Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Complete 180

I'll fill you in on a ShysterBall secret: a healthy chunk of the non-breaking news I write about here comes from simply Googling random terms like "baseball" or "ballpark" or "ballgame" or something. It's amazing what kind of stuff you'll find when you do that. Like this cool factoid, culled from a press release in which U.C. Davis announces the appointment of Bruce R. White as the new Dean of the College of Engineering:
In 1995, for example, he led a project that resulted in a major redesign of the proposed home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. His recommendation that the new stadium be pivoted 180 degrees prevented a major fiasco by protecting fans and players from the strong winds that had plagued the Giants' former stadium, Candlestick Park.
I had no idea about that, did you? Seems kind of weird that they'd propose it that way to begin with, no? As-built, AT&T Park looks out over the Bay in a northeasterly orientation. This gives some nice views to the majority of the fans, who mostly sit behind the plate and down the lines. It also has the added benefit of batters never having to look into direct sunlight in the many daytime games played by the Giants.

If Professor White had never come along and the ballpark were built facing southwest, most of the fans would see, well, not much of anything interesting. That's because the cool bits of the San Francisco skyline sit mostly to the northwest of the park and would thus be blocked by the first base line grandstand. I mean, I had a really great mojito in the Mission District once, but you probably couldn't see that from the stadium. Moreover, batters would frequently be battling the sun as it circles to the south and west of the stadium in the afternoon hours.*

So thanks, Professor White, and congratulations on your new position!

*I've only been to that park once and to San Francisco, like, five times, so if my urban geography is off, please feel free to correct me.


mooseinohio said...

Too bad he wasn't available to turn Great American Ballpark around as I personally think they should have had downtown Cincy as the outfield backdrop. I love the way PNC open to downtown Pittsburgh, especially at night with the Clemente Brigdge lit up.

Craig Calcaterra said...

That's my biggest beef with Great American. I even wrote about it once last year or something. It just kills me that it faces away from the city. Instead we get some crappy condos on a Kentucky hillside overlooking a brownish river? Fabulous.

mooseinohio said...

It seemed like a no-brainer to me and that designers would look around and see what resources and assets were in the area that could be incorporated into the design.

Of course this criticism comes from a lay person not someone with degrees, certificates and year of experience.

Alex C said...

I think you've already given away that secret about googling before. It has been on my list of "stolen blog ideas for my hypothetical blog" for a bit now.

JE said...

Your comments regarding GABP raise a question to someone who has never been to the new joint: could sunlight concerns have been addressed with a stadium facing the Cincinnati skyline?

christopher said... says that home plate faces directly east. so if home plate was flipped around, the left field stands would face the bay bridge and the downtown skyline, and the right field stands would face southwest - some hills, highways, and my apartment - nice, but not sublime.

Flipping it around for wind protection is actually way more important. The bleacher seats at pacbell might be the coldest place on earth during a night game in the summer. Cold enough to switch from beer to coffee. With the stadium situated as is, though, the wind is somewhat at the hitters back, and only blows in the faces of people in the cheap seats.

Craig Calcaterra said...

I can't really see how sunlight would really affect things, JE. The skyline is just to the northwest of the stadium, so if you had homeplate looking northwest, there would never be sunlight in the batters' eyes. Likewise, if the pitcher and fielders were facing southeast, the sun would not be a problem after, I dunno, late morning. In no event would it be a problem for gametime. Basically, it would be 180 reversed from where it is now, so sun wouldn't be an issue, I don't think.

My guess is that whoever designed that place was enamoured with the idea of balls being hit into the water a la AT&T, only they didn't realize that (a) the Ohio River ain't exactly the Bay; and (b) the place is still too far away from the water for balls to go in there anyway.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Christopher -- I can attest to the comment about cold. My one game in PacBell/AT&T was a late April game against the Cubs in 2003. I sat in the leftfield bleachers, wore a fleece, and drank hot cocoa, and I was STILL freezing.

RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

Moose - your comment,
"It seemed like a no-brainer to me and that designers would look around and see what resources and assets were in the area that could be incorporated into the design."

Pretty safe assumption on your part. I spent a lot of time studying design and architecture, and what you've outlined is pretty much the essence of what an architect is shooting for. Or, should be shooting for.

Texas Stadium, where the dallas cowboys play, has a big slotted hole in the roof, and the sunlight comes in at some strange angles. Word is that, somehow, the contractor was off on the layout by approx 30 degrees when they began construction, and by the time the architect figured it out,it was going to be too expensive to correct. The stadium itself was built to spec, it's just pointing in the wrong direction. The place looks ok on TV, but its a dump - has been for 20 years.

Drew said...

And here I thought just about every stadium was built with home plate on the west end, facing east, to avoid the setting sun in the batters' eyes. I mean, that seems to just be common sense, and it's generally accepted as the origin of the term "southpaw" as well, as I understand it. (Lefties would throw with the arm that's on the south side in that configuration) The more you know, I guess.

Rob said...

My guess on PacBell is that the author has the degrees of rotation wrong. Candlestick was pointed in a generally northeasterly direction, whereas PacBell is pointed almost due east, as has been pointed out.

I would think that it's more likely that PacBell was originally designed to point in the same general direction as Candlestick.


Yep, this article from a UC Davis publication indicates that the ballpark was rotated 90 degrees, not 180:

Craig Calcaterra said...

Cool, thanks Rob!