Martin's Must Reads: 'Ballpark: Baseball in American City'
“The first baseball games were played in open fields, but the first baseball park—the first place constructed specifically for the game, with places for paying customers and surrounded by walls to keep non-paying customers out—was constructed in Brooklyn, New York.”
I’m Mark Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and so begins a book that every baseball fan should read, Ballpark: Baseball in the American City by Paul Goldberger.
Baseball recounts the building of the first ballparks as a way for the owners to make money, and moves to the classic parks—Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Ebbets Field. Baseball parks then entered a “down” period as the parks were likened to non-descript, generic, concrete donuts. It was with Camden Yards in Baltimore that ballparks morphed into today’s multipurpose entertainment complexes designed to attract not just baseball fans but those willing to help line the coffers of owners and cities.
In doing so, the author describes baseball’s early consequence of economic and racial segregation in its parks. It is an economic segregation that today is even wider.
For St. Louis baseball fans, Goldberger tells the story of the first Sportsman’s Park, Busch One and the current Busch stadium and Ballpark village, what they corrected, and how St Louis is a microcosm of the evolution of the American baseball park.
Baseball in America has always been about more than athletics, it is the marriage of sport, money and civic involvement. Goldberger sums up: “The greatest joy it (the ballpark) can bring us is when it is embedded in the real city, with all the energy, diversity, and dynamism a city can display at its best and the exhilaration the baseball park offers becomes not only a celebration of sport, but of the whole of urban life.”