Let’s start with a side-by-side comparison of two aerial views of the stadium. The photo on the left was taken when Crosley first opened (it was called Redland Field at the time), and the one on the right was taken in the latter years:
In the photo on the left, you can see fans standing on the actual field. I’m not sure how that would’ve played out from a baseball-snagging perspective. All I can tell you is that teams used to let fans do that back in the old days. It was the original version of “standing room only.”
In comparing the two photos, you can also see that the buildings beyond the outfield walls were demolished, the second deck was extended down the lines, and lights towers were added. (On May 24, 1935, the first night game in major league history was played at Crosley Field.)
But what about the snagging?
Well, catching a home run was obviously tough to do inside the stadium because there weren’t any seats in left or center field, but snagging a homer would’ve been easy outside the stadium. Here’s another aerial view. It appears that the area behind the center field wall was a public street where anyone could’ve hung out:
Here’s a look inside the stadium from around 1940. Check out the front of the bleachers in right field:
The first few rows appear to be empty.
I’m not sure if it was netting or fencing, but either way, it obviously wasn’t easy to see through, so the fans must have stayed back far enough that they could see over it. This would’ve made it really easy to snag home run balls that barely cleared the fence. I mean, there would’ve been a ton of room to run left and right.
It looks like there may have also been a cross-aisle seven or eight rows back:
See that row with the arrow drawn in? Because of the slightly wider space between benches, there must have been some extra room to run. Unfortunately, the steepness of the stands would’ve made it hard to maneuver, but it still looks pretty good out there.
The main part of the grandstand looks cramped, but at least there were tunnels where you might have been able to stand and catch foul balls. Those tunnels have red numbers above them in the following photo:
See how much foul territory there was? That would have made it tough to catch foul balls in stands, both in BP and during games.
The good news is that there were cross-aisles. You can see them better in the photo below:
There was also an aisle in the upper deck:
If you look at the tunnels in the photo above, you can see that they’re set a few rows back from the aisle. What this means is that the tunnels wouldn’t have a been a great place to stand because you would’ve had to dart forward before you could’ve run left or right.
Here’s an old photo taken from the Crosley Field press box. The aisle in the upper deck appears to be extremely narrow, but the aisle on the lower level looks better:
Did you notice how far back the stands are from the foul line? Look at the left field corner. What a waste. That area would’ve been dead during batting practice. It seems, though, that foul balls would’ve been able to reach the roof during games and possibly bounce off into the street. And hey, did you notice the slope in front of the left field wall? Lots of old ballparks had areas like that in the outfield. This particular hill at Crosley was known as “The Terrace.”
Here’s another photo of it:
It looks like the right field corner might have also been sloped. Check it out:
What’s the deal with that guy crouching to the left of home plate? Is he a photographer? That’s my guess. No chance he was wearing a helmet. If you look at the right field bleachers, you can see that the first few rows are full, so maybe the Reds only sold those tickets if everything else was sold out. Also, look at the front row in foul territory. That wall was really low — great for leaning over and scooping up foul grounders.
Finally, here’s one last photo, taken during the final game ever
at Crosley Field on June 24, 1970:
It looks like a minor league game, doesn’t it? Or even a semi-pro game in the middle of nowhere — but in fact that’s Bobby Bonds at bat and Johnny Bench behind the plate. I would’ve loved to be standing behind that left field wall.