The definitive ballpark craft beer ranking

32 Comments

There have been a lot of articles about craft beer offerings at ballparks in the past couple of years. And a lot of efforts to rank the ballparks by beer selection. Beer is a pretty subjective topic, though, so a lot of that is hit and miss. I think this article at the Washington Post today, however, is the most definitive ranking/offering listing I’ve seen, and does a great job of contextualizing craft beer and its place in major league ballparks.

The rankings are based on (1) quality, as defined by Beer Advocate rankings; (2) locality, as in how much beer is from nearby; and (3) uniqueness of offerings. Then an overall raking is compiled.

The top ranked ballpark for craft beer: Safeco in Seattle. That’s not surprising based on what people have told me about the place. The article notes just how committed that park is to craft beer and how, next year, they’re going to offer suggested food pairings at each concession stand. Seattle is turning into a must-visit for me.

Last: Yankee Stadium. This is not at all surprising based on things we’ve seen there in the past and its generally poor approach to concessions in general.

The two parks I go to most — Comerica Park in Detroit and Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati — rank 6th and 2nd, respectively. Comerica has a fantastic area devoted to Michigan’s many excellent craft beers behind the right field foul pole. I make a beeline there each time I take a trip up there. It probably gets knocked down a bit due to the fact that craft beers are more or less confined to that part of the park while Miller/Coors products are everywhere else. As the article notes, Cincinnati made a big, big commitment to craft beer this year by installing a looooong bar on the third base line with tons and tons of both local and national craft taps of outrageously high quality. It was a total game-changer for a park that, until recently, was pretty meh as far as it goes. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable a trip to Cincy is for a ballgame knowing that treat is waiting for me.

Maybe the biggest takeaway from the article, however, is this passage:

Counting single-day offerings, the Cincinnati Reds’ selection of distinct beers went from 42 to more than 130 – the most in Major League Baseball, according to a Washington Post analysis. Craft sales increased even more dramatically, by 363 percent. The biggest-selling beer at the Brewery District is still Bud Light – not exactly a craft product – but stadium officials found that rather than taking away from existing beer sales, craft consumers were actually creating a new category.

There are a lot of laws around the country which put craft brewers at a disadvantage compared to large brewers or otherwise seek to stifle the growth of the craft industry. Many ballparks — especially those with big beer tie-ins in their name — are less-than-receptive to craft beer as well. I suppose on some level the rise of craft beer is a threat to the big brewers, but it’s not a direct threat and it’s not a zero sum game. One would hope that, in light of this, things would be a bit less tense out in the world of beer. But I suppose that’s asking too much.

(Thanks to Josh R. for the heads up)

There is no need to lament the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie”

Leave a comment

Today in the New York Times Jay Caspian King writes about what he calls the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie.” About how there are few if any big baseball movies anymore. Movies which traffic in baseball-as-metaphor-for-America with Jimmy Stewart (or Kevin Costner)-types playing characters which seem to transcend time, elevate our emotions and rack up the dollars at the box office.

It’s a bit of meandering column, with just as much time spent on King’s seeming dissatisfaction with modern baseball and baseball telecasts as his dissatisfaction with baseball cinema, but he winds it up with this, which sums his argument up well enough:

Baseball’s cinematic vision of Middle America no longer means what it once did. The failing family enterprise and the old, forbearing white — or Negro Leagues — ballplayer now remind us of an extinct vision of the country and the growing distance between Middle America and the coasts. The attempts to update the archival, sun-kissed, Midwestern vision — whether on last year’s “Pitch,” the Fox TV show about a woman pitching in the majors, or “Million Dollar Arm,” the 2014 Disney movie in which Jon Hamm goes to India to convert cricket bowlers into pitchers — are canceled or bomb at the box office.

You won’t be surprised that I take a great deal of issue with all of this.

Mostly because it only talks about one specific kind of baseball movie being AWOL from cinemas: the broad works which appeal to the masses and which speak to both the past, present and future, often with a hazy nostalgia in which love of baseball and love of America are portrayed as one and the same. It’s worth noting, though, that such films are extraordinarily rare. There was a brief time when such things existed and did well at the box office — the 1980s had “The Natural,” “Field of Dreams,” “The Sandlot,” “Bull Durham” and “Major League” in a relatively short period of time — but that’s the exception, not the rule.

Baseball movies are almost always niche flicks. Biopics made of recently deceased stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Weird slices of life like “The Bad News Bears.” Quirky comedies that are baseball offshoots of larger cinematic trends like “Little Big League,” which was just the latest in a series of “kids doing adult things” movies popular at the time. Or “Rookie of the Year” which is essentially baseball’s version of one of those body-switch movies that come and go. Or “Mr. Baseball” which was just a fish-out-of-water comedy like any other.

We still get those kinds of smaller baseball movies fairly often. They’re still pretty decent and still do pretty decently at the box office, even if they’re no one’s idea of a blockbuster.

“Moneyball” was done well and did well, not at as mass appeal movie, but as one of many business/Silicon Valley flicks that have popped over the past few years. “Sugar” was a great movie, but a small movie, exploring a culture about which most people aren’t aware and basically serving as a character study. “42” is just an updated (and much better) version of those old biopics of baseball stars. “Everybody Wants Some” may be the quintessential niche baseball movie in that it’s a story about characters which just happen to have a lot of baseball in their lives. “Bull Durham” was like that too, but it just came along at the right time to become a massive hit. As many have noted, baseball was more background than plot in that movie, even if the background was amazingly well done.

There will likely always be baseball movies, but they will almost always be smaller ones, not large blockbusters or Oscar bait with an epic sweep. Most baseball movies are like baseball itself in that they lack a grand consensus. Baseball is not The National Pastime anymore — it’s just one of many forms of sports and entertainment available to the masses — so it follows that the movies which deal with it will likewise not have that massive cross-market appeal.

I think that’s a good thing. Smaller baseball movies more accurately reflect the sport’s place in the culture. To portray baseball as something larger than what it actually is opens the door to a lot of artistic and cultural dishonesty and runs the risk of creating some really bad art.

I mean, have you seen “Field of Dreams?” Bleech.

The Yankees set up “The Judge’s Chambers” cheering section for Aaron Judge

New York Yankees
4 Comments

The Yankees aren’t well-known for going all-in on goofy, fan-friendly fun. While some organizations are happy to jump on new and even silly or ephemeral trends for the yuks of it, the Yankees have tended to keep things rather businesslike when it comes to promotions and things. They’ve always played the long game, assuming — not always unreasonably — that their brand is best defined by the club’s history and greatness and quiet dignity and stuff.

Aaron Judge and his breakout rookie season is changing things. His fast start has caused fans to dress up in judge’s robes and stuff, so the team is having fun with it. They’ve set up a special section called “The Judge’s Chambers,” complete with a jury box vibe:

 

Fans will be selected to sit in the special section, which is in section 104 in right field, right behind where Judge plays, and will be handed foam gavels with “All Rise” written on them. To be selected at the moment it’d help if you wear one of those judicial robes with Judge’s number 99 on the back or his jersey or an English judge-style powdered wig. Going forward, the Yankees will also use the section for groups and charity events and stuff.

Judge is on a 58-homer pace right now. It’s unlikely he’ll keep that up, but he certainly looks like the real deal. And, for the Yankees and their fans, he’s giving them the chance for some real fun.