Yesterday’s announcement that U.S. Cellular Field — itself a terrible name for a ballpark — would be renamed Guaranteed Rate Field was met with widespread joking and derision. As I wrote yesterday, we have come to accept that we live in an age of corporate naming rights but, sheesh, some of them are just sooooo tacky, and that one is probably the tackiest one yet.
But it’s certainly not the only tacky one in Major League Baseball. For every simply named park which elevates history or descriptive utility over crass commercialism, there is some bank or beer or something. Some are better than others, both cosmically and aesthetically.
So, in the best Internet tradition, let’s rank ’em!
1. Dodger Stadium: That’s what it has always been. That’s all it will ever be, most likely (if Frank McCourt didn’t try to cash in with a corporate name, no one will). There is nothing more straightforward and pure as a park that clearly and simply says the name of the team that plays there. It’s the gold standard.
2. Yankee Stadium: Obviously this fits the same description as Dodger Stadium. Knocked down a spot only because it’s the third park to have this name (the Yankee Stadium from the mid-70s-2008 may have technically been the same park, but it was not the House that Ruth Built in any practical way following its renovation). It’s also the third best version of the park to hold this name.
3. Angel Stadium of Anaheim: So close to #1 and #2 in form, but the city on it is trying a bit too hard. Indeed, the decades long battle over Los Angeles/Anaheim/California monikers on the Angels and Anaheim’s inferiority complex about it all doesn’t wear that well. Also, this park has a sordid corporate name past. Anyone remember when it was Edison International Field of Anaheim? Or were we all required by some contract with the city to pretend that never happened?
4. Oriole Park at Camden Yards: Same deal as those above, but it’s a tad lower because it introduced the unfortunate concept of “____ park at ___” which inadvertently led to the bifurcation of field/court names from building names. The Ohio State Buckeye basketball team plays in a building called “The Schottenstein Center,” but it’s “Value City Arena.” All of this is in the same basic structure and it’s nothing but a con to get another corporate name out there. The Orioles didn’t mean to unleash that crap — “Oriole Park at Camden Yards” is purely descriptive and came at the dawn of the naming rights era — but we’re all responsible for the examples we set.
5. — TIE: Kauffman Stadium, Turner Field: The former used to be “Royals Stadium,” but they changed it to be named after Ewing Kauffman, which is a nice dang memorial to a human being. The later is named after longtime Braves owner Ted Turner, not Turner Broadcasting. Remember when we used to honor human beings and not just corporations? Me neither.
7. Fenway Park: Everyone thinks of “Fenway” as a non-corporate name laden with local history, and that’s certainly what it has become. But it wasn’t always the case:
Taylor claimed the name Fenway Park came from its location in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, which was partially created late in the nineteenth century by filling in marshland or “fens”, to create the Back Bay Fens urban park. However, given that Taylor’s family also owned the Fenway Realty Company, the promotional value of the naming at the time has been cited as well.
Just because you were using your ballpark name to market something 100 years ago doesn’t mean you weren’t using it to market somethin’. Still, it gets ranked high because 100-year-old realty companies are now covered with sand like the statue of Ozymandias, thereby absolving the park of its corporate naming sins.
8. Wrigley Field — William Wrigley was a real person, but there’s no doubt this was named to promote his gum company which, unlike Fenway Real Estate, still exists as a going concern that probably likes the advertizing. And it wasn’t the original name. That would be Weeghman Park. It gets placed above all of the other corporate names, though, because of history and because, I assume anyway, most folks don’t think of the gum first. Maybe one day “Guaranteed Rate Field” will be just as venerable and iconic as Wrigley.
9. — TIE: Marlins Park, Nationals Park: If they still have these names a decade or two from now, OK, they’re way up near the top. But I suspect — and in the case of the Marlins I know — they only have these classic-sounding names because they couldn’t snag a lucrative enough naming rights deal when they opened. Give it time.
11. Oakland Coliseum: It has a venerable sounding name now, but it’s tarnished pretty significantly by years of low-rent naming rights deals (i.e. Network Associates Coliseum; McAfee Coliseum; Overstock.com Coliseum; O.co Coliseum). The only reason it’s named this right now, I presume, is because the city and county couldn’t find a company willing to put its name on a building that literally gets flooded with feces on occasion. Otherwise it would no doubt be named after some other half-baked dot com company.
12. Great American Ball Park: Now we enter the pure world of unequivocally bought-and-paid-for naming rights. But this is a pretty great one. It just fits with baseball so perfectly, doesn’t it? The headquarters for this company is right outside the ballpark, by the way, and the skyscraper with the name on top looms over the stadium for everyone to see. In my mind, though, it feels more like a company headquarters advertising a ballpark than a ballpark serving as a billboard for a company, even if I know better. Heck, if the company went under tomorrow, I bet the city would consider keeping the name anyway.
13. Progressive Field: Also an insurance company, but it’s pretty rad sounding. Works better as an adjective than a noun, actually. In other news, before it had this name, I included it on a list of possible names for the park. Wrote that thing before Progressive was even mentioned as a possibility! I wish I had clairvoyance about more important things. Note: that list includes a ton of joking, never-would-it-possibly happen corporate names for a ballpark. All of them, however, are better than “Guaranteed Rate Field.”
14. Busch Stadium: There’s a hierarchy involved in these things, at least roughly speaking. Alcohol names are better than bank names, for example, because drinking alcohol is more fun than going to a bank and selling beer is way more connected to the ballpark experience than banking is, thereby making a beer name far more appropriate. The three beers which give their names to ballparks — Busch, Miller and Coors — don’t do much for me and, for my purposes are pretty interchangeable, but at least Busch has the benefit of being the name of the various parks in which the Cardinals have played for over half a century.
Oh, and just to clarify, the original ballpark named “Busch Stadium” — the old Sportsman’s Park — was technically named after a person, not the beer. But only technically. Anheuser-Busch purchased the stadium and wanted to name it “Budweiser Stadium,” but Commissioner Ford Frick vetoed the name because it was thought that naming a ballpark after a brand of beer was somehow immoral or untoward or something. Haha, such an innocent time! Company president August Busch, Jr. named it after himself. Or so he told Frick, anyway. The next year, by happenstance, I am sure, Anheuser-Busch rolled out its Busch Beer label. That event (a) forever transformed dorm parties; and (b) resulted in the first and only reverse naming rights situation I can think of.
15. TIE: Miller Park, Coors Field: They’re literally the same company now, though they weren’t when the parks were built and named. I’ll give them credit for keepin’ it regional, at least. Even if they’re now part of a multi-national beer conglomerate. Which could make for another list! Alternate universe ballpark names if the ballparks were all named after local beer companies! Remind me of this topic this offseason when I’m jonesin’ for post topics.
17. TIE: Minute Maid Park; Tropicana Field: Has anyone every ordered an orange juice at a ballgame in either of these places? At least anyone over the age of 9? For that matter, does orange juice have intense brand loyalty that would justify these companies putting that much money down to name ballparks? I don’t buy a lot of orange juice at the store — I mainline coffee all morning — but when I get it when I’m out for breakfast or something I never order it by name. And restaurants don’t give you the orange juice equivalent of “Oh, I’m sorry, is Pepsi OK?” speech when you want a Minute Maid but they only have Tropicana. I’m sure someone who knows a lot about the orange juice market could fill me in on all of this.
19. Target Field: Nice logo and it makes a lot more logical sense to advertise a retail store like this than it is to advertise banks or insurance companies. People choose where to shop and change where they shop a lot more easily than they switch banks. Also, I can’t remember, but does Target have little stores inside the park? They should have little mini-Targets there with overpriced sunscreen and stuff. That’s what I’d do if I ran things anyway. They never let me run anything. Also: how has Wal-Mart not gotten in on this action? The Royals owner used to be a Wal-Mart executive. I bet he’s at least broached the topic with Kansas City. Hopefully they hit him with something heavy when he did.
20. Petco Park: Same deal as Target as far as retail. Plus dogs-at-the-park tie-ins. I feel like Petco was a watershed moment in naming rights, by the way. Before they were all roundly mocked for a while after they were announced. Petco was at first, pretty vehemently, because it just sounded funny and not a lot of retail stores were doing this yet. But it died down quickly enough and people just . . . accepted it. I think Petco was the naming rights deal which made us all come to grips with the fact that naming rights deals were never going to go away so we may as well just learn to live with them.
21. AT&T Park: It’s a telecom company but I guess it’s an old and venerable one, at least in name, if not in actual form. It took me many, many years to not call this place “Pac Bell Park” but I finally do now so I guess AT&T wore me down. In other news, I’m old enough to remember when AT&T used to have a phone monopoly and how people sort of freaked out when they were forced to break up. Imagine someone doing that to Google or Amazon or something now. It’d never happen. We need another Teddy Roosevelt, by gum.
22. Rogers Centre: I still reflexively call the place Sky Dome, and not because of some nostalgia for the old place. Never even been there. It’s just hard to get that name out of your head. It may be the last pure, forward-looking descriptive yet imaginative name for a stadium ever. We used to have a lot of them. Mostly domes. Silverdome, Superdome, Astrodome, etc. Maybe those were all architectural dead ends, as Rogers Centre is in some way too, but there was something noble about trying to make a bunch of poured concrete sound like it was reaching for something greater.
23. Safeco Field: It’s an insurance company and that’s boring, but at least “Safeco” is pithy and it has a baseball term inadvertently embedded in it so I guess that’s something. Have any Mariners bloggers ever written about a bad Mariners offensive outing and said “more like OUTco Field, am I right?!” Nah, probably not. That’d be terrible.
24. TIE: Chase Field, Citi Field, Citizens Bank Park, Comerica Park, PNC Park: Nothing I want to think of more when I go to a ballpark than banking. Yep, it’s riveting and inspiring and whimsical and all of that. When I take in a game I love to be reminded of the people to whom I am in debt and/or remind me of how little money I have available via courtesy emails and push notifications from their handy online banking apps. The only category worse than this would be if dental offices and funeral homes started getting into the ballpark naming rights business. At least dentists give you drugs to numb the pain, though, and by the time you’re at the funeral home, all of your troubles are really over.
29. Globe Life Park in Arlington: This is just a mess. Globe Life is boring and vanilla enough, but the “in Arlington” kills me. When I read it I read it as “Globe Life Park. You know, in Arlington!” As if it is implicitly saying that you have no idea what this is referring to so it has to be more specific. Its old name — The Ballpark in Arlington — was a hundred times more generic but at least it was honest about its genericness. The less said about the “Ameriquest Field” era the better.
30. U.S. Cellular Field/Guaranteed Rate Field: The White Sox are going from a regional telecom company that doesn’t even serve the Chicago area anymore to a mortgage company that has a name that sounds like the tag line of a cash-for-gold operation being run out of some shady dude’s garage. It’s telling that the best name for a park this club has ever had was a memorial to an owner who was so crooked, cheap and stingy that he inspired his players to fix a World Series to get some cash. THAT’S what we’re pining for here, people. My God. The only reason this place is as high as 30 here is because baseball hasn’t yet expanded to 32.
Well, that was sort of soul-sucking and dreary. Thanks for reading! Let’s go take in a game at Eat at Arby’s Field sometime!