There is no slacking in the constant march of progress, if that is what it is, moving Utah’s cathedral green from Salt Lake City to a pasture of land in South Jordan.
Of course, the stadium itself won’t be lifted and moved, only the Bees, the Triple-A affiliate of the major league Los Angeles Angels, play in it. And amid all the smiles and laughter on the faces of those who own the team, those who make the decision to build a new, modern stadium on Daybreak, there is also sadness, beyond the effects that the team’s movement will have on the neighborhood proper. Named after the stadium.
If there is room for passion in the rally, which is focused more specifically on maximizing winning money, then we have to have it here, because baseball, and every other type of ball, is really a money ball. And perhaps there is a certain degree of emotion, if not satisfaction, in realizing that, too.
It has always been this way.
On the plus side, would LHM build a new ballpark in the fairways big enough or expandable enough for, say, a major league team in the future? It makes you wonder.
Baseball of one sort or another has been played at the corner of 1300 South and West Temple in Salt Lake City since 1928, with more than a few bits of drama mixed in along the way, inconveniences and events like an arson attack in the 1940s, a huge winning streak of Prior to the 1980s Salt Lake Trappers, a few stadiums were rebuilt and renamed, from Community Garden to Dirks Field to Franklin Quest Field to Franklin Coffee Field to Spring Mobile Ballpark to Smith Ballpark.
The new cathedral may improve on what the parks on the corner of the Old Town offered, with advances in technology and comfort, but one thing is for sure – it won’t have the same stunning views of Mount Olympus over the berms and outer walls, and it won’t have the memories.
Babe Ruth will not have stepped up to the plate in the new ballpark, no matter what its name is, along with a slew of other baseball legends who have been involved in one kind or another of exhibitions on the old grounds. The ghosts will stay where they are, and they won’t go south.
Nobody here likely remembers those fairs, but they might remember watching the bees, gulls, and catchers play, and when the new Franklin Quest Field was built, baseball was full of new life in the corner at the time. Salt Lake’s Triple-A team, later called the Buzz, led the Pacific Coast League in attendance that first season, 1994, and in subsequent years, people turned to what many considered the best facility in all of minor league baseball. Over time, attendance dwindled, even if baseball wasn’t as fun.
I remember the team’s then-owner, Joe Buzas, an imperfect guy, crusty old SOB—he’d love that rating—who was so passionate about his game, he’d run around the park at his launch, shouting at fans and guides and whoever was on hand. When he spots a vendor, he exclaims, “Hey, how are you?” and “Are you screaming tonight? Oh you gotta scream!”
Walking around, he said, “Do you hear that? I like to hear the fanfare and the speech and the voices before the game. Look at the old man over there, the one walking around with a hat. Old man in a hat. It makes me feel good.”
He saw a few unemployed gatekeepers and security guards: “Do some work. Come on, what the hell is going on here?”
When my father, who died in 2001, showed up with me at the park one day, Bozas personally took him on a tour of the new stadium, from end to end, telling one time that my father had worked on the grounds crew previously. Repeating the garden as a child, half a century ago.
The Buzz, Stingers, and Bees have played a lot of ball in that space, as have all the dusty teams before them. Major league apparel has been featured at events. And the fans who initially filled the remake of the venue, but then waned, enjoyed a kind of ball that lacked the flash and finesse of the big companies, but this was a slice of Americana, still.
It rarely seemed like these fans cared so much about whether the home team would win as they did about absorbing baseball on a purer level, whatever that may be. Was she less immaculate when Mike Trout stopped by to do lawn rehab work? Mostly not.
Many Utahs have their own memories of this area. Sweet. Some reversals may not be all that great, after you break into their car or they struggle to find a parking space. But the memories of baseball linger.
I remember the day my favorite American League team, the Philadelphia Phillies, moved out of old Connie Mack Stadium to a new home in the newly built Veterans Stadium, one of those multi-purpose games baseball fans hated, but that was roomy, convenient, and contemporary.
Larry Bowa Shortstop looked around at the new place and said in wonder, It was like moving into a mansion.
Maybe it was. But many fans missed the old park, even though it was cramped, ramshackle, and in a rough part of North Philly.
There is still a place in baseball for gravitas and sentimentality, I think.
That’s why many modern stadiums are built to look like they were built in the 1920’s. There you will find new memories and new feelings. But it takes time. I remember wanting to go back to the site where the old Connie Mac was (it was called Shibe Park before that, and it was built in 1909). Many of them burned after they were abandoned. It was used as a junkyard for a short period before being demolished. At the end, a memorial plaque was erected in memory of the site. Since then an evangelical church has been built there.
I don’t know what will happen here in Salt Lake City at the corner of the 13th Temple and the West Temple now. Ideas are being explored, and subsequent plans will be drawn up by city officials. But whatever happens next, the memories must be preserved. For the better part of its 100 years, that corner has been Utah baseball’s home, place of worship, and cathedral green.
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