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Baseball
Jeff Pearlman
August 23, 1999
Park PainsLike all stadiums, Seattle's new Safeco Field has its bright spots—and that's the problem
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August 23, 1999

Baseball

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The Standing

Phil Garner, who was fired by the Brewers last week after seven-plus years and just one victorious season, was not only the franchise's winningest skipper (563 victories) but also its losingest (617 losses). With Garner-fourth on the managerial tenure list-gone, here are the active skippers who have served the longest with their clubs, with their records through Sunday.

MANAGER, TEAM

FIRST GAME

RECORD

1.

Tom Kelly, Twins

Sept. 12, 1986

973-1,042

Like his Twinkies, he isn't going anywhere soon

2.

Bobby Cox, Braves

June 22, 1990

869-577

Seven division titles make him the most secure skipper

3.

Mike Hargrove, Indians

July 6, 1991

696-570

Struggles with pitching staff but is headed to fifth straight division crown

4.

Felipe Alou, Expos

May 22, 1992

583-565

Turned down Dodgers' off-season overtures to stick with sure losers

T5.

Dusty Baker, Giants

April 6, 1993

531-494

Although team has slipped, reputation as game's top mind has not

T5.

Lou Piniella, Mariners

April 6, 1993

518-502

As long as Woody Woodward is general manager, Sweet Lou seems safe

T7.

Bruce Bochy, Padres

April 26, 1995

389-359

Remarkable job in 1999 considering heavy losses from '98 World Series team

T7.

Johnny Oates, Rangers

April 26, 1995

398-350

Gets Texas into the playoffs, where it's a horrid 1-6

T7.

Jim Riggleman, Cubs

April 26, 1995

358-389

Chicago's dive from 1998 wild-card berth to division cellar could cost job

T10.

Art Howe, A's

April 1, 1996

281-322

Leading candidate for American League Manager of the Year

T10. Tony La Russa, Cardinals

April 1, 1996

304-301

Has lost the "genius" tag from his A's days, but he'll be back next season

Park Pains
Like all stadiums, Seattle's new Safeco Field has its bright spots—and that's the problem

It didn't take Mariners lead-off man Brian L. Hunter long to figure out mat Safeco Field, Seattle's new dream stadium, is less than 100% dreamy. In his second game there, a 1:05 start against the Orioles on July 31, Hunter stepped into the batter's box, dug in, took a few practice hacks and saw—nothing. "I was like, Uh-oh," says Hunter. "When the sun is really strong, it reflects off the wall in centerfield into your eyes. It's rough."

Although Safeco has won rave reviews for its beauty and fan amenities, both vast improvements over the Kingdome, some players are stewing over details of its construction. The wall behind home plate is only two feet high, and on hot days, with the stands full of white T-shirts in the stands, it's difficult for infielders to see ground balls. In addition the ballpark is oriented in such a way that during early-afternoon games the centerfielder and right-fielder are often faced with an hour of direct sun. But the killer, players agree, is the batter's eye, the 35-foot-high, 90-foot-wide green wall in centerfield that serves as a backdrop for hitters. According to John Palmer, the Mariners' vice president of ballpark development, a smooth finish was applied to the wall, instead of one with texture. "It was an error," he says. "Soon we're going to put in an aggregate that gives the paint texture and takes away any reflection."

Other recently opened parks have been similarly flawed. Two seasons ago, when the Braves opened Turner Field, players complained that the stadium lights shone into their eyes. The angle of the lights was adjusted. At Coors Field a gap between the stands and the scoreboard on the third base side allows sunlight through that on occasion has blinded first basemen.

"When so much money goes into a stadium," says Palmer, "you want it to be perfect." Next season the Astros, Brewers, Giants and Tigers are scheduled to debut new stadiums. All four clubs are sweating the details.

Houston: Because the track that will hold Enron Field's retractable roof is situated behind the outfield wall, the power alley in left center is only 362 feet. "It was a problem," says Earl Santee, senior vice president of HOK Sport, the Astros' design firm, "because we want hitting a home run to be a little more difficult [than that]." Solution? The designers added a green monster—a 21-foot-high wall in leftfield. Says Santee, "Now it's not so easy."

Milwaukee: Bryan Trubey, the head designer for Miller Park, says his stadium's Wrigleyesque, greenery-covered 40-by-80-foot batter's eye will be glare-free. "It's great because it's something organic, and it's something that won't cause a problem," he says.

San Francisco: Because Pacific Bell Park was to be built on a small 13-acre lot right next to the bay, the Giants had little flexibility. Hence, the short 307-foot right-field line is offset by a 24-foot-high rightfield wall and a 420-foot power alley in right center. The Giants also hired an aeronautical engineer from UC Davis to study wind patterns off the bay. In arctic 3Com Park, the study revealed, there were 44 spots in the stands deemed to be uncomfortable because of wind gusts. At PacBell that figure should drop to four. "We designed this park to block the wind," says Giants executive vice president Larry Baer. "The original design had better views of the Bay Bridge, but we turned it 45 degrees. After all, people have to [watch] games here."

Detroit: Unlike at bare-bones Tiger Stadium, at Comerica Park there will be two levels of private suites. Instead of using special glass to avoid a reflective glare, Jeff Spear, the senior project designer for Comerica, says his company installed the suites far enough under overhanging bleachers so that rays won't reach the windows. The dugouts were also elevated, so that—again, unlike in Tiger Stadium-players can actually see the action while seated. "Somehow," says Spear, "we thought that could be important."

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