So now the ballpark of the moment is glassy and modern and full of moving fish, leaving the retro-style ballparks of the previous moment kaput. What happens to all those teams that are stuck with suddenly unfashionable nostalgia-parks? (And are stuck with them for a very long time.)
Apparently it's time to strip away, bit by bit, that idealized Old Tyme-ness that was supposed to entice people to show up. This is happening!
Consider the Mets, who bought into the timeless style just as its time expired. Much was made of the fact that the Mets moved in Citi Field's outfield fences this year—if you're going to shed $50 million in payroll, you might as well see some home runs.
But before the first pitch was thrown on Opening Day, as the Mets were unveiling the Gary Carter patch in left center field, the TV cameras picked up something far more notable and resonant about the fences: they're blue! A royal, Shea blue.
Originally, they were
forest green black and the seats inside the stadium were forest green—inspired, supposedly, by the Polo Grounds, but faithful to the color scheme laid down 20 years ago at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Patient Zero of the retro fever. "Dark green is the color of a classic ballpark," said Dave Howard, the Mets president, in 2009. "And we thought the other team in town would use blue." And if you used the color scheme of a "classic ballpark," the Wilpons believed, you would suddenly have a classic ballpark.
Well, the fans responded: They didn't show up the past two years, and Citi Field is unloved. But it yearns to be loved! Now, the moment you sit down, there's that blue sweeping across the outfield, topped by a Mets-orange stripe. If you squint, it feels like you're at a Mets Stadium (sorry, the "Let's Go Mets" Citi Field sign in deep center never worked). It clashes with the over-tasteful green of the seats and the rest of the stadium—a familiar and comfortingly ugly clash, almost as dissonant as the old orange, blue, green and red seating arrangement at Shea. (As ungainly, that is, as a color scheme patched together from the blue of the ex-Brooklyn Dodgers and the orange of the ex-New York Giants.)
There are still issues. Even with the walls drawn in, there's a lingering quirkiness to the outfield walls—antithetical to the round and reassuring symmetry of the old Shea dimensions that Mets fans grew up on. There's that disturbing, horrible 408 sign in center field, which is still, fundamentally, not a Mets dimension. The Mets spent decades at 410. The Yankee Stadiums—both old and new—have spent more than two decades at 408. Let them have it.
But that's nitpicking. The blue wall is in keeping with what the Wilpons have been forced to do since the stadium—adding large banners of Mets greats throughout the stadium, bringing the old Shea home run apple to the front of the stadium, trying to cover the overwhelming, generic Otherness of the entire stadium with something identifiably Mets-ian. Oh, and that's right: For the first time since 1996 the Mets are bringing back Banner Day.
So the Mets are symbolically relocating their ballpark from vague Baseball Elysium to actual Flushing, Queens. And they're not alone in making such a move. The oldest Olde Tyme Base-Ball Park has been trying to claim some specific heritage, too.
As Richard Sandomir reported in the Times last week, a new roofdeck bar at Camden Yards is being used as a monument to Baltimore Orioles history:
Viewable from the rooftop bar is a second new feature: a sculpture garden that will house six bronze works of Orioles Hall of Famers, a feature adapted from stadiums new (like AT&T Park) and old (Wrigley Field). The 7- to 8-foot statues, by Antonio Mendez, will stand on granite bases in an area beyond center field.
The first statue, of Frank Robinson, will be unveiled April 28; the last one, of [Cal] Ripken, will be revealed in September. In between, the garden will grow monthly with the likenesses of Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer.
In addition, artists were hired to paint murals in the main concourse depicting the team's logos since its arrival in Baltimore in 1954, and the walls of the main concourse were covered with stucco. A year-round restaurant named for the former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey has been put in the warehouse.
It's not strictly in the design of the stadiums, either. The Orioles have brought back that cartoon bird. And the Mets? In honor of their 50th anniversary, they're spending the whole year wearing their 1962 uniforms. Blue caps. No more black drop shadows on the Mets logo. Terry Collins has spent the early part of the year looking a little like Gil Hodges in that blue jacket.
A Brooks Robinson statue and a blue fence don't exactly feel authentic—but at least, finally, there's something familiar about them.