By Phil Hecken, with Ben Traxel
As a part of the semi-recurring “old ballparks” featurette (other editions are here and here), we’ve looked back upon stadia which are no longer standing (or if they are, are not being used for baseball anymore). Today, I’m joined by “Boothill Ben” Traxel, who’ll take us back to the old Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, MO. Ben presents an excellent (and detailed) examination of the old place, which will run in two segments. Today is Part I, and the second part will run in the not-too-distant future, most likely on a weekend. So, please sit back and enjoy Ben’s look at the old muni:
While there may have been a number of baseball venues throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, my focus is on the first location for Major League Baseball in the somewhat wild west. Kansas City Municipal Stadium became the home of the Athletics for a little more than a decade on their journey west.
Kansas City Municipal Stadium: Just a few facts to begin with, Municipal Stadium was constructed in 1923 with one gentle sloping mostly covered deck (17,500 seats) for a cost of $400,000. The architecture/engineering firm who designed the structure was Osborn Engineering of Cleveland, Ohio. This firm is still designing sports venues today and also is the design firm of record for places such as Fenway, Comiskey, the original Yankee Stadium, Forbes, Notre Dame Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Griffith, Three Rivers, and on and on. The double A bush league Kansas City Blues were owned by George Muehlebach, beer company owner (later bought out by Schlitz), who named the place after himself. The Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League called Muehlebach Stadium home until their demise in 1955. In 1937 the Blues were purchased and became an affiliate of the Yankees and so the name was changed to Ruppert Stadium after the Bronx Bombers owner. But by 1942 Mr. Ruppert had died and the name was changed once again, this time simply to Blues Stadium.
Arnold Johnson bought the Philadelphia Athletics in 1954 from Connie Mack and immediately announced the team’s relocation to Kansas City. He bought Blues Stadium, flipped it to the city for $500,000 with the promise to bring it up to major league standards. For another 100 grand the scoreboard from Braves Field in Boston was hauled in. A second deck and a few other amenities were added for $2.5 million and the place opened for the 1955 season with just over 30,000 seats.
Now, how about an architecture critique of the actual stadium. To begin, a place has to earn its legacy through its living history. Baseball stadia are the epitome of this statement. Kansas City Municipal Stadium had a life before 1955 and I’m sure it was glorious. I was not able to see much more than a couple of photos of these early years so I’m sticking to its major league years of ’55-’72 and after.
Its attractiveness certainly cannot be measured in its outward beauty. And the comfortability index I’m sure was rather low as well. This would include employees as you can see the window air conditioners in the second story of this building. Just imagine new Yankee Stadium with window units. Hmmm, yeah times were different. Temporary bleachers set up in the outfield for Chiefs games don’t normally lead to the best aesthetic value either. No, KC Muni was not exactly a harmonic edifice.
The columns were in the way before they even put on the upper deck and were located so that most of the rows of seating were on the bad side of the gridline. The press box appeared to grow year by year until it reached the end of the grandstand and the roof of the box looked like a perfect place to watch your beer slide off on top of the unsuspecting fans below. It was simply tacked on as everything was on this place, but let’s not think this is all bad.
The front row of the upper deck was mighty close to the field. So for the rest of the upper deck seating to see the game, it had to be on a rather steep rake. While dangerous for the sauced, it made it easier to see over the big guy sitting in front of you. It gave the feeling of being in a “stadium”. There also was the process to get to your seat in the upper deck. 1. Climbing steps. 2. Walking through the tunnel. 3.Turning around to find that you have a gajillion more steps to climb. I like that feeling that you’ve had to work for your seat. You earned it.
The dugouts were rather deep but as many were at the time, had no fences, just open steps to the bench. Having players sprawled out all over those continuous stairs with no handrails just screams old time baseball. Though a batboy probably had to stand tippytoed to see from the bench, the grotto effect was certainly a plus. As was the neighborhood.
That area of the city was certainly not the most affluent, but still one that kids could ride their bikes to the back gate and wait for players to exit the clubhouse. There were houses within a homer and a half of the field, some of which still stand today.
Evaluating the building based solely on its design value does not lend to a pleasant critique. If rating on a 1-10 scale it would be a 3. This number gets raised several notches based on the neighborhood, the ballpark environment, and the A’s quirky owner, Charlie O. Finley. Overall this brings the rating to a 5. It was a slow right fielder with a .230 average and 17 home runs. It was a place that needed replacement.
The only thing I could find on the condition of the site before the first ballpark was built was that it was a “frog pond and ash heap”. The site since the stadium’s demise has not been any better. After being razed in 1976, four years after its last game, the poorly laid plan was to turn the area into a “community garden”. Obviously this was some politician’s way of appeasing the media while having no plans to actually do anything. Such were the times in the 1970’s.
Years later a slightly better sign was erected and now a subdivision of single family homes is well under way. For all the action that took place at East 22nd and Brooklyn it is rather disappointing that the only evidence Kansas City Municipal Stadium ever existed is a $300 sign.
The old Muehlebach Stadium had hosted a Negro League all-star game and World Series Championship. The expanded venue held the 1960 MLB all-star game but never an MLB World Series. Just six blocks away lies the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. It’s too bad such a wonderful part of its history, just a short walk away, has been so neglected.
Super job on that Ben. Thanks!
MLB Jersey Contest, Day 3
Moving along, today we look at the third batch of entries in the “Design-A-Baseball-Jersey Contest” (if you happened to miss Monday’s article, refer back there for the full writeup). Another great batch today, so let’s get right to it:
Ryan Kluever: Colorado Rockies. I integrated the "Rox" nickname. Striping is all purple, silver and black in sequence. I hate purple too but needed some color. Has a minor league flare but still clean. It sure beats the purple vests. Bonus: concept hat with “purple mountains majesty” similar to single-A affiliate Asheville Tourists.
Anthony Krajewski: Texas Rangers. I switched out “Texas” for “Rangers” since this is a home jersey; everyone should already know they’re playing in Texas so why not rep the mascot? White piping down the middle along with white and blue bands on the sleeves break up the overpowering red that plagued this jersey before.
Patrick Lange: Minnesota Twins. My entry is for the Minnesota Twins. I drew inspiration from the Negro League for the center blue stripe. I darkened the cream color and used the primary TC logo on the front of the jersey for the first time in Twins history.
Andrew Lewis: Toronto Blue Jays. The primary jersey color for the Blue Jays should be blue. This is a design based on the classic Blue Jays uniform with the current maple leaf patch and no black for black’s sake.
Jeffrey Lewis: Colorado Rockies. New colors — blue and green, the old Denver Zephyrs color scheme — replace the hideous black and purple. A ‘fancy’ font (Oklahoma) reveals a modern depiction of the Rocky Mountains. A sleeve patch features the Colorado state fossil – a stegosaurus – as a mascot.
Charles Lingner: Baltimore Orioles. Bring back the Bird! It’s a battle cry heard many times here in B-More. We want our beloved Orioles to bring back the cartoon bird..do it for Brooksie, Boog, Cakes and the Earl! Here is my take on bring back the classic bird with a modern twist.
Scott Little: New York Mets. Mr. Red can appear on baseball jerseys, why not Mr. Met? Added two sleeve & stirrup stripes to signify the two world championships the Mets have won.
Bob Love: Houston Astros. Hi, my name is Robert Love and the team i chose to update was the Houston Astros. the idea behind my update is i always felt the 90′s Astros script was their best in franchise history and felt that it should have been kept. However I felt the gold really didn’t really fit their identity. So i brought back the 90′s script and changed the team colors back to the original navy and orange.
Scott Lukacs: Texas Rangers. Texas Rangers away uni.
Matt Malinoski: Washington Nationals. I’d like to submit my Nationals tweak from May. To recap, the script is adapted from the old Senators jerseys, which matches the script “W” on the cap. Braid on collar and sleeves is blue-red-blue, which is opposite of what the current jerseys have, and colors are meant to match colors currently used on the cap.
Mako Mameli: Los Angeles Dodgers. this is my Los Angeles Dodgers jersey for the contest. I really like the white uniform, but I think the grey one is too boring. Dodgers’ uniform is a baseball classic, so I decided not to change much. I decided to tweak it up a bit: – LA patch moved from left sleeve to right sleeve – front number moved to left sleeve – Dodgers name across the front because I don’t like the Los Angeles script and I feel it is a little redundant with the LA patch – I changed the font for name and numbers – red number outlined in white – white stripe added to sleevs The jersey is meant to be used with blue undershirt as you can see.
Robert Marshall: Chicago White Sox. sure this is what the sox should be wearing, but that is not the contest. for corn’s sake somebody should be wearing this 40′s look, and for the sox, more white, on a charcoal jersey, with the 70′s font. my image isn’t perfect, but i give you the white sox.
Dan Martell: Milwaukee Brewers. For my submission I’ve decided to select my tweek of the Milwaukee Brewers. I’ve used the 1977-1978 Script logo for a historical touch, matching gold stitching down the lapel & blue buttons. Lastly, I’ve taken the Barrel-Man logo and included the team’s inception year to commemorate its 40th anniversary.
Harry Mathews: Detroit Tigers. Detroit Tigers home jersey in grey for road games. No side view since there’s nothing to see.
Sam McCutchin: Roosevelt Rough Riders. Inspired by the Rough Rider battalion led by Teddy Roosevelt. Also, cream color inspired by the great Phillies Alternates.
Griffin McGibbon: Seattle Mariners. simple design, basically just added pinstripes to the mariners 95 alternates. some of the first memories i have of baseball are going to the kingdome and seeing the teal jerseys. i’ve always loved the teal jerseys as well as pinstripe jerseys. so i put the two together.
Anthony McGuire: Cincinnati Reds. This is a uniform update for the Cincinnati Reds. This has a historical feel as it has some styling from the uniform set that was worn during Pete Rose’s rookie year of 1961. It also uses the current font styling that the Reds use. This brings back blue into the Reds color scheme but also keeps black as a 2nd accent color. I always thought it to be intereseting that most teams in the MLB have once had a red, white and blue color scheme and I wanted to bring that back to the Reds.
James McNamara: Houston Astros. I went with a design that blends concepts from each uni set in the Stros’ (literally) colorful uni history. It’s actually almost a “retro-moderned” version of their mid-90s set. The red in the star/piping is the same shade from their current set, plus a brighter yellow to evoke Rainbow Guts.
Craig Mudie: Toronto Blue Jays. I took the concept of city flag colour schemes to it’s logical end – the design of the uniform itself based on the flag of the city of Toronto.
Great job again! Back tomorrow with the fourth set of concepts.
Colorization of the Day:
If so, let me know, and I’ll put together a tutorial — you don’t need any special skills, just patience, patience and more patience. And those were all done with a FREE program which you can download off of the Interwebs.
Let me know in the comments below.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Li’l Help? Nate Neumann hails from Wisconsin and watches alot of Brewers games and everytime they play the Pirates at PNC Park, there is this vendor who only sells to the people sitting in the first few rows of home plate and this vendor dresses up like a baseball player, including high socks. Last night, “I was watching the St louis vs Pirates game and that same vendor was there dressed up like a baseball player and for a second I thought it looked like Paul Lukas! I didn’t get a screen grab, but if you can find it, send it in!!” … Dan Cichalski sends more great stuff from the Sports Collectors Convention. … That BFBS jersey story, first linked to last week, just won’t die. Kristopher Hunt found it has more legs. … More on those male/female mascots: Mark Jones informs us the New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA) have a male and female mascot, Boudreaux D. Nutria and Clotile. … A reader who goes by rleberte asks, “did you guys notice the little baby Eagles on the shoulders of Mike Vick’s jersey — cute arent they?” … Aaron McHargue noticed during Monday’s Titans game, they showed some Titans players helping clean up West Nashville in May after the flooding. Vince Young was wearing a shirt with a picture of himself. Also, “i loved the field in last night’s game. there was no 50 yard line logo, and only white outlined wordmarks in the endzones. the only color on the field was the two (tiny) NFL logos on the 25s and the USA Football logos in each endzone.” For comparison, Aaron sent along a pic of the usual field. … Ernest Ballard says, “Looks like the Hornets changed up the pinstripes on their jerseys. No more purple stripes, just yellow/gold. … Slight correction to an item in yesterday’s ticker: Paul Bielewicz saw the Rochester Red Wings’ male and female mascots were listed as “Spike” and “Mitsy”. Their names are actually “Spikes” and “Mittsy”, as in baseball equipment (Spikes being shoes and Mitt being a glove). Spikes has been a fixture since 1997 and even appears as the Wings’ primary logo and on their hats. Mittsy was introduced a few years later, perhaps somewhere in the 2000-2002 timeframe. He continues, “I’m not 100% on this factoid, but I’ve heard the actors are actually husband and wife.” … Marc found so much to love in this photo, along with the rest of the find. … Ben Traxel sends in this pic of Brett Hull in a custom Blues jersey. … Yeah…one more out-of-state license plate thingy, from Alan Borock: Texas has a license plate for Auburn University. … Here’s another look at the Buffs throwbacks, with thanks to Evan Hassinger. … Mike Bisch found this vintage-y game-used Lions helmet from the early 1950′s. … Jim Vilk would probably wear this, but would Paul? Brinke Guthrie created that shoe using this adidas shoe customizer. … Also from Brinke, Tiger Woods fans snub his shirts as he has the worst year of his career. … Mike Edgerley advises “Get your University of South “Flordia” hoodie here!” … And finally, Chris Flinn found this bit on NBA ink.
That’s all for today folks. Thanks to Ben and all the jersey creators who were featured today — another day of outstanding work. Back tomorrow with the fourth installment.
If you’re only using the computer because you don’t know how to draw or come up with a clever concept, well, that’s when you end up with the Oklahoma City Thunder uniform. — Mike Hass