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SI's Top 20 Venues of the 20th Century

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1 Yankee Stadium
No sports arena in history, with the possible exception of the Roman Colosseum, has played host to a wider variety of memorable events. Two popes prayed here, Johnny Unitas threw here, Jim Brown ran here, Joe Louis fought here, and Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio played here. Ground can't get more hallowed than that.
2 Augusta National
Is it the $1.50 ham sandwiches or the peach cobbler? The Crow's Nest or the Champions Room? The pushover par-5s or the murderous par-3s? The soccer-field fairways or the M.C. Escher greens? Is it because there are no pro-ams, no billboards, no blimps? Is it because being inside the ropes actually means something? Is it because every complete player has painted on this same rolling canvas, or because no player is complete until he has?
3 Michie Stadium
Game day at West Point begins three hours before kickoff with the cadet parade on The Plain. It's a scene straight from The Long Gray Line, surpassed only by the view of the Hudson River from the west stands at Michie Stadium. The Corps of Cadets, seated together and dressed in gray and black, evokes memories of when Army was one of the most formidable of college football powers, and cannon blasts shake the 76-year-old edifice to its foundation every time the Black Knights score. It doesn't matter in the least that national championships are no longer decided here.
4 Cameron Indoor Stadium
The undergraduates who pack Duke's antiquated Cameron Indoor Stadium -- those wiseacres with the 1,400 SAT scores -- are as entertaining as the games. (Pity the visiting player who has been in the news for some malfeasance.) No wonder the Blue Devils are 133-17 at home over the last 10 years. It's easy to win when you're playing six-on-five.
5 Bislett Stadium
An oval of crumbling mortar and rotted wood in a residential neighborhood not far from the center of Oslo, Bislett Stadium transforms itself each summer into a cauldron of desperate noise and rhythmic clapping that carries runners on invisible wings. Sixty-one world records have been set on its forgiving, brick-colored track; Lynn Jennings, the 10,000-meters bronze medalist in the 1992 Olympics, once called it a distance runner's Fenway Park. Bislett is scheduled to be torn down and replaced by a new stadium. Replaced but not improved upon.
6 Wrigley Field
It's impossible to feel blue at Wrigley Field, even though your beloved Cubs are losing again. The place has grown a bit larger and, amazingly enough, even more graceful since it was built in seven weeks in 1914 for $250,000. It's a national treasure, a true American original. It's ivy and brick and bleachers and a manual scoreboard and seats so close to the field you can almost hear the infield chatter of Hornsby, Hartnett and Banks.
7 Roland Garros
If you like tennis, the French Open is the best sports event in the world to attend. If you don't like tennis, it's still the best sports event in the world to attend because it's in Paris. In the spring Roland Garros is more at ease with itself than Wimbledon, which is so self-conscious. Wimbledon is in a distant suburb of London; Roland Garros is at the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. And Roland Garros may be the only friendly place in Paris.
8 Lambeau Field
In Green Bay, where the local time is always 1963, the citizens worship their Packers with religious fervor, and Lambeau Field is their ageless cathedral. The benches are aluminum, the grass (when not iced over) is resplendent, and the fans are rabid but realistic without being rude. No wonder Packers players leap into the stands after scoring touchdowns. On a truly cold day you can feel the spirit of Vince Lombardi -- even if you can't feel your toes.
9 Fenway Park
The spiritual blueprint for the dozens of new-old ballparks that have been built in the past decade, our favorite old-old ballpark, built in 1912, doggedly survives as developers plot its demise in the next decade. Babe Ruth pitched here. Ted Williams hit and spit here. Yaz won a Triple Crown here. Batters aim for the 37-foot-tall Green Monster in left because in this park, hitting the wall is always a good thing.
10 Saratoga Race Course
Directions to Saratoga Race Course, by Red Smith: "From New York City you drive north for about 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue and go back 100 years." With its striped awnings, old wooden clubhouse and grandstand, and paddock shaded by elms, Saratoga transports you back to the days when people came to the races in surreys with the fringe on top.
11 Pebble Beach
Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scot but not a golfer, called the curve of Carmel Bay upon which the Pebble Beach golf course was built in 1919, "the most felicitous meeting of land and sea in creation." Other courses are as architecturally brilliant, but none overwhelms the senses like Pebble Beach -- raw nature is on display here as at no other golf course on earth.
12 Wembley Stadium
The most famous soccer stadium in the world was built in 1923 and that year hosted the English FA Cup Final, the so-called White Horse Final, at which 200,000 peaceable spectators were policed by a lone constable on a white stallion. Since then countless pilgrims have entered grounds as charmless as Cleveland's old Municipal Stadium. No matter: Wembley means big matches, and its mystique lies in a team's just making it here.
13 The Pit
A mile high but 37 feet underground, the Pit in Albuquerque has been the site of many mind-blowing college basketball games, including North Carolina State's upset of Houston in '83 and just about any New Mexico home game. The noise created by fans, which has been measured at 125 decibels -- the pain threshold for the human ear is 130 -- is a palpable force.
14 Boston Marathon Course
For 103 years the hale and hardy and inexplicably optimistic have gathered in little Hopkinton, Mass., at noon on Patriots' Day to run the 26.2 miles to downtown Boston. Heartbreak Hill is actually the last of four hills three quarters of the way through the journey. That climb completed, runners still have six miles to travel before they reach the office towers of the city, where the hale and the hardy will become the lame and the halt -- and victors, all of them.
15 Camden Yards
The best compliment you could give Camden Yards is that it looks old beyond its years. You can savor the game's past as well as chardonnay and shrimp from an upholstered chair in a luxury box. The builders of Camden Yards did retro right -- its success kicked off the biggest building boom in baseball history and brought about the biggest change in the majors since the DH: It made stadium revenue more important to teams than a catcher who can hit.
16 Lamade Stadium
Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pa., site of the Little League World Series, has seating for about 45,000, but exact attendance figures are hard to come by since there's no admission charge. For Little Leaguers, it is their ultimate goal, and for all of us former Little Leaguers, it's a monument to a simpler, nobler idea of sport -- and one of the few places on earth where you can get a dog and a soda for a buck.
17 Daytona International Speedway
In 1959, when Lee Petty won a photo finish in the inaugural Daytona 500, drivers were not yet cognizant of the aerodynamic phenomenon that made that race -- and all races on this 2.5-mile oval -- spectacular. It was and is the draft, which has led to many mad dashes for the checkered flag.
18 Notre Dame Stadium
Touchdown Jesus keeps an eye on one end zone, and Knute Rockne watches over the rest of the field. Rockne built his dream stadium and coached here in 1930, its first season, his last.
19 St. Andrews
No bulldozers built the Old Course, where sheep tamped the crabby sod into shape. Legend says bored 15th-century shepherds knocked wooden balls around the place, and the cussing and drinking haven't stopped since. Mary Queen of Scots played here; Old Tom Morris, the first golf pro, gave lessons here 130 years ago.
20 Rose Bowl
The Rose Bowl is more a postcard than a stadium, designed to seduce pasty Midwesterners with the California fantasy. How many Big Ten fans tuned in on those wintry New Year's Days to gawk at the blooming bougainvillea and started packing their station wagons at halftime?

Issue date: June 7, 1999

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