All-Stars: Smell ya later

The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK - As players were beseeched by countless members of the media to eulogize Yankee Stadium as it hosts its last All-Star Game, those sufficiently provoked Monday were willing to discuss what they would not miss about the old - very old - ballpark in the Bronx.

Players from the past had no problem saying goodbye to the Astrodome's rats and Candlestick Park's hurricane-force winds. Today's All-Stars have their own reasons to dry their eyes at Yankee Stadium's funeral.

"The smell," the Texas Rangers' Michael Young said.

Added Justin Duchscherer of the Oakland Athletics, "The tiny clubhouse."

The Chicago White Sox's Joe Crede offered: "Hitting my head on the dugout. Every time somebody scored or got a hit, you jumped up and forgot how low the ceiling is in there."

Yankee Stadium is holding up about as well as any 85-year-old can be expected to, but the ballpark's 1970s face-lift has begun to droop. Players found reasons for moving on easy to come up with.

Olfactory issues led the voting, although few players were able to identify what the problem has been. Is one of Babe Ruth's half-eaten hot dogs still rotting under one of the grandstands? Are the foul lines marked with sulfur? And how long does pine tar keep, anyway?

"Especially when it rains, the smell that comes up through the drainage system is not pretty," Jason Varitek of the Boston Red Sox said. "It affects your sinuses, I'll tell you that much."

Young added: "It depends on the day. The last time we were there, which was a couple of weeks ago, a pipe burst. I was going back up the tunnel, and there was a flood - a sewer line broke or something like that. So I still have that kind of in my nose right now."

Yankee Stadium's cramped visitors' clubhouse is no favorite among big leaguers. It's almost impossible to follow the game from the low-set dugout, Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves said. J.D. Drew of the Red Sox said of the new stadium, "Maybe they'll have a batting cage for the visiting side."

Dan Haren of the Arizona Diamondbacks found himself being careful about what he wished for.

"Leaving tickets for family here can be quite expensive," he said. "But I'm sure that's not going to change here next year at the new Yankee Stadium. I'm going to have to start charging my parents for tickets."

Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins viewed the Yankees' moving to a new ballpark as a form of exorcism, which was seconded by Jones. "The ghosts," Jones said. "There's a reason these guys have won so much. Good to get a fresh start in the new place."

The Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb agreed. But he decided that as much as he might not miss Yankee Stadium, he would miss another departing New York ballpark even less.

"I think Shea smells worse," Webb said.

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