Not so very long ago, going to a stadium meant sitting on metal benches, eating suspect hot dogs, and craning your neck to catch any of the on-field action. And if you live in Oakland, it still does! For most of us, though, we've got new-ish "historic" stadiums tricked out with everything from swimming pools and cup holders, to sushi chefs and craft beer bars.
But let us never forget -- as we take in a Padres game on Taco Tuesday (!!) -- the stadiums of our youth, stadiums so horrible that allowing their memories to fade into history would only do the next generation a disservice; kids today need to know what it meant to climb eight miles of ramps to get to the 200 level.
Which is why our editors shared their memories from some of the biggest dumps in professional sports history.
Timothy DeLaGhetto and David So Devour all the Bacon at the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival
Philadelphia, PA Though it was another in a long line of miserable, identical, regrettable multipurpose venues of the 1970s, The Vet may be the king of suck mountain. A large part of that probably had to do with the teams that played inside (early '80s excluded, of course), a larger part with the fans who WATCHED those teams, and even more with the miserable weather, terrible sight lines and, oh yeah, the in-stadium jail. -- Matt Meltzer, Miami editor/Travel staff writer
I always brought my dad's binoculars to the Vet -- not because I was so far away I couldn't see what the hell was happening on the field (even though I couldn't), but because it was easier to watch fights break out in the upper deck. -- Lee Breslouer, Senior editor, Food & Drink
San Francisco, CA Little known fact: if Mark Twain actually said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a Summer in San Francisco”, he would have done so while sitting in the left-field bleachers during the eighth inning at Candlestick. Not only was the stadium a nightmare to get to (one road in, one road out), but once you arrived you were greeted by a very unfriendly wind off San Francisco Bay -- and that was BEFORE the sun went down. You literally had to pack an extra set of clothes if you planned to stay past the sixth, as it went from summer in California to winter in Saskatchewan in about 20 minutes.
Oh, and for Niners games? A trip to the upper deck meant you were almost guaranteed to witness a fistfight in the concourse. As you may remember, they draw from a similar fan base as the Raiders. -- Matt Meltzer, Miami editor/Travel staff writer
Pontiac, MI The Silverdome was probably the worst, or close to the worst, of the bubble-dome stadiums. Ever walk into one of those indoor driving ranges and notice the rush of wind through the door, because the place is pressurized? Now imagine that wind in a stadium the size of the Silverdome -- it was like a stiff 30mph gust every time you entered. Now, and stay with me here, imagine that unpleasant breeze combined with Bangladesh-level humidity. Seriously. The USA-Switzerland World Cup game in 1994 was probably the hottest, most humid WC game ever played. Made even worse -- and by worse we mean unbearable -- by the fact that they installed real grass onto the field, which had to be watered like crazy. -- Bison Messink, Managing editor
Queens, NY Whoever designed Shea Stadium must have enjoyed his crammed 7 Train ride to Flushing so much that he decided to extend the experience to every aspect of the stadium. Because it was yet another oh-so-regrettable foray into multi-purpose parks, the seats in some parts of the lower bowl had a gradual ascent from the field; which meant that until you were about 10, you saw pretty much nothing if a fat guy sat in front of you.
And God forbid you get hungry, because if more than four people were in line to get beer, those concourses were so narrow it could take half an hour to get from one end of the stadium to another. All that AND you had to go there and watch the Mets? Honestly, other than in '86, you were better off saving your money and watching airplanes take off from LaGuardia instead. -- Matt Meltzer, Miami editor/Travel staff writer
Montreal, Quebec Olympic Stadium ("Stade Olympique" in French, ho hoh) in Montreal was a cavern of sadness. Not only would the retractable roof never close (instead it was covered with a tarp that would spill snow or blow off on windy days), but the seating capacity had to be reduced to 46,500 because, like, 5,000 people would show up for games -- 4,500 Phillies/Red Sox fans and a small group of French Canadians who spent nine innings checking the Maple Leafs score.
You could heckle big, fat Livan Hernandez and the entire stadium would hear you as clearly as they heard the announcer. Youppi, their hairy ginger mascot, translated about as well as a Gerard Depardieu movie. The only redeeming quality this place had: at least you could get a ticket, a hot dog, and a beer for the price of a program at most other parks. -- Sean Cooley, Senior editor, Cities
The Orange Bowl
Miami, FL Yes, the Orange Bowl had character. But so does that homeless guy in front of your building who talks to imaginary elves; you don’t lament when he goes away, do you? History aside, the OB may have been the most unpleasant place to watch a game ever constructed. Imagine spending a late-summer afternoon in Miami, crammed on a seatless bench next to 76,000 people, most of whom are, well, from Miami. And only about 15 of those rows had something that even remotely resembled “shade”.
In case you found the seats too roomy, you could get even CLOSER to the other fans by using one of the handful of troughs they passed off as urinals, because there were pretty much always people using the stalls to do cocaine. There were a whopping two concession stands, neither of which sold anything edible. And God forbid a big play should happen, because if everyone stood up at once, the stadium would literally start to shake. Makes you wonder if that orange you saw on the support beams was paint or corrosion. Hint: it wasn’t paint. -- Matt Meltzer, Miami editor/Travel staff writer
Milwaukee County Stadium
Milwaukee, WI County Stadium in Milwaukee was charming but gross. One time I got kicked out for trying to steal a souvenir bat, which I didn't even want, because those things suck. I was like, whatever, I'm a college kid who's had a few, and it's the ninth inning of a blowout, no skin off my back, and everyone will be out here ready to leave in 10 minutes anyway. Then the Brewers staged a miraculous comeback to tie the game, and I sat in the parking lot, by myself, sobering up quickly -- for six extra innings. -- Ben Robinson, Editorial director
Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Cleveland, OH Ten Cent Beer Night, Red Right 88, and The Drive happened at that dump. Muni was where good teams went to die. There's a reason it was called "The Mistake on the Lake". It seated about 80,000, but probably 3,000 showed up nightly. The pillars were in sight lines everywhere, but to be honest, it's not like fans were missing anything by not seeing Felix Fermin throw the ball straight up, rather than to first base. That place sucked so bad, they didn't even film Major League there; they filmed it in County Stadium in Milwaukee.
I did see a Browns game there in 1995, a preseason contest between the Bears and Browns notable only for the number of times I remember hearing Rashaan Salaam's name called. Our seats were partially behind a pole. I wish they'd been completely behind a pole. -- Ryan Craggs, Travel editor
Seattle, WA There was nothing quite like walking through downtown Seattle on one of its handful of sunny days, basking in the glorious sunshine on your way to the stadium… and then watching the Mariners. INSIDE. With 4,000 other suckers who were probably only there because it was one of the few buildings in Seattle with air conditioning.
The floors were an innovation in adhesives, a miraculous concoction of beer, soda, urine, and condiments that somehow managed to end up all over your shoes after every game. And since it played home to the sports juggernauts that were the Seahawks and Mariners, the place was rarely full and maintained all the charm of watching sports in an airplane hangar whose roof eventually caved in. -- Matt Meltzer, Miami editor/Travel staff writer
Pittsburgh, PA Three Rivers was never pretty or comfortable. Even though the Steelers and Pirates won championships there, nobody was sad to see it blown to bits. It was the '70s den of sports stadiums, all wood panels and shag carpet. The best seats we ever had for a Pirates game were also the worst. We sat in probably the 10th row on the third base line. Why were they cheap? Because Barry Bonds had left town, the Marlins were an expansion team, it was 90 degrees out in August 1993, and it was 110 on the Astro Turf field. Our seats were on an aluminum floor that moved out for baseball games... basically a hot dog roller for sad-sack fans. I fell asleep in a black t-shirt around the fourth inning, and it's amazing I'm here today. --Ryan Craggs, Travel editor