Over time, Fenway Park has proven incomparable

New ballparks try to blend modern amenities with a nostalgic touch of yore, but nothing comes close to Boston’s nonpareil shrine

A rainbow rose above Fenway Park during this July 7, 2000, game.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
A rainbow rose above Fenway Park during this July 7, 2000, game.

The question: How do other ballparks compare with Fenway Park? The answer is simple: They do not. Wrigley Field in Chicago comes closest, as it is similar in age (Wrigley turns 100 in 2014), and has unique nuances that might never be duplicated.

Both have an old ballpark scent, which comes with 100 years of existence.

‘‘The age of the parks, the feeling that you’re in a shrine is similar,’’ said former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, now president of the Cubs. ‘‘Both ballparks exude history. A lot of baseball has happened, some good, some not so good.


‘‘But when you think of the generations of baseball fans who have come and gone here, it’s mind-boggling.’’

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Wrigley is known for its Boston Ivy growing along the brick outfield wall, which took about a full year to grow in when it was first planted in 1937. Fenway is known for the 37-foot high Green Monster in left field, the triangle in right-center, and Pesky’s Pole in right.

Wrigley is much more symmetrical, while Fenway is quirkier.

Fenway and Wrigley have inspired modern architects to add hominess to new ballparks. They are like comfort food for fans, who like the feel of the old ballparks yet want the amenities of a modern facility such as Camden Yards in Baltimore.

In future generations, Camden Yards might be considered a baseball cathedral. It was the first modern park to integrate elements of old ballparks into a modern structure in an urban setting.


Camden Yards, which turns 20 this year, remains one of the most aesthetically pleasing ballparks in America, with the unique feature of warehouses looming over right field.

David L Ryan / Globe Staff
During night games, Fenway Park helps light up Boston.

The new stadium in Miami, Marlins Park, will have an older feel, but it also has a retractable roof and one of the most dramatic views in all of sports, the Miami skyline.

After Fenway and Wrigley, the next oldest ballpark is Dodger Stadium, which opened in 1962, followed by Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (1966) and Angel Stadium (also 1966). All three California facilities have an open, airy feel, conducive for tailgating, almost like a football game.

Dodger Stadium, which has the largest seating capacity (56,000) of any professional baseball stadium, turned 50 last season and was built only because Walter O’Malley was unable to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn.

Dodger Stadium is known for its screened dugout boxes, which the Angels copied, and its wavy rooftop design.


Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium is one of the most beautiful of the older ballparks. It recently underwent a $250 million renovation, and the All-Star Game will be played there this season.

Kauffman had artificial turf for many years, and its most noticeable features were the crown atop the scoreboard and the fountains in center field.

One similarity to Fenway is Kauffman’s red seat, which honors Negro League star Buck O’Neil, who lived in Kansas City. Fenway’s red seat in right field commemorates a Ted Williams home run that was the longest ever measured at Fenway.

One of the most beautiful modern stadiums is PNC Park in Pittsburgh, a two-decked edifice sprinkled with the spirit of Fenway, Wrigley, and Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. The right-field wall rises 21 feet to honor Pirates great Roberto Clemente, who wore No. 21.

Progressive Field in Cleveland opened in 1994 with some unique features, including a restaurant down the left-field line. The asymmetrical field includes a 19-foot fence in left, which drops to 8 feet in center and right. The park is also illuminated by 19 toothbrush-like vertical light towers.

San Francisco’s AT&T Park features the picturesque China Basin Park at McCovey Cove and a 25-foot wall in right. Houston’s Minute Maid Park, which has an incline in center field, pays homage to Fenway, Wrigley, and Crosley Field in Cincinnati.

The new Yankee Stadium, of course, is a replica of the old Yankee Stadium, with the same dimensions and features, but with modern amenities. The Yankees have preserved the legacy of one of the most historic venues in history.

Baseball went to cookie-cutter, multipurpose stadiums for years, but owners and fans came to realize they were boring, especially compared with Fenway or the old Tiger Stadium. There was a yearning for the homey, quirky, old-time parks, and Camden Yards, designed by former Fenway architect Janet Marie Smith, was the one that kicked things off.

Fans in St. Louis were treated to the new Busch Stadium, which replaced the cookie-cutter version. Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati gave way to the Great American Ballpark.

Smith added her touches to Petco Park in San Diego and the refurbished Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., where the Orioles conduct spring training.

So, yes, the new ballparks are more like the old ballparks.

But Fenway has authenticity. It was not modeled after something else. When it was built, it stood alone, and 100 years later, it again stands alone.

Smith made numerous improvements at Fenway, adding modern amenities such as wider concourses down the first- and third-base lines and the Monster Seats.

The only downside of a ballpark about to turn 100 is keeping up with the amenities of younger models. Fenway has been replicated in Fort Myers, Fla., with new JetBlue Park, a hint of what a modern Fenway Park would look like.

No, nothing compares with Fenway. But it has inspired architects and builders to try to replicate that Fenway feel.