Exhibition Stadium snagging analysis

In January, I analyzed Forbes Field. Last month, I took a look at The Polo Grounds. Now here’s a look at Exhibition Stadium, former home of the Toronto Blue Jays from 1977-1989.
This stadium, in a word, was weird. That’s because it was originally built for football. Here’s an aerial view that shows how the field was “converted” for baseball games:
exhibition_stadium1.jpg
See what I mean?
Weird!
Not only was it a single-deck stadium, but the bleachers were covered…and the grandstand wasn’t.
Here’s a photo taken during a game…
exhibition_stadium2.jpg
…and here’s another:
exhibition_stadium3.jpg
As you can see in the three-part photo below, there was a cross-aisle that extended around the entire grandstand:
exhibition_stadium4.jpg
This means it would’ve been easy to catch foul balls, especially behind the plate where the aisle appears to be much wider. Here’s a closer look at it: 
exhibition_stadium4a.jpg
There’s no telling what that open concrete area was used for. Wheelchair seating, perhaps? Even so, it looks like there would’ve been significant room to roam for foul balls.
But forget the fouls. This place was a dream for snagging home runs. Even though there wasn’t a cross aisle in the left field seats…
exhibition_stadium5.jpg
…the first few rows were always empty because it was impossible to see over the outfield wall. (BTW, do you see that yellow line running down the middle of the left staircase in the photo above? That unofficially marked the boundary between fair and foul territory.) In other words, if you were willing to sacrifice your view, you could’ve hung out in the front and had a totally clear path to any homer that barely reached the seats.
But wait, it gets better…
Every time a home run was hit to right field, the fans sitting in the far end of the bleachers would run out onto the football field to try to snag it. Can you imagine the opportunities?! Here’s another aerial view that’ll show you how that would’ve been possible:
exhibition_stadium6a.jpg
In the photo above, check out the open area just foul of the left field corner. It looks like there are a few buses parked there, and that there’s a fence at the back…but still. Any ball that landed there probably had a chance to bounce out into the open. And what about foul balls flying completely over the grandstand? The stadium seems small enough that it could’ve happened, if not regularly, then at least on occasion.
That’s about it. Short analysis. There’s really not much to say about this stadium — no corner spots, bullpens, unusual distances to the outfield walls, or unusual protective netting — but I still wanted to blog about it. I’ve always been fascinated by the bizarre configuration. I wish I’d made it to a game there, but I was only 11 when the Jays moved out. 
exhibition_stadium7.jpg

9 Comments

Zack,
Awesome post! As a Jays fan, it’s always cool to see Toronto-specific stuff on your blog. Thanks for sharing. I was only at Exhibition Stadium once, back in 1988 vs. the A’s. It was definitely a unique place and because of its close proximity to the water, its trademark was the seagulls. Dave Winfield knows something about that.

that is probably the most bizzare stadium ive ever seen! Its deffinatley ugly, but there are so many opportunities to get baseballs. fair,foul,hr, even the water behind it! Anyways great blog!
-Nathan
http://soxfan3224.mlblogs.com

Hey Zack! Sorry haven’t been on much…but this looks really awesome (In A Way). Very bizzare. I have to say I can see myself catchin homers out there..
-Nate

WOW – despite watching Mariners games my entire life (including during the pre-Skydome days) and knowing the name Exhibition Stadium, this field looks totally unfamiliar to me. And totally non-Major League. Frankly, it looks like something a college without a big budget pieced together, not something a MLB team would use for 22 years. One question: if you had infield tickets could you get out to the outfield (and vice-versa)?
-Todd
http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com

Great entry! I’ve loved reading about the defunct stadiums you’ve analized. Three suggestions (maybe you’ve already thought of these): Cleveland Stadium, Arlington Stadium, or Colt Stadium (Houston Colt .45s). Just curious, I went to cleveland & arlington as a kid but don’t remember much about them, other than the bleachers in Arlington in July! Ugh. Great stuff buddy!
Brian
http://txbaseballfan.mlblogs.com

Zack,
My pitching instructor, Dave Lemanczyk pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1977-1980 and was an AL all-star for them in 1979. If you want more info about the stadium, I’ll ask him for you!
-Alex
http://mlbpro12.mlblogs.com/

Zack…know you are speaking my language sir! This old and ugly stadium was my introduction to MLB. I was 10 years old when the Jays came to Toronto and I had the pleasure of watching a ton of games from ’77 through to ’89 when they moved to the Dome. It was cold in the spring and windy too, and the summer brought the bugs, along with some fantastic days and night games. I have a seat and section sign from the park, in storage, wating for a a spot on my deck (when I get around to it). Never caught a foul ball or a homerun, but came close a few times. Best game I ever saw in person was there – Game 6 of the 1985 ALCS…Jays lost a heart breaker to the Royals. Park is long gone now…Toronto FC (soccer) team has their new stadium in its place. chris

Zack…

Very cool post. I would have loved to have gone there as a 10 year old in 1977 and chase homers! Wow. I talked with Chris “Back, back, back” Berman from ESPN a couple of days ago. He was staying at the hotel. I told him about the growing sport of ballhawking and to watch for me in the Padres highlights this year. Ha ha. He said he would. It would be awesome to get a mention on Sportscenter after talking to him. Also, Corey Haim stayed here at the hotel about six months ago and now he’s dead. It’s really sad. I talked to him a little bit. He was kind of a *******. Not too nice to us peons at the hotel. It’s too bad he’s dead though. I hope you are able to make some time for snagging this year. I’m afraid your totals are going to be way down because of working on your book. Think you’ll be able to match last year?

Padreleigh

PS. One more day to Padres Spring Training for me!

TORONTOBLOGJAYS-
Haha, yeah, Dave Winfield. I’ve already written about that incident in my new book.

NATHAN-
Hmm, I wonder if any baseballs ever DID reach the water…

NATE-
No need to apologize. Nice to know you’re checking in during the off-season (although now that Spring Training is underway, I suppose we just have to call it The Season).

TODD-
I have no idea about infield-outfield access. Doesn’t look like it. But in the 1970s and 1980s, I think re-entry was typically allowed throughout the major leagues.

BRIAN-
Thanks for the suggestions. All great ideas. I’ll probably get to them eventually. I think I’m gonna do Ebbets Field next…perhaps later this month. Gotta bring it back to New York City.

ALEX-
Cool. Thanks for the offer, but I don’t think I need any additional info. This blog entry is just my own unofficial critique, and as far as my book is concerned, I don’t plan on writing about this stadium, except in passing while mentioning an ugly incident that once took place there…involving a baseball, of course.

CHRIS-
It’s always nice to hear from the “locals” when I do these entries. Thanks for the insights and memories. I can imagine how much the weather would’ve sucked early in the season.

LEIGH-
No way I’m gonna match last year’s total. April is going to be VERY slow for me, but things should pick up in May, and I’m considering an epic road trip in September. I don’t really know. Everything is still up in the air.

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