Stadium 50 salutes bygone sports venues
March, 1, 2013
By Patrick Dorsey | ESPN.com
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesOh, the Gahden. All those banners. And all those dead spots.
Some have hosted special speeches. Others? Major milestones. All of them: great games.
And they’re no longer with us.
So, as we celebrate the biggest noncompetition moments in North American stadium history with the Playbook Stadium 50, and as we count down the best venues that still exist, we also must take an in memoriam moment, and list some of the most iconic venues that exist now only in photos, on film and in our minds.
Boston Garden (1925-98)
Famed (and derided?) for its lack of air conditioning and, during Celtics games, the dead spots on its parquet floor, this place -- belovedly mispronounced by locals -- exists as a memory of winning: Five of the Bruins' six titles were won here and 16 of the Celtics' 17.
Chicago Stadium (1929-95)
Before becoming the United Center's parking lot, the original "Madhouse on Madison" played host to an array of big events, including Democratic and Republican conventions, the first NFL playoff game (thanks to a snowstorm), three Blackhawks championship teams, and the first three titles for the Michael Jordan-led Bulls. It also was a pretty cool place -- as in, it was the first major arena with an air-conditioning system.
Cleveland Stadium (1931-96)
Once upon a time, sports in Cleveland was not a joke. Most of the non-comedy happened here, thanks to the multiple AAFC/NFL-champion Browns, who won eight crowns while housed in this building -- with nine league title games also being contested here (the first, in 1945, was won by the Cleveland Rams). This also was where the Dawg Pound first was founded and where the Indians won two games en route to a 1948 World Series title. Now? This place is swimming with the fishes.
Daytona Beach (Fla.) Road Course (1903, maybe, to 1960)
Did you know you can drive (a bit of) the same course as the first NASCAR racers? Yes, just take a trip along A1A in Daytona Beach, Fla., where the circuit's first sanctioned track once lived -- and, earlier, where several land speed records were set. The sport's growing popularity made this not-quite-fan-friendly track obsolete within 11 years, and in 1959 it gave way to the first Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. But wouldn't it be nice to see Jimmie Johnson do doughnuts on the sea shore?
Detroit Olympia (1927-87)
"The Old Red Barn" indeed was barn-shaped, red and -- surprise -- quite old by the time its main tenant left for Joe Louis Arena in 1979. Built for the Motor City's hockey franchise (called the Cougars and Falcons before its still-active name change), it's where seven Red Wings championship teams played their home games. (Jake "Raging Bull" LaMotta also beat Sugar Ray Robinson here.)
Ebbets Field/Polo Grounds III, New York City
One housed the Brooklyn Dodgers, the other the New York (baseball) Giants. Each was home to an iconic MLB moment -- Jackie Robinson's barrier-busting debut at the former, and Willie Mays' over-the-head catch at the latter (thanks to its unusually deep center field). And yet, each saw its fate mostly sealed when both teams headed west after the 1957 season; both buildings were torn down by 1964.
Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha, Neb. (1948-2010)
Formerly the largest minor league ballpark in America, this place was known primarily for one thing: the College World Series, which played out 61 times before Rosenblatt was razed and the event moved to TD Ameritrade Park.
Kingdome, Seattle (1972-2000)
See: No. 35.
Orange Bowl, Miami (1937-2008)
For a while, this was the Super Bowl site, playing home to five NFL title games from 1968 to 1979 -- including the iconic Jets-Colts contest. But first came the Orange Bowl game, which brought major sports to this young city. And did we mention the 1972 Dolphins and the Hail Flutie? Now, though, this ground is home to the new Marlins Park -- and we know how that's working out.
(Old) Patten Gymnasium, Evanston, Ill. (1909-40)
The current Patten Gym is a seven-decades-old edifice on the north end of Northwestern’s campus, home to only the women’s fencing team. But the original held the first NCAA Final Four, in 1939. (Side note: Some say its demolition forever cursed NU, which still is searching for its first NCAA tournament bid.)
Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas (1971-2010)
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesHole-y stadium! Where did it go?
It was architecturally ... interesting, with an accidental rectangular hole that prevented it from achieving dome status but allowed "God to watch his favorite team play," according to ex-Cowboys linebacker D.D. Lewis. And although the Super Bowl didn't hit town until the "House Jerry Jones Built" went up, this place hosted many a Thanksgiving Day game (that is, until an 11-year-old blew it up).
(Old) Yankee Stadium, New York City (1923-2010)
Ruth built it, and the World Series championships came. Those, plus all sorts of football teams (Giants included), Pele and the New York Cosmos, a win for "The Gipper" -- and a moment or two (or few) that made it into the Playbook Stadium 50. Not that the new stadium brought a curse; the Yankees won the Series in their first year there.