place to go for people who considered a pack of hotdogs and a plastic bottle of vodka as plans for a Wednesday afternoon.
For the first 2 or 3 years of Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies used to have "College Nights." College kids got a discount on tickets, a free t-shirt/hat and some kind of food discount. I was at a college night in May of 2006 and sitting in the 2nd level of the outfield. At one point in the late innings of the game, the drunken college kids in the 2nd and 3rd levels devised a game in which somebody in the 3rd level would throw a slice of pizza like a Frisbee while somebody in the 2nd level tried to catch it. Although a high percentage of the slices ended up in the first level or on the field, there were some amazing catches made.
My favorite Vet memory was sometime in the late 90's. And the Phillies were playing the Expos on a weekday night, maybe 13,000 people in the whole stadium at most and the stadium held 65,000. My friend and I are sitting section 752, and there is nobody within 4 sections of us. And we are drinking Hi-C with vodka dumped in it. Maybe around the 3rd or 4th inning, the security guard comes over to us. And he starts talking to us about how he met Vlad Guerrero earlier in the day and he had arms like a construction worker. Yep, he was that strong. So after about 10 minutes of talking to us, he looks at us and says, "You two are sitting way up here on a weekday night watching the Phillies and Expos play, nobody sitting within 4 sections of you. I sure hope you have some booze mixed in with that Hi-C you are drinking."
My second favorite memory of the Vet was sitting in the 500 level in the outfield in 1992 and tossing the bones from my chicken wings at Andy van Slyke during a game against the Pirates. Who would have known then that would be the last winning season for the Pirates? (Mike)
A recent story from july 4th weekend this year, mets at phils.
Being a mets fan, I expected a weekend series in philly to be an unpleasant experience, but 'fear for my life' was not exactly what I was looking for. As we made our way into the stadium, a man far older than my 26 years yelled at us and invited us to drink his cum. Now, what striked me most about this and many of the obnoxious fans is that these are grown men, not boorish teens. There is something seriously wrong with these people. However this was just a warm up to our exit from the stadium where a younger fella followed us through the slow moving upper deck crowd, down the escalators, and outside the stadium, yelling at me the whole time "Get a new shirt, Pedro [Martinez]" This guy then proclaimed he would escort us to our car. At this point, we realized we had the crossed the line from typical philly fan to psychotic nut. Luckily, we were able to lose him in the crowd. Congrats Philly, you easily have the title as the white trash capital of the US. (Daniel B.)
I have basically nothing bad to say about the CBP. There isn't a bad seat in the house, the beers are not that expensive (the WSJ backs me up on this), and the product has been excellent (I went to see the WFC win 11 straight games at CBP until I went to the Red Sox series this summer). I can't imagine anyone ever having a bad time there, except for one person. That person is Jeff Francoeur. I was sitting in the right field second deck a couple years back for a Phils-Braves game and every time poor Jeff took to left field, the left field bleachers began to chant "YOU SUCK PENIS! CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP". This made my night. I'm pretty sure he went 0-4 with subscription for Valtrex. (Jim)
I attended a Phillies game in 2007; a friend of mine hooked me up with some nice season tickets on the third base line. I didn't ask how he got them, cause I'm not an asshole.
As it turned out, he had never been there before, so it was something new for both of us. We got there a little early, just before third pitch. We looked around, and THERE IS NO SCOREBOARD. The action at the plate was to the right, but there was no scoreboard in front of us, unlike every other ballpark in the U.S. We looked around, and the scoreboard is some small piece of shit above left field, and we had to turn our heads FUCKING 120 DEGREES. Take it from me, that place is screwed, because every time you're sitting on the third base line and you want to know what the count is, you have to turn your neck that much. I was having major pains at the top of my spinal cord by the fourth inning. And as if that weren't enough, the beer tasted like donkey piss. So there you go. (J.R.)
It's important to first note that I'm a 14 game plan ticket holder and have been for the last 5 years - basically once I could finally afford it. I'm one of those people you'll hear complaints about pussifying the stadium by bringing his kid and wife - I consider it indoctrination, and neccesary, because you don't become a Phillies fan by choice. But I digress.
It's game 5, part 2, of the World Series (if you do why your commishoner sucks bud selig edition I call dibs), and I've learned the parking plan in the absurd sea of parking in south Philly has gone to shit by experiencing it in the prior games. Lots are closed before they're full, nobody knows where else to go, epic waits, etc.
As a result, my dad and I, end up in the tailgate friendly lot right on the side of the Linc. We go into the game and glory of Glories we win. We jump up and down like little girls and cheer until our voices are gone.
Still in disbelief, we giddly return to the car. As we approach, the ground behind it is shimmering. I chalked it up to the absurdity of the phils winning, at first. Then we get closer and I notice the liftgate window is 100% gone. Goodbye giddy feeling.
I look in the back and there is a Corbett champagne bottle or what remains of it. None of the cops nearby saw anything or have their report books so my insurance has to just take my word for it. Oh and the good part - did I mention it's a company car? And I work with mets/Yankees fans?
Nothing like winning a world f'ing series and having to take shit from mets fans about how my own kind smashed my window, cost me several hundred dollars, and threw hand grenades at Santa claus.
Ps- the guy who has season tickets and sits next to us typically was understandably excited after the big win and hugged his woman and jumped up and down. Seeing her tears, he assumes she is beyond happy and exclaims "I know! Isn't it great?". Once he let's go she crumple to her seat, still crying. Yeah, he broke her ribs. That pRt was awesome.
Sent from my iPhone (Peter S.)
Earlier this year, three buddies and I headed down to The Bank and grabbed 4 standing room only tickets. If you get to the park early enough you can park yourself at a standing post behind homeplate just above the lower seating section. It's a pretty good deal considering the people sitting 4 inches in front of you paid $70 for their tickets and the standing room tickets are only $18. (They were $12 previously, but when you team wins the World Series, there's profit to be had.)
About 45 minutes before game time the row directly in front of us fills up with a wide variety of college kids and one or two middle-aged women, all sporting the same lame homemade, sharpie scribbled t-shirts. As I was trying to figure out what lame company-sponsored "PHILLIES GAME 2009!!!!!" outing they were on, the entire row proceeds to stand and begin chanting "PURDY PURDY PURDY." One particularly obnoxious beer slut was holding a sign that read ‘Purdy's first pitch' so we held off judgment on the group, fearing that we could be drunkenly mocking a group there to support a 6-year-old with lupus or 23-year-old who had his nuts blown off in Iraq.
As it turned out, "Purdy" was a seemingly healthy 40 something year old man who only got to throw out the first pitch because his company makes the sticks that the corndogs at the park come on or something. Unfortunately, the purdy group decided that some random asshole throwing out one of the EIGHT "first pitches" thrown that day was worthy of chanting his name for THE ENTIRE GAME.
Around the 4th inning everyone in the section and standing around us had their fill of the group chanting PURDY after Carlos Ruiz drew an intentional walk. Around this point, above mentioned beer slut took a little too long waving her sign between innings, which prompted an usher to ask her to take her seat, which prompted equally drunk dude a few rows in front of us to be begin yelling at beer slut, which prompted beer slut to begin hitting equally drunk dude with Purdy sign.
Considering all the runs in the game were scored in the bottom of the 1st, it at least provided some sort of entertainment through the other 8 innings of the game and anytime a 40 something year old man can have one of the best days of his life ruined by his son's friends, brother's, girlfriend's, friend, it's a great day at the park. (Kyle G.)
I put my name in the drawing last year for playoff tickets for the Phillies, thinking, "The Mets can't possibly blow the division lead two years in a row, right?"
Well, you know how that turned out, and I bought two tickets to Game 2: Brett Myers vs. CC Sabathia. I went with my buddy Bill. We were both Indians fans, and we knew that with CC pitching, it would turn into batting practice for the Phils.
The PA announcer said, "We're going to go on national television, and we all needed to show the world what Philadephia fans were like." I waited for someone to throw a punch, but 45,000 fans waved their towels and yelled.
And then the starting lineups were announced, and everyone watching the game really got a taste of Philly fans. "First, for the visiting Milwaukee Brewers..." was the only part I heard. The fans started booing immediately, living up to Philadelphia's reputation.
There was a guy sitting behind us wearing a shirt that said, "I'm not mad, I'm from Philadelphia." When Sabathia was announced as the starting pitcher, the crowd started yelling "CC sucks! CC sucks! CC sucks!"
The game started, and another guy sitting behind me started yelling that the Phillies aren't getting any strikes called. I mean, he's livid, motherfucking the umpires up and down.
Our seats are in the upper level behind the right field foul pole.
The guy keeps screaming. Finally, the guy next to him says, "You're 400 fucking feet away. The umpire can see better than you. Shut the fuck up, Dad." (Vince G.)
Photo via dameetch's Flickr
Next up: Yankee Fucking Stadium. Got any horrible experiences to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.