Walt Disney once said, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Looking back, maybe my self-made adversity was what was necessary to propel me to the best years of my major league career.
Even the Worst of Major League Stadiums were Beautiful
Most of the major league stadiums that I played in are long gone, having given way to newer ballparks. They all had a special ambiance and were beautiful in their own way, especially because, they were major league stadiums. In addition, they were dream come true places for me because of the tradition of the players and teams that played in them then and before.
However, the most important factor in this subjective rating system is how I played in that major league stadium. The most beautiful of ballparks outwardly, and those with great tradition, seemed ugly, when I did not perform well there. The most beautiful woman in the world would not get a high rating from me, if she did not smile – just saying.
First, my apologies for this being the lowest rated stadium to one of my boyhood heroes, who starred in this once great (maybe that is a little exaggeration) stadium. Rocco Domenico “Rocky” Colavito, of Italian heritage, played there, and what an honor to play on the same field.
You will not be surprised that Cleveland Municipal Stadium gets the worst rating of all the major league stadiums I played in. Its reputation and the unfortunate state of the Indians back then preceded me. Known as “The Mistake on the Lake,” it was the “Nightmare on the Career” to me. Of course, those that saw me play there would say I was a mistake, too. Fortunately, the other half of the trade that brought me to the Indians from the Dodgers, Rick Sutcliffe, pitched superbly there.
The Worst of the Major League Stadiums I Played In
Cleveland Municipal, home of the Indians, was the King Kong of stadiums. It was huge, as it held eighty thousand people. Usually, it was empty, as it was the only major league stadium I could talk to my pass list without yelling from second base; and it was scary old, not to mention that one had to watch their back when leaving the stadium back then.
There were a few highlights I remember and, unfortunately, none had anything to do with my play on the field. One highlight was attending an NFL football game, when the place came to life with the Browns and Bengals. The second was when eighty thousand strong came for a July 4th double header versus the Yankees and we tried to break the sound barrier with the noise level, or something like that.
After the trade, many people told me that I was going from the penthouse of stadiums (Dodger Stadium) to the outhouse of stadiums in Cleveland. Little did I know that my game was going in the same direction. I was coming off some good minor league seasons and had a solid, spring training, so my confidence was high beginning the season. Unfortunately, all that changed quickly – no excuses, just lost confidence early in the year, leading to a nightmarish season. Thank God, there was not that measurement they have now, WAR – wins against replacement – because I may have been found at the bottom of the lake and set depths for future players to avoid.
Of course, the nightmare only extended to my play and the cavernous stadium, as my teammates were cherished friends and as implied, any major league stadium beats any minor league stadium.
Embarrassed and determined that my career would not end there; I began to swim upward until I found a raft in Seattle and was able to dive into major league mediocrity, which was so much better than the depths of Lake Erie.
Just a hint for #16 on my rankings of the major league stadiums of yesteryear – “Say hey.”