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(Cheryl Carlin)

Tomatoes in the Bullpen

Surprising trivia about America's beloved baseball fields

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(Continued from page 1)

Flashiest
Turner Field, Atlanta, GA: Home of the Braves
Opened in 1997, Turner could be called the most theme-park-like venue in major league baseball, with a massive entry plaza full of games, concessions, and exhibits that include scouting reports and sculptures of players. The three-level, open-air stadium once had the largest scoreboard in the majors (Cleveland's Progressive Field and the new Nationals Park now eclipse it), a 21-ton video board that spans 1,100 square feet and uses over 331,000 fluorescent light bulbs. On top, a 27-foot-long neon tomahawk encourages fans to do the signature "chop" in support of their team.

Splashiest
Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, MO: Home of the Royals
This 35-year-old stadium isn't all that spectacular as a structure, but it does house the world's largest privately funded "water spectacular," as the team Web site refers to its fountain. The fountain stretches 322 feet behind the right field fence, fed by two 10-foot-high waterfalls, and home runs often end up making a splash. A $250 million stadium renovation project, due to finish in 2010, will add more "fountain view" seats, wider concourses, a high-definition scoreboard and other amenities to Kauffman.

Greenest Bullpen
Shea Stadium, Queens, NY: Home of the Mets
Shea is a place of many firsts. When it opened in 1964, it was the first stadium capable of hosting both baseball and football events. The Jets stopped using it in 1984, and soon the Mets will too, with the new Citi Field set to open next year.

Shea was the site of the longest extra-inning doubleheader in baseball history (10 hours and 32 innings, against the San Francisco Giants) in May 1964, and hosted the Beatles' first U.S. outdoor stadium show a year later. It also hosts some uninvited guests--The New York Times reported in 2007 that a colony of several dozen feral cats lives at the stadium, sometimes making surprise appearances on camera. In the one YouTube-celebrated instance last season, a startled kitten popped out of a tarp being unfurled by and even more startled groundskeeper.

But Shea has another unique claim to fame as well–the majors' first bullpen vegetable garden. The tradition is said to have started with a few tomatoes planted by bullpen coach Joe Pignatano in 1969, which groundskeepers turned into a full-fledged garden in later years. By 1997, the corn and sunflowers in the Mets' bullpen grew so high that the visiting Phillies actually complained that the greenery obstructed their view of warm-ups. Now, teams including the Red Sox, Braves and Detroit Tigers also have bullpen gardens.

Host with the Most
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY: Home of the Yankees
You didn't really think we'd forget this one, did you? This historic structure is either 85 or 32 years old, depending on if you think the clock started again after a massive renovation project in the mid-1970s. Either way, this year will be its last, as the team prepares to move their pinstripes across the street to New Yankee Stadium, the most expensive in baseball history (roughly $1.3 billion).

When the original Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, it was the first triple-decked baseball venue, as well as the first to be called a "stadium." Another unique feature was its copper-crowned roof, which was missing after the 1974-75 renovations but will reappear on the new stadium.

In its long history, this famous space has hosted more World Series than any other ballpark, as well as everything from boxing matches to visits by the Pope. After this season, it will be demolished and turned into parkland.

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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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