As the baseball season begins, cities across North America will be embracing the return of the summertime sport. The relationship between professional sports franchises and the cities they represent is often special, but baseball has a unique bond with its hometown.
The bond is unique for a few reasons, and it can be different for each city.
The logos of each baseball team are often more synonymous with the overall city as opposed to just the baseball team. An example of this would be the “Old English D” used to represent the Detroit Tigers. If you were to walk around the Motor City on a non-game day you’d see the “D” for Detroit taking on the Old English font even when it wasn’t referencing baseball.
Further, baseball is the oldest of the major sports leagues in North America. Many of the teams have been in their respective cities since the late 1800s, something that no other professional sports league can match.
However, for which cities is this relationship the strongest? When you think of a “Baseball City” in North America what comes to mind?
For me, there are three that are a cut above the rest. While there are plenty of great baseball towns these few fit the criteria of being some of the best.
In my opinion, to be a great baseball town it should be one of the first things you think about when you hear about that town. This unfortunately penalizes a city like New York, which has the Yankees, and to a lesser extent the Mets, but there are so many other things that make up the identity of New York it would be hard to put it in the same category as the three I’ll mention.
The second criterion is that you must be successful, with some recency bias in how successful you have been. Cincinnati has a great baseball tradition, but the Reds haven’t been to the World Series since 1990, and have had some lean years since.
With these criteria in mind, here are my top three baseball cities in North America:
The Three Best Baseball Cities
Home to the St. Louis Cardinals, the gateway to the west is also one of the best baseball towns in the country. Beyond the Arch, Cardinals baseball is the most symbolic representation of St. Louis.
In the National League, the Cardinals have become the most successful franchise, winning 11 World Series titles, most recently in 2011. The Cardinals have been a model of consistency since the start of the new century, with 11 division titles, four NL pennants, and two World Series championships.
The success of the Cardinals extends beyond the baseball diamond. Built in 2006, the third iteration of Busch Stadium has become a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown St. Louis. The city has created a “Ballpark Village” area for fans to come to enjoy pre and post-game activities. In addition, the new development was paid for with little public money and has shown to be a rare feat in which the construction of a major sports stadium has had a positive economic impact on the downtown area.
Considered by many to be the best sports town in the country, the Boston Red Sox are still able to stand out as the face of the city’s sports scene.
What might help in this distinction is that the Red Sox play in one of the most recognizable ballparks in baseball, Fenway Park. Built in 1912, it hosted Red Sox games for over 100 years and continues to be on the bucket list of stadiums that baseball fans should attend.
Despite having a long drought of World Series Championships (the Red Sox hadn’t won from 1918 to 2004) the Red Sox still have a tremendous amount of baseball history to their name. Recently though they have been able to find success in October, winning four World Series championships since breaking the curse in 2004.
Chicago is home to the best interleague rivalry, the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. The additional undertones of the rivalry can sometimes extend beyond the baseball field, with the Northside (Cubs) and Southside (White Sox) Chicagoans oftentimes disagreeing on more than which team is better.
Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is also one of the most recognizable ballparks in the country, making it on the bucket list of many fans. “Wrigleyville” in Chicago is one of the most well-known and popular neighborhoods in the city.
The success of both these teams is filled with long droughts of World Series success, which brings them down a bit on this list. However, both teams have been able to break their curses, most notably the Cubs in 2016, when they were able to break their 108-season-long World Series drought.
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