Posted by: Ryan | July 11, 2010

Into the Upper Deck

The Scranton franchise (and no, I’m not talking about Dunder-Mifflin) was the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate until 2007. I’ve read that the ballpark – now named PNC Park – was modeled after Veterans’ Stadium, the now-imploded, happily departed park in Philadelphia where I saw many games as a kid.

My first thought upon arriving in Scranton today was, “Why would anyone want to base something on the Vet?” This was the only minor league stadium I’ve ever seen with an upper deck. It’s crazily steep, and demonstrates the utility (if not the aesthetic value) of poured concrete. It’s a reminder of the way stadiums were built before Camden Yards.

But by the fourth inning, with my sun-exposed neck heading dangerously toward Lynerd Skynerd territory, I was glad for the upper deck. It was shaded up there, and offered a vantage point not unlike being a general in a war room, looking down at representations of the troops. I passed four pleasant innings in the shade, delighting again in the geometry and acrobatics of the game: the shortstop making a sliding stop into the hole, popping to his feet, and firing the ball across the diamond to catch the runner by half a step.

Apparently, the Phillies weren’t pleased by the Scranton ownership, so they moved the franchise to a new field in Allentown, and rebranded themselves as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. I guess I can understand why they left: PNC Park looks as if nothing has been done to it since 1985.

But that’s why I liked it. Scranton is now a Yankees franchise, and being a longtime Red Sox fan, I am naturally skeptical of anything that carries the whiff of the Evil Empire. The stadium was pretty low-key, though, with a modest gift shop and only basic food and beverage options. I did get a pretty good gyro, made by a college student who, if he wasn’t stoned, took the most deliberate care with food this side of Le Cordon Bleu.

Wasn’t much of a game until the 7th inning, when the Yankees stormed back to tie the score, 4-4. They eventually lost, 5-4. An usher gave me joking hell on the way out of the stadium for wearing a Phillies hat. Sheesh. We’re still in PA, folks. Even though Scranton feels like a long way from Lancaster: Deer Hunter territory, instead of farm country.

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Responses

  1. Really interesting to read your observations about Triple A ball in Scranton, inasmuch as this is the International League franchise that used to be in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The new owners took over for the 1988 season but didn’t move until 89. Over the long term Scranton doesn’t look to be much better than OOB was — although the latter was always a dumb place for minor league team and if the ex-Maine Guides had not decamped there would be no Portland Sea Dogs and no Hadlock Field (in its present form) today.

  2. p.s. It’s “lyric little bandbox,” not lyrical bandbox. Signed, Ghost of John Updike.

    • Thanks, John (and Don)!

      BTW, I’m required by law to refer to Shillington, PA as “John Updike territory” whenever I pass through it. My wife is unaware of this law, and thus gets annoyed. But the main drag is still evocative of the first chapter of Rabbit, Run.

      Ryan


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