Cheap Seats

Old parks vs. new parks

This one's for Fred, who mentioned that he thought of old time ballparks as cozy in response to a comment I made a few posts back that the ballparks of his day probably cost Stan Musial quite a few home runs.

While doing a little research, I came across too much interesting (at least in my opinion) material to put in a reply to the previous post, Musial vs. Pujols. Besides, then it would have just been buried where no one would see it.

When I made the comment about big old parks I was thinking about the cavernous centerfields of the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium in New York, the Pirates home at Forbes Field which was 457 feet to center and and 406 to the left field power alley and 408-435 in the right field alley and the squared off outfield of Shibe Field in Philadelphia that was 447 feet to dead center, 405 feet to the left field power alley and 400 feet to the right field alley.

Sportsman's Park had a pretty big centerfield, itself, at 422 feet, even though it had something of a short porch in right. But quirks of the Cardinals home until 1966 didn't make it friendly to lefty hitters. And they probably had some interesting affects on Stan the Man's numbers.

blog post photo

While it was only about 310 feet down the left field line, when Musial played, there was a 33-foot-high fence that ran from the foul pole 156 feet into right centerfield. Musial, a line drive hitter -- as opposed to a towering blast hitter like Mark McGwire -- may have easily reached 500 homers if he would have played in new Busch Stadium.

While the layout may have helped him hit more doubles and singles, Musial said it probably cost him some runs and RBIs, too.

The cozy dimensions belied the fact that a lot of line drive shots couldn't clear the imposing right field wall, even though they had the distance to go for home runs in other parks.  "The screen made it much more interesting," said former Cardinals right fielder Stan Musial  who saw many of his potential home runs get sucked back into play by the imposing barrier.  

"The ball would fly out there and the runner didn't know if it was going to hit the screen, go over it or how it would bounce," Musial said.  "It was hard to score (because outfielders played so shallow) on a single to right in that park."


The dimensions and the high screen in right favored high ball hitters over line drive hitters, though Musial and Rogers Hornsby  never complained about their home.