How Architecture Critic Paul Goldberger Reconsiders the Ballpark in His Latest Tome

By Stephen Ostrowski | May 8, 2019 | Culture

A new look at ballparks proves that the design of the sport’s hallowed homes is as engaging as the game itself.


Photo courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

Paul Goldberger has spilled volumes of ink about countless structures. But as the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic recalls, a long-ago outing to Wrigley Field with his son inspired some of his most cherished prose, in a piece for The New York Times in 1988: “I came back and wrote a column that, the lede sentence, it was one of the best things I’ve ever written.”

Decades later, Goldberger stretches his pen on the national pastime with Ballpark: Baseball in the American City (May 14, Alfred A. Knopf), a deep-dive that explores how, with the “tension between the natural and the man-made,” the game’s stadiums evoke the American city and reflect our relationship to our urban setting.

Though he surveys a litany of parks, from bygone icons like Ebbets Field and Tiger Stadium to contemporaries like Camden Yards, Goldberger reserves significant real estate for the Friendly Confines, which he signals as one of the “immortal ballparks” for its organic, palpable connection to the surrounding neighborhood and its iconic idiosyncrasies. “It’s very rare in architecture that you have a combination of funkiness and grandeur,” the Vanity Fair contributing editor observes, citing the park’s ivy-covered outfield walls, exterior marquee and other flourishes. “Those are things that rarely go together. When you can pull it off, it’s quite wonderful.” With the season still in its infancy, the timely read effects renewed appreciation for an institution that, year after year, commands our rapt attention.

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