A COVER story in a recent issue of The New Republic posed the question, "Is nostalgia wrecking baseball?"
The answer is a resounding, depressing "yes," according to author Nicholas Dawidoff, and he ventures into our very yard to support his argument.
Titled "Field of Kitsch," the article starts, "I have seen baseball's past and it is in Baltimore, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the new $105.4 million ballpark where the local nine -- the Orioles -- are now in residence. Its predecessor, Memorial Stadium, was a nice enough and generally self-effacing spot for a ballgame. Camden Yards, on the other hand, promises to do for baseball stadiums what prewashing did for bluejeans.
"Until quite recently, modern ballparks were notable for their tractable domed roofing, their synthetic sod and plastic seats, their sushi bars and Evian stands. But America, it turned out, craved something else entirely. Fans were wistful for ballparks where the ceiling is the stars, the grass grows, and peanut shells crackle under your feet. So after touring cities like Boston and Chicago, where the ballparks are old and the vendors hawk hot dogs, not veggie burgers, Baltimore's stadium design team obliged with an instant antique."
As Mr. Dawidoff (and more than a few Oriole fans) see it, our new stadium is less ballpark than it is theme park, the theme being baseball as an item of nostalgia to be marketed and snapped up like so many vintage bubble gum cards and Norman Rockwell prints of baggy-flanneled players from yesteryear.
The stadium's designers focused so much on nostalgia, the author claims, that they built in "a flaw that hasn't troubled the denizens of Boston's Fenway Park (1912) or Chicago's Wrigley Field (1914): from many of [Oriole Park's] spanking old slatted wooden seats, you can't see much of the field."
How true. But, while sight lines matter at a baseball stadium, how important are they at a theme park?