19 February 2007

Philip Lowry, Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of Major League and Negro League Ballparks. 2nd edition. New York: Walker, 2006.

Philip Lowry is a professor in Minnesota and member of the Society of American Baseball Researchers, so he knows what Rogers Hornsby meant when asked about what a ballplayer does during the winter: stare out the window and wait for spring. That is, sadly, also a fan's fate. Yet during those winter months, Lowry has put together a second edition of his classic baseball stadium reference, Green Cathedrals. The first edition, from 1986, collected information on every major league ballpark: when they were built, the architects, their playing field dimensions, occupancy, ownership, current uses, and more.

In the second edition, Lowry expands his subject to include every field to host a major league regular-season or post-season game as well as all stadiums used by teams in the Federal League, Players League, and Negro Leagues—over 400, in all. Entries are arranged alphabetically by city, then chronologically by use within each city. Thus Detroit, for instance, is represented first by Recreation Park, where the 1887 World Champion Detroit Wolverines played, followed by the Bennett Park, Briggs Stadium, and Tiger Stadium incarnations as Michigan and Trumbell. This structure is followed by entries for Mack Park, De Quindre Park, and Sportsman's Park, which hosted Negro League games between 1920 and 1961. Finally, we find today's home of the Tigers, Comerica Park.

While it is difficult to generate excitement for a reference book, this is an extremely interesting way to spend an hour or so—and an invaluable resource for research-minded baseball fans. Understanding the field of play shows why some parks produce teams with unique styles; a small park, for instance, favors power hitters, while a big outfield gives an advantage to fast runners. Lowry makes the book even more interesting by providing tidbits of history for many of these stadia. In fact, the only obvious improvement to this book would be inclusion of a running header, to facilitate navigation to individual items in it.

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