Experiencing America's Most Iconic Baseball Stadiums

Illustrations by LaurÈne Boglio

In the summer 2017 issue of Lonely Planet magazine, we ask an MLB player and die-hard fans to share their favorite memories of iconic baseball stadiums across the country, from Fenway to AT&T Park. We also recommend the best places to stay, eat and drink, and do nearby for a grand slam experience.

The greatest thing about being in Fenway Park as either a player or a fan is its history.

Newer, luxury stadiums cannot recreate the stories that the walls and seats in Fenway Park can tell. When I was 12 years old I was able to attend a game in Boston. I remember the buzz in the stadium the entire game that you don't get at other ballparks, and the fans embracing me, an out-of-towner, to tell me of the history of the Red Sox. I loved the old-time scoreboard where a person still changes all the numbers from inside the outfield wall. From that moment on it was my dream to pitch at Fenway Park. When I made my Major League debut while playing for the Yankees, I was able to live out that dream while also experiencing the most intense rivalry in sports; 38,000 fans booed us and jeered us, yet they respected us and the rivalry. That was the moment I knew how special this ballpark was.

Later in my career I was traded to the Red Sox and was able to get a consistent taste of Fenway Park. Each day I rode the T (subway) to the park so I could feed off that excitement from the fans, and I would regularly treat myself to one of the most special spots in Fenway Park: the inside of the famous Green Monster, which has the autographs of baseball legends going back decades. Even the bullpen, which is not high enough for you to stand straight up in without hitting your head, had a wonderful feel to it.

You don't go to Fenway Park to lay out or bask in the luxuries of newer stadiums. You go to Fenway Park to experience baseball as close as possible to the way it was played when the park opened in 1912.

Mark Melancon (@Mark_Melancon_) is a San Francisco Giants pitcher.

STAY: Verb Hotel has a retro, mid-century cool with rooms that face Fenway. theverbhotel.com

EAT & DRINK: Bleacher Bar offers a view of center field from under the stands. bleacherbarboston.com

DO: Wally’s Cafe is a small, scrappy jazz club that’s served up the real deal every night of the year since 1947. wallyscafe.com

I grew up going to old Tiger Stadium with my dad.

I was born with the Old English D figuratively imprinted onto my heart. When the Tigers won the World Series in 1984, I was barely a year old. And for the rest of my childhood, the Tigers were perennially at the bottom of the standings. This culminated with a 119-loss season in 2003 – one loss away from tying the 1962 New York Mets’ dubious record of the most losses in modern-era MLB history. Just three years later, I was sitting in the stands of Comerica Park watching my beloved Tigers stand one game away from clinching the American League pennant. It was the bottom of the ninth inning of the 2006 American League Championship Series. The Tigers were taking on the Oakland Athletics. The score was tied 3-3. Magglio Ordóñez stepped to the plate with two outs. The Tigers had not won the pennant since 1984. I groaned as Mags stepped up to the plate and looked to my left as my friend Chris smiled and said, “Bet you $20 he hits a home run.” Before the “-ne” could leave my lips as I said “fine,” the crack of the bat rung out and the ball soared into the left field stands. It was the best $20 I ever lost.

As someone who has been to a game at all 30 parks, I can say with authority that Comerica is a must visit. At “CoPa,” there is a carousel for the kids to ride, a Ferris wheel where the family can catch a glimpse of Ford Field next door, and Tigers historical memorabilia spread throughout the concourse. I could go on, but really, you just have to visit to experience it for yourself. Detroit is an amazing city.

Muneesh Jain (@RoundingThirdMJ), co-hosts A Baseball podcast, The Clubhouse Podcast (@ClubhousePod), with Anthony Rapp.

STAY: Inn on Ferry Street is a charming B&B in a row of Victorian mansions. innonferrystreet.com

EAT & DRINK: Elwood Bar & Grill is an art deco gem at the gate of the stadium that has been serving food and drinks to sports fans for decades. elwoodgrill.com

DO: Detroit Institute of Arts is a world-class museum. dia.org

PNC Park combines the city’s history with new stadium luxury magnificently.

Most players and fans get to the field by walking across the Clemente Bridge, named after the most legendary Pittsburgh Pirate of all, Roberto Clemente. The North Shore neighborhood where the stadium is located is lined with sports bars and restaurants, and on game days, the streets in front of the ballpark are closed off so fans can tailgate all around the ballpark. It’s a festive atmosphere every night.

There are some unique perspectives to PNC Park for fans, the most unique being the right field seats above a 21-foot wall to represent Clemente’s playing number, 21. There isn’t a bad view in that ballpark as it has a smaller capacity than many other MLB stadiums, which is exciting because the fans really get close to the action no matter where their seats are in the stadium. As a player, you need that adrenaline rush from the fans because it is easy to get caught up in the beautiful landscape. The view looking out from home plate, with the Clemente Bridge and Pittsburgh’s skyline, is unparalleled in sports. It feels like you’re in a painting and the walk from our dugout to the bullpen is like walking across a field of dreams.

Mark Melancon (@Mark_Melancon_) Is a San Francisco Giants pitcher.

STAY: Kimpton Hotel Monaco is packed with stylish and quirky details and excellent city views. monaco-pittsburgh.com

EAT & DRINK: Meat & Potatoes is the city’s only gastropub and has an excellent selection of brews and food. meatandpotatoespgh.com

DO: Andy Warhol Museum is just steps away from PNC Park. Spend some time exploring the work of the city’s coolest citizen. warhol.org

When most people think of San Francisco they think of Silicon Valley or wine country,

but AT&T Park in the heart of downtown is one of the best venues in the world, and it has the second-longest active sellout streak in baseball to prove it at 489 games. One of my favorite aspects of AT&T Park is that there are no bullpens. Relief pitchers must warm up down the right or left field line, right next to the fans. When you are on the visiting team, the fans are aggressively bantering with you through each warm-up pitch, reminding you that you are the enemy in their ballpark. As a former opposing pitcher, I can assure you we hear every word said even while we are doing our best to act like we don’t.

Since tickets are so hard to come by, many fans congregate on kayaks and boats in McCovey Cove, a section of the San Francisco Bay behind the right field wall. Some listen to the game on radios. Others have a TV with them. But when a ball is hit deep to right field, they all scramble in hopes of getting their hands on one of the most unique souvenirs in baseball: a water-soaked home run ball.

Mark Melancon (@Mark_Melancon_) is a San Francisco Giants pitcher.

STAY: Hotel Vitale offers bay views with luxe touches, and an easy walk along the Embarcadero to the stadium. jdvhotels.com

EAT & DRINK: 21st Amendment is a great place for a beer and bite before or after a game. 21st-amendment.com

DO: Tenderloin Museum is a perfect way to understand this historic and diverse neighborhood, the city’s former red light district. tenderloinmuseum.org

Wrigley Field is by far the most perfect stadium

to experience the magic of a baseball game. I have the distinct privilege of having been to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, and I freely admit that I have a large amount of bias that comes along with being a lifelong Cubs fan. To begin, the ivy that covers the outfield walls in the summer is perfectly verdant: lush and beautiful. Almost every other stadium’s outfield walls are overcome by advertisements large and small, but at Wrigley, there’s only the ivy, subtly interrupted by a small logo here, a recognizable phrase there, that does almost nothing to distract the eye from the glory of a line drive that finds the glove of a center fielder who has expertly traced the route of the ball off the bat to locate the sinking line drive into his glove on the dead run.There are very few ballparks that relate so powerfully and resonantly with their neighborhoods the way that Wrigley Field, well past its 100th anniversary, does. You can enjoy strolling through the streets of Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville and come upon the ballpark as easily and unexpectedly as you would come upon a local coffee shop or burger joint, except that if you set foot into its friendly confines, you will be transported to an era before almost every conceivable modern convenience, to a time when all there was was the sound of a ball squarely hit by a piece of wood, which led to wonder and thrills and joy as the player in question who struck that ball rounded the bases.

There is still a dedicated organ player at Wrigley. There is a profoundly proud and fervent legion of fans that populate its bleachers that line its ivy-covered outfield. There is the impeccably cultivated field, and the perfectly intimate vantage point that is achievable from almost any seat in its venerable stadium. In short, there is nothing quite like seeing a baseball game at Wrigley Field.

Anthony Rapp (@albinokid), a stage and film actor, is appearing in the new CBS TV series Star Trek: Discovery.

STAY: Majestic Hotel is a cozy, English manor-inspired hotel a short walk from Wrigley. majestic-chicago.com

EAT & DRINK: Murphy’s Bleachers is a Cubs game institution for pre- and post-game drinks, so expect a packed house and raucous atmosphere on game days. murphysbleachers.com

DO: Second City serves up improv-ed laughs and sketch shows nightly. secondcity.com

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