Naming Rights and Naming Wrongs: Let’s Rename Those NL Ballparks!

Miller Park could use an updated name. (via Bryce Edwards)

In the age of corporate naming rights, major league baseball stadiums have acquired some pretty interesting names. They’ve also acquired some really, really bad ones.

Other appellations are more historic that others, of course, or at least more familiar.

This hardly suggests, however, that the classic names are ideal.

Or are they?

After renaming the American League ballparks, let’s award ourselves the naming rights in the NL, shall we?

NL CENTRAL

PNC Park

It’s an average day in the 1970s. Following a misspent evening, you wake up outside a cookie-cutter stadium. Be advised: The best way to determine if you’re at Three Rivers Stadium is to look for, y’know, the three rivers. Indeed, aside from a gold-and-black color scheme, the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela, forming the mighty Ohio, is the surest sign you’ve found Pittsburgh’s multipurpose park.

Upon its debut in 1970, Three Rivers Stadium looked nearly identical to other cookie-cutters of the era: Cincinnati’s Riverfront, New York’s Shea, St. Louis’ Busch, Philly’s Vet, D.C.’s RFK, San Diego’s Jack Murphy, Oakland’s Oakland-Alameda and Atlanta’s Atlanta-Fulton County. Circular in design and generally equipped with artificial turf, the arenas were made for maximum profitability, or so the thinking went. Not only would they host the local nine and the local 11, they also could accommodate rock concerts, religious gatherings, motocross races, you name it.

In time, the problem became twofold:

1) What cookie-cutters lacked in charm, they didn’t make up for in practicality. The turf, often a thin layer atop concrete, caused injuries to the nine and 11 alike. Scheduling conflicts were common. Moreover, a stadium configured for football made for bad baseball viewing. Fans faced center field.

2) What they lacked in practicality, they didn’t make up for in profit. In the 1990s, team owners began to see multipurpose stadiums as not only ugly and outdated but also as hindrances to milking a stadium for all it’s worth. Single-sport stadiums, they saw, would accommodate pricy luxury boxes.

In Pittsburgh, the result is one beautiful park.

Totally Preposterous Name: GNC Park

The first 10,000 fans get a free bottle of micronized creatine powder.

Less Preposterous Name: TNC Park

Baseballs for Sale: Lightly Used, Heavily Marked Up
Game-used items are going for big bucks. Even the stuff underfoot isn't dirt cheap.

Apparently, someone donated the land to The Nature Conservancy.

Totally Serious Name: PNC Park

Think of it as Pittsburgh’s Notably Charming Park

Great American Ball Park

Full disclosure: When Great American Ball Park opened in 2003, and for years afterward, I thought, “Good on the Reds! They could’ve sold naming rights to some insurance company, but instead, for the good of the nation, they called it Great American!”

Call mine the Great American Face Palm.

Still, though the Reds did sell rights to an insurance group, the stadium is greater than its predecessor, Riverfront, from which parking lot it rose. And in an era when the Camden Yards-inspired quirks of other retro parks had begun to feel forced, the Cincy design boasted a blend of old and new. A 138 foot-wide LED scoreboard soars above the bleachers. Atop it is a replica of the analog clock at old Crosley Field.

Totally Preposterous Name: Almost My Old Kentucky Home Park

No, seriously. Former owner Marge Schott threatened to cross the river.

Less Preposterous Name: Palace of the Fans

No, seriously. That was Cincy’s stadium from 1901 through 1911.

Totally Serious Name: Great American Ball Park

Yeah, definitely. It’s just a great American park.

Miller Park

The street address is 1 Brewers Way.

The mascot: Bernie Brewer.

During the seventh-inning stretch, fans sing Roll Out the Barrel.

The Brew Crew, after all, plays in Miller Park, one of three big league ballparks named for a brewing company. It’s clear the beer is both near and dear.

No longer on-site, sadly, is the oversized beer mug into which Bernie Brewer would slide after each home-team home run hit at Milwaukee County Stadium, the Brewers’ home from 1970 through 2000. County Stadium, as they called it, first played host to the Braves from 1953 through 1965, and then, incredibly, to the White Sox.

Yep, in efforts to restore big league baseball to Milwaukee following the Braves’ 1966 departure to Atlanta, businessman Bud Selig contracted with Sox owner Arthur Allyn to host nine Sox games at County Stadium in 1968 (and 11 in 1969). Despite an average of 29,366 fans for the nine games in 1968–considerably more than the Sox drew at Comiskey Park–Milwaukee failed to secure a franchise in the 1969 expansion that saw teams added in Montreal, San Diego, Kansas City and Seattle.

During spring training in 1970, however, Selig bought the Pilots out of bankruptcy court and moved them to Brew City. There, the Pilots’ uniforms became the Brewers’. With six days until Opening Day, they hadn’t time for new ones.

The Brewers would play their final game at County Stadium on Sept. 28, 2000. It’s fitting that the plate umpire was Bill Miller.

Totally Preposterous Name: Central Park of the NL Yeast

Clearly, the field produces good hops.

Less Preposterous Name: Barley Park

Beer in mind, it’s named for the player known only as Barley.

Totally Serious Name: Champagne of Beers Ballpark

Good draft choices lead to post-seasonal celebrations.

Busch Stadium

The other NL Central stadium named for a brewing company is Busch.

As a Rangers fan, I find it hard to talk about Busch, let alone write about it.

It was, and is, the site of my greatest heartbreak.

Totally Serious Name: Heartbreak Park

Wrigley Field

While Miller and Busch smell of beer, Wrigley smacks of gum.

In 1916, onetime baking-soda salesman William Wrigley Jr. bought a minority stake in the Chicago Cubs with capital from his chewing-gum company. By 1921, Wrigley had become majority owner. Then in 1927, Cubs Park became Wrigley Field, a name laid down on a gazillion little wrappers.

Across the decades, Wrigley would become perhaps the most beloved park in baseball. It has played host to moments so famous, and infamous, they are now upper-cased: Ruth’s Called Shot, The Homer In The Gloamin’.

Its traditions–the Bleacher Bums, the W flag, the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame and Go, Cubs, Go–are as famed as its aesthetic touches: the ivy, the manual scoreboard, the rooftops and Wrigleyville itself.

Longtime losers or one-time winners, the Cubs may or may not be lovable, but their park surely is. It’s Wrigley. Chew on that for a while.

Totally Preposterous Name: TMJ Park

It’s named for temporomandibular joint disorder, not for Tommy Milone’s junk.

Less Preposterous Name: Piggly Wrigley Field

Add grocery money to gum bucks, you’ve got a well-funded sponsor.

Totally Serious Name: Wrigley Field

Fly that W, because this one’s a winner.

NL West

Dodger Stadium

Want to rename Dodger Stadium?

You’re not the first.

From 1962 through 1965, the Angels, like the Dodgers, called Dodger Stadium home. Not only did they call it home, they called it Chavez Ravine Park, or, for short, Chavez Ravine.

Less an homage to the geologic feature at which the stadium stands, it was more an effort to maintain an identity separate from that of the landlord. Imagine the White Sox playing at Wrigley Field. Like it or not, L.A., the Angels called it Chavez Ravine.

What should we call it?

It’s a beautiful place, with palms outside and a majestic backdrop of mountains, and historic. With San Francisco’s Candlestick, it marked the vanguard of baseball’s westward expansion and remains the oldest major league stadium west of the Mississippi. It’s been home to a dozen no-hitters, including three by Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and one by flameout Bo Belinsky. Perhaps its most vivid impression is Kirk Gibson’s roll-of-the-dice dinger to win Game One of the 1988 World Series.

Totally Preposterous Name: The Eminent Domain

In the 1950s, the city seized the ravine with the power of eminent domain.

Less Preposterous Name: Elysian Park

Evocative of baseball’s Eden, it’s also the neighborhood in which the park stands.

Totally Serious Name: Dodger Stadium

What, you were thinking Will Ferrell Field?

AT&T Park

When the stadium debuted on April 11, 2000, with a game in which Dodgers shortstop Kevin Elster homered thrice, it became the first major league ballpark built without public funds since the 1962 completion of Dodger Stadium. Its reliance on private money, however, hardly meant it would reject a corporate sponsor.

In fact, in its 19-year history, it has said yes to three corporate names. Known first as Pacific Bell Park and then as SBC Park, today’s AT&T Park has given its title sponsors an impressive setting on which to fix their brands. The park’s location at China Basin, complete with palm trees and a boat-dotted bay, supplies an aesthetic unlike any other in baseball–never mind that it’s actually built on a landfill.

Today’s views, not yesterday’s news, are what matters most.

Totally Preposterous Name: They Might Be–No, They Are–Giants Park

Alternative rock, meet alternative name!

Less Preposterous Name: Greatest Hits Garden

Together, Barry Bonds and Steve Perry have quite the SF oeuvre.

Totally Serious Name: San Francisco Stadium

Who needs music when you’ve got a rhythmic, alliterative sound?

Chase Field

They used to call it The BOB, and is there a better name than The BOB?

Well, yes, The Jake is a better name than The BOB, but not by much!

BOB, of course, stood for Bank One Ballpark, named for the corporation that purchased the rights before the stadium’s 1998 debut. In 1995, after Bank One’s merger with JPMorgan Chase & Co., it became today’s Chase Field. By whatever name, its most notable fun fact is that it was the first retractable-roof stadium to feature natural grass. It’s most notable necessary fact is that it boasts a massive cooling system the power of which could cool 2,500 homes 2,000 square feet in size.

Historic events at the newer parks are sometimes hard to come by. Wrigley has Ruth’s Called Shot, and Fenway has Bucky Dent’s dinger. What does Chase have?

Well, in the 2001 World Series, the D-backs assuaged our Yankee Fatigue Syndrome–both chronic and acute–by winning all four home games to take down the Bombers and deny Derek Jeter and his pumping fist a fourth straight ring.

Totally Preposterous Name: Fourth Ring Schmourth Ring Stadium

Sorry, Jeets.

Less Preposterous Name: All Hail Luis Gonzalez Park

Thanks, Gonzo!

Totally Serious Name: Valley of the Sun Stadium

You’re welcome, Phoenix.

Coors Field

Denver’s Coors, like Milwaukee’s Miller and St. Louis’ Busch, is named for a brewing company. Today, in the age of microbreweries, you’d think Coors Field would have been laughed off the map by handlebar mustache-having hipsters who fashion penny-farthing bicycles from repurposed kombucha bottles.

To the contrary, Coors Field has been Coors Field from the get-go, hosting the hometown Rockies since their 1995 relocation from Mile High Stadium.

All stadiums–even cookie-cutters–are singular, with identifying features that set them apart, but there is no park like Colorado’s. At 5,200 feet above sea level, its thin air makes it the most hitter-friendly. Ergo, pundits have already renamed it: Coors Canaveral, after NASA’s launch site, and Williamsport, after the Little League yard.

Still, it has a view of the Rockies and the Rockies, both hard to beat.

Totally Preposterous Name: South Park Park

Don’t laugh. Or do! It’s been featured on two episodes.

Less Preposterous Name: Rockies Mountain National Park

Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Totally Serious Name: Coors Field

Hipsters be damned, it somehow sounds right.

Petco Park

It’s named for a pet store-okay, a pet-supplies retailer. You picture Hunter Renfroe rounding third and sliding safely into a Thermo-Kitty Heated Cat Bed.

I know, I know: Wrigley is named for Spearmint gum, more or less, and Minute Maid is named for a beverage that gives you reflux. But Petco? Ugh, Petco is named for a pet store! Sorry, a pet-supplies retailer. Are you enjoying the hypoallergenic deodorizing dog wipes, Mr. Hosmer? Well, you smell great!

Seriously. It’s San Diego, “America’s Finest City.” The world vacations there.

There’s gotta be a better name.

Totally Preposterous Name: Petco Park

Woof.

Less Preposterous Name: Petco Stadium

Grrr.

Totally Serious Name: Surf ’N Turf Park

Surf, sand and natural grass–play dead, Petco.

NL EAST

Citi Field

Want to rename Citi Field?

You’re not alone.

In the wake of the 2007-’08 financial crisis, which resulted in a $476 billion taxpayer-funded bailout of the financial services company Citigroup, a pair of New York City Council members suggested a new name: Citi/Taxpayer Field.

Meanwhile, a Gotham radio host suggested another name: Debits Field, referencing the rhyme of Ebbets Field and the reason for the pun: Citigroup, which had purchased the naming rights in 2006, isn’t exactly a credit to the sponsorship game.

Aside from that controversy, “Citi Field” sounds great: assonance, brevity and a homonymic allusion to the host city. The park itself is nice to the eye. The exterior is reminiscent of Ebbets, the interior of PNC Park and the foul poles of Citi Field’s forerunner, Shea. Risen from the ruins, the Home Run Apple is well preserved.

Totally Preposterous Name: Municipaliti Field

I told you it’s preposterous.

Less Preposterous Name: I’m Calling It Shea Stadium

Beginning in 2009, many a Mets fan wore an I’m Calling It Shea T-shirt.

Totally Serious Name: Big Apple Ballyard

It works on so many levels!–well, two levels.

Citizens Bank Park

For more than three decades, the Phillies played on a football field.

They called it “multipurpose,” of course, and the Phillies did clinch a World Series there, in 1980, but really, Veterans Stadium was synonymous with the football Eagles and their 700 Level fans, who, quite famously, chucked snowballs not only at the Cowboys of Dallas but also at Santa of Christmas, everybody’s pal. For their part, Phillies fans merely threw D-cell batteries at Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew, a less sacrilegious if equally predatory act.

In time, Philly imploded Veterans Stadium in 62 seconds flat, which was 62 seconds too long, and built a stadium for each the Eagles and the Phillies. At last, football players would no longer tear both patellar tendons on the perilous turf, and baseball players would no longer call it “The Field of Seams.”

Today, 15 seasons after its debut, Citizens Bank Park is a worthy successor. With its natural grass, it conceals quite naturally any flashbacks to hash marks.

Totally Preposterous Name: Saint Nick Memorial Stadium

Own it, Philly.

Less Preposterous Name: Independence Field

“We are independent from the U.K. and, more importantly, the Vet!”

Totally Serious Name: Liberty Bell Ballpark

Like Big Apple Ballpark, it’s a two-level winner.

SunTrust Park

As a descriptor, “sun trust” makes sense. You trust the sun will rise in the east and set on Joe West. You also trust that banks, as trusty as the sun, will keep your cash deposits with vaulted assurance, even if those banks are spending $250 million to bankroll naming rights to controversial ballparks.

That’s what SunTrust Bank did, more or less, in 2014, after Cobb County Commissioners refused to delay a vote on funding the Braves’ proposed new stadium in the northern ’burbs despite some serious civic backlash.

Indeed, in defiance of cries to postpone the vote to allow time for a study, Commissioners approved the plan for a $672 million stadium and $550 million mixed-use development just 15 days after the Braves made the shocking announcement that the team would move from downtown Atlanta to Cobb County. What’s more, $300 million in local tax money would fund the effort

Today, officials acknowledge that Cobb County will be fortunate if it breaks even on the stadium project. County residents are feeling the pinch. Public libraries are in danger of closing, and fees for business licenses have risen.

Despite the political clumsiness, SunTrust is a nice new park with a good young team. Yep, the Braves are going places, starting with Cobb County.

Totally Preposterous Name: Carpetbagger Park

It ain’t the first time those northerners went south for profit.

Less Preposterous Name: Tax BaseBall Stadium

Need a corporate sponsor? Call it TurboTax BaseBall Stadium.

Totally Serious Name: Cobb County Stadium

It’s the least you could do, Atlanta.

Nationals Park

When, in 2005, the Expos crossed the 49th parallel to become the Nationals, the team debuted in D.C.’s RFK Stadium, the current or former home of the NFL Redskins, USFL Federals, MLS D.C. United, NASL Diplomats, NASL Whips, NASL Team America, WUSA Freedom, NCAA George Washington Colonials, NCAA Howard Bison and, of course, MLB Senators. For good measure, the stadium also hosted a heavyweight fight, a Grand Prix race, a Tour DuPont stage, an international rugby test and, yeah, a Beatles concert.

Whether host to an acronymic tenant or a Liverpudlian band, RFK came ready for play. Completed in 1960, it helped pioneer the era of cookie-cutters. In 2008, when cookie-cutters had yielded to single-sport stadia, the Nationals moved into their eponymous park. The team was still bad–in fact, with 59 wins, worse than ever–but its park was good, with a seating bowl and sight lines among the best in the bigs.

What’s more, it was and has remained unsponsored.

That doesn’t mean the Nats aren’t trying.

In 2016, they enlisted a search firm to try to sell naming rights. The search goes on. So here’s your chance. Convince the searcher to pick your idea, unless your idea is (My Name Goes Here) Ballpark. That’s my idea.

Totally Preposterous Name: Crosby, Stills and Nashionals Park

Teach Your Children that Buffalo Spring Field is even worse.

Less Preposterous Name: National’s Park

Car-rental agency, meet the wonderful world of homonyms!

Totally Serious Name: Nationals Park

Add it, please, to the Fenways and Wrigleys.

Marlins Park

In 2012, the Marlins moved from a bad stadium to a dreadful boondoggle.

Their fans went from muggy conditions to getting mugged, you might say, for $1.2 billion in loan repayment obligations, and without a single say in matter.

Following their 1993 inception, the Marlins played in a football stadium that would boast as many names as Madonna would image changes. By whatever name–Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium, Sun Life Stadium–it was a bad place for baseball. Hash marks blemished the outfield. Some seats were as far as 800 feet from the action, and most were angled toward the 50-yard line, aka center field. More, the place was hair-dryer hot and rain forest humid. Rain delays were part of the forecast.

The result: crowds of 5,000 or less, made all the more pitiful-looking by the stadium’s cavernous dimensions. The Marlins preferred playing on the road.

Enter Marlins Park.

The place, upon entry, is bold and bright, with the colors of Miami splashed about its retractable-roofed interior. It has a swimming pool and saltwater aquariums.

More conspicuously, it has (for now) the infamous Home Run Sculpture. Whatever one’s critique, one thing is more conspicuous: It came by way of onetime owner Jeffrey Loria’s financing scheme, which has given rise to lawsuits, a mayoral recall, a U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission investigation and a lot of bitterness. Play ball.

Totally Preposterous Name: Marlins Park

With so many scandalous options, why settle for so generic a name?

Less Preposterous Name: Loria In Excelsis Deo Stadium

“Come to Mi-am-i and behold/him whose park the folks bankrolled.”

Totally Serious Name: Boondoggle Park

Call it like you see it.


John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.

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25 Comments on "Naming Rights and Naming Wrongs: Let’s Rename Those NL Ballparks!"

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timprov
Member
timprov

Ok, “Loria In Excelsis Deo” is even better than The House That Ruthlessness Built. Well-played.

Re: San Francisco, though, there’s an immense difference between being built on landfill, which the stadium is, and being built on a landfill, which it isn’t.

Dennis Bedard
Member
Dennis Bedard
Marlins Park: The Ripoff Riviera. Citi Field: Metropolitan Field. Sound generic? Not named after the old Minnesota ball park but for the old Mets. Remember, their original name was the Metropolitans which was shortened to the Mets. Shea Stadium was never built for football (or any type of hitting for that matter). I attended many Jet games there. Very unnatural feel to the whole experience. Sort of like sleeping in a cheap motel. Philadelphia: The Vet was not the locale for the infamous Santa snowball fiasco. That infamy was at Franklin Field, a venue at least named for a real… Read more »
MikeS
Member
MikeS

Harry Caray was leading singalongs of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at Comiskey Park for years before he worked for the Cubs. Bill Veeck wanted him to do it because he felt that Harry had a lousy voice so it would keep fans from being embarrassed and encourage them to sing along. Harry refused to do it publicly, but always sang in the booth. So Veeck hid a microphone in there and broadcast it over the PA one day and everybody had fun, so Harry agreed to do it.

Moltar
Member
Member
Moltar

While I occasionally heard Citi referred to as Taxpayer Field back when it first opened, I most commonly heard Bailout Park. These days the most frequent variant I hear is Sh*tty Field.

Moltar
Member
Member
Moltar
Another one I hear sometimes is people calling it Dodgers Stadium, as the outside was made to honor the Dodgers, the beloved favorite team of not-so-beloved owner Fred Wilpon. You enter in to a shrine to the Dodgers, and only after you get up the escalators and round a couple bends do you see anything in Blue & Orange. When the park first opened, with the army green seats and the jet black Great Wall of Flushing, you could spend an entire game there and not realize you were there to see the Mets. They’ve since added a little blue… Read more »
misterjohnny
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Member
misterjohnny

Big Apple Ballpark works on one more level. Locals can call it “BABs”
For a good time, call BAB’s…

Beer
Member

Barley? Never heard of him. Must have played in the Busch leagues.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

Like Dodger Stadium, Nationals Park was also created with the unethical and should-be-unconstitutional use of eminent domain. I honestly have no idea if any other stadiums were, too, but thought it was worth mentioning since it occurred many decades later than in LA.

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac

You do realize that the Interstate Highway System (among many other important things) would never exist without eminent domain, don’t you? While using it to construct an entertainment facility may be abusing its intended purpose, the practice exists for very good and ethical reasons.

Compton
Member
Compton

PNC Park –> Jolly Roger’s Centre

StrangePenguin
Member
Member
StrangePenguin

Historical correction: Merkle’s Boner happened before Wrigley was built. And it happened in New York.

teufelshuffle
Member
teufelshuffle

This is mostly irrelevant because it’s about Football, but my brother-in-law was shouting for months to anyone who would listen that MetLife should have sponsored what became CitiField and the Jets/Giants stadium should have been sponsored by JetBlue.

Lanidrac
Member
Lanidrac
If you’re going to be biased, then get someone else to do a proper analysis on Busch Stadium. Here’s my take: Totally Preposterous Name: Busch Stadium IX Wait a couple centuries or so, and this may actually be a legitimate possibility. Less Preposterous Name: Budweiser Stadium Before the days of Miller Park and Coors Field, MLB told Busch he couldn’t name his stadium after a beer product, so he named it after his family instead. Then A-B came out with Busch Beer just two years later… Totally Serious Name: Busch Stadium (III) It’s a good sounding name that’s been a… Read more »