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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Sunday, July 29, 2001
Fields of Dreams Delivered
The Post Office Hits A Grand Slam
It?s one of those times when the wait was more than worth it.
For several months now, whenever I?d visit a post office, I would ask the clerks about the availability of an intriguing stamp set that was about to be issued. Its title??Baseball?s Legendary Playing Fields??held great promise for those of us in baseball?s fan base who have a hankering for old ballparks.
But it seemed that every time I went in, I would get a different story about the release date for the stamp set. Originally announced for mid-April, the set was postponed at least twice, and in early June I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to appear.
My fears were unfounded. And when I first saw the stamps a month ago, I was floored by their beauty and attention to detail. Thanks to the magic of scanners, it?s possible for us to give you an even better look at these stamps than you?ll get when you buy a sheet of them at the Post Office (and if you haven?t already, you?d better hurry).
The Tiger Stadium stamp has the familiar double-decked outfield seats that many of us remember fondly (after all, it?s only been a couple of years since Comerica Park has replaced it). The artist, however, decided to add in the mound pathway that was once a common feature in ballparks (and can be seen today in Bank One Ballpark).
Yankee Stadium is represented in its pre-renovation glory, with the original roof railings intact. Something intangible, yet indelible, was lost when the Stadium was modernized.
Historians of ballparks take great pride in informing you that it was possible to see the Polo Grounds from Yankee Stadium (and vice-versa) back in ?the Era? (as Roger Kahn coined it). Alas, those days came to an end more than three decades ago.
The Polo Grounds stamp is one of the most beautiful of all ten illustrations in the set, especially when it is blown up in size. The illustrator captured an especially intimate feel in this rendering, with the gentle slope of the infield horseshoe very nicely integrated into the image.
The next three stamps?Ebbets Field, Shibe Park, and Forbes Field?do a wonderful job of capturing the original ?urban park? ethos that characterized baseball?s initial building boom. The integration of the tower into the overall design of Shibe Park is especially well-rendered, but the Ebbets stamp probably captures best the sweeping panorama of the urban ballpark.
One can?t help but wish that Philadelphia?s other ballpark?the Baker Bowl?with its short right-field porch and its blue-collar ethos, would have made the cut, but it didn?t. A similar fate befell Sportsman?s Park in St. Louis and Cleveland?s beloved old League Park?though the USPS did see fit to render the St. Louis park as the top (non-stamp) panel of the set.
It?s only fitting that the scene of major league baseball?s first night game (Cincinnati?s Crosley Field) is presented in a nighttime scene. The right portion of this stamp is extremely dark?was the artist trying to simulate what the actual lighting conditions might have been like in 1938?
One of Jerry Reinsdorf?s many crimes against humanity was his destruction of this South Side treasure. The artist has chosen to present Comiskey Park prior to its enclosure, with mound path intact (as we saw in the Tiger Stadium stamp above). The sweep of the overhang is especially well captured here.
And finally, there are wonderful stamps for the only two ballparks in this set that are still in use today.
The Wrigley Field stamp is arguably the best one in the set, with a breathtaking aerial view that captures the pastoral ideal of the ballpark and its intensely urban setting.
It is rendered?of course?without lights.
And, of course, Fenway Park. The artist has rendered it in a night scene, choosing to bathe it in light, which tends to obscure some of the more notable features of the park (i.e. the Green Monster, which is just barely perceptible).
Yet somehow the haloing effect of the light prevails, with subtle iridescent regions of the grass softly shimmering in a kind of abstract nocturne. The artist obviously had the pictorial analogue of the ?field of dreams? in mind, and while the result takes some time to grow on you, it is ultimately a most satisfying image.
If you?re a baseball fan, you owe it to yourself to salt away a few of these sheets. If all stamps were this good, it could result in a lot of people changing hobbies!
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