Houston Astros pitcher Joe Boever has a word for playing baseball in a bad stadium: "miserability."
For Bob Lurie, owner of the Giants, Candlestick Park is No. 1 in miserability. "I'm paranoid about that stadium," he has said. "I am tired of presenting baseball to fans in an inferior facility."That's why Lurie four times has campaigned for a new ballpark, his latest ballot-box loss occurring in San Jose recently. But Candlestick has a lot of competition in the bad-ballpark sweepstakes. In a survey of players, stadiums in Houston, Detroit, Montreal and Cleveland repeatedly got votes as the worst in the major leagues.
"Detroit, " said pitcher Doug Jones of the Houston Astros, "The dugouts are small, the bullpen is like a hole in the wall. It's archaic.
"And Cleveland's tough to play in," added Jones, who spent half a dozen years in the American League before joining the Astros. "Small crowds, the clubhouse is very old. And on some nights we'd get the Canadian Soldiers - flying ants that would blow across Lake Erie and clog things up."
San Francisco's Bill Swift also put Detroit and Cleveland high on the miserability list. "The dugout's small in Detroit, the clubhouse is run down. Cleveland's kind of run down, too - and it doesn't help when there are only 5,000 people sitting in a 73,000-seat stadium."
Oakland's Dave Stewart added another vote for Cleveland because "the moths fly in your face, and if there's a heavy rain the field floods."
Stewart is not fond of Fenway Park, either - "The locker rooms are bad. They're small and old and dingy. And there are animals that run around in there."
A's announcer Lon Simmons turned thumbs down on Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park. "You're expecting 70-degree weather because it's been 70 degrees for three or four days, all of a sudden it drops down to 40 and you go out and get a parka," he said. "I've probably bought more parkas in Chicago than any other town. I've froze to death at Wrigley, same as I've froze to death at Candlestick Park."
For Boever, Candlestick remains baseball's worst. "The bullpen's crowded - you're sitting in this pillbox, looking through chicken wire - and if you've got to go to the bathroom you've got to run all the way down to the dugouts. They could make a lot of improvements. They could make it better."
Swift said the stadium isn't as bad as he'd been led to believe in the American League. "When I think of Candlestick I think of the grass, the field itself, the wind kicking up," he said. "The weather is always changing and it's kind of interesting to come in every day, not knowing what the weather is going to be."
Houston's Craig Biggio said, "I've been in some day games here that have been beautiful. You think you're in San Diego. But when the sun goes down, it changes.
"You know when you come here you'd better bring some sleeves, because it's going to be cold," Biggio said.
The Giants' Greg Litton said Candlestick isn't a bad place to play. "But if I was a fan sitting up in the stands, I'd be freezing to death, " he said. "I don't know how they do it."
Litton's least-favorite parks are Montreal's Olympic Stadium and the Astrodome. "I don't like playing indoors. It's a totally different feeling. It's the air conditioning or something - this constant mmmmmmmmm. It makes you sleepy, makes you tired."
More than one player pointed to the "cookie-cutter" sameness of National League ballparks. American League parks have a sense of history that's missing in the other league, said Jones - "You look at Yankee Stadium, even after the rebuilding. There's bound to be grease and grime underneath that place that was there when Babe Ruth was playing."