Baseball landmarks are almost everywhere, if you will only look. At least, that is how it seems after reading 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out by Josh Pahigian. Look past the major cities. Many communities had beloved minor league or semi-pro teams at some point in the past. Major leaguers hale from all sorts of places large and small. Memorabilia can land just about anywhere. I see lots of interesting places to visit, such as the House of David Museum in Benton Harbor, Michigan to learn about the bearded, long-haired barnstorming team.
Pahigian had a lot of sites to consider given the broad reach of baseball through the country. (He stuck to just U.S. sites in this volume. Perhaps he can issue a sequel with special baseball places in Latin America, Canada, and Japan.) He starts with the most obvious site, which is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Then he chooses two more neutral sites, the Field of Dreams Movie Site and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. With his fourth choice, not able to avoid the inevitable, he chooses a team-related site, and wouldn't you know it, it is Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. I know I'd pick Wrigley Field or Fenway Park over Yankee Stadium any day, but it is his book. Next year, you won't even be able to go to the current Yankee Stadium as the team moves to a new location. The Monuments are supposed to go to the new stadium, but it will not be hallowed ground, like the ballparks in Boston and Chicago.
The author includes some odd places, especially toward the back of the book. I doubt that the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona will let you see Ted Williams frozen remains. Are we supposed to drive by and honk? Balco Labs in Burlington, California also sounds like a place few will want to visit, unless there are free steroid samples. Cook County Criminal Courts Building where the Black Sox scandal unfolded I can understand wanting to see.
The Elysian Fields are listed at 96 in the book. It seems like a major spot in the history of the game, and I would put in way up in the list. Pahigan explains that he thinks the site is overrated because early baseball games were played in many other places that have now disappeared. I would turn that argument around to say that because a very small portion of the Elysian Fields is still marked for visitors it could represent all the sites that are lost. Perhaps the author does not want to disappoint readers with the spot because there is so little to actually see.
Perhaps a sports book reading club would like to discuss this work. There could be many lively and probably pointless debates.
The author includes a lot of fascinating details about some of the sites, and I enjoyed reading player names that I had forgotten. I wish that he had put in a U.S. map marking the locations or put a geographical index to aid someone looking for places regionally. (A nod to Bonnie who first noticed that these reference aids were missing.) Still, it is a book many readers will enjoy and is a good acquisition for libraries.
Pahigian, Josh. 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out. Lyons Press, 2008. ISBN 9781599212517