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A Baseball House of Horrors

Dave Randall

Posted on April 6, 2019 18:19

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Two ballparks, past and present, have had debilitating effects on stats and opposing teams.

Vin Scully was the greatest baseball announcer who ever lived. Part of what Dodger fans miss since his retirement is his foreshadowing of an upcoming series. For 40 years, particularly during the 1960s, he would warn of trips to San Francisco's Candlestick Park. It was MLB's original house of horrors, rendered frigid by the stiff winds that blew from the bay to the surrounding hills.

When the site at Candlestick Point was chosen, not long after the team moved to San Francisco from New York, Giant officials inspected the site during the relative calm of morning hours. A mistake. It was only later, during construction, that the vicious gales were noted. On opening day, 1960, the daylight cold chilled fans to the point of debilitating discomfort, and plagued fielders, hitters, and pitchers alike.

It's said the gusts blew back at least 50 potential home runs off the bat of Willie Mays, over the years. Pop ups left the park, hard-hit blasts became infield flies that might land anywhere. Candlestick made the game a circus.

By 1962, the Giant's manager, Alvin Dark, told his troops to embrace the elements, and their psychological effect on the opposition. During a crucial series with the Dodgers that August, Dark instructed his grounds keepers to make a swamp of the area around first base, to slow Dodger speedsters Maury Wills and Willie Davis. 

In the 1970s artificial turf was added, and the stadium was enclosed with additional seating for the football 49ers, but that didn't stop the cold. Visiting Dodger pitcher Claude Osteen, appraised of the changes to come, snorted, "A bomb would have been cheaper." In 2000, a great ballpark was finally opened for the Giants. Candlestick remains a bad memory for the city, the team, and opponents who played there, particularly the Dodgers. Who knew that once baseball was free of this self-inflicted wound on the quality of play, another would take its place, almost simultaneously?

In 1993, the Colorado Rockies began playing in Denver, a city with unpredictable weather--Candlestick Point with snow. The Rockies' original manager, the late Don Baylor, wanted to put conditions into the minds of opposing players, and insisted the outfield wall at their first home have a sign that read, "Elevation: One Mile." Both at Mile High Stadium, and at Coors Field (opened in 1995), the altitude has wreaked havoc on pitching staffs, and inflated statistics with high flies that seem to travel as far as the elevation is high. Curves don't break, sinkers don't sink, and sure outs carry like they've been swatted by the Babe himself. Keeping the balls in a humidor helped reduce the football-like scores a bit, but, as the heart malady of Kenley Jansen showed last year, Denver's altitude is as much an impediment to player health as it is to breaking ball pitchers. 

Ballparks have idiosyncrasies, tendencies, characteristics. But one place you never want to play, always seems to exist.

Dave Randall

Posted on April 6, 2019 18:19

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Source: Yahoo Sports
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