Ranking the Nation’s Stadiums

Statistics professor evaluates parks on ongoing stadium tour

By Magazine Staff  |  Photo by Nicole Potts
A baseball field

His academic research analyzes which baseball statistics have the greatest impact on game outcomes. But in his downtime, Rick Auer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, is more interested in discovering—and quantifying—the best stadium experience. His quest has taken him to parks all around the country where he evaluates each park not using data and weighted means but with his gut feeling. Loyola magazine invited Auer to share his thoughts on America’s great pastime and the fields the boys of summer call home.

First stadium visit:

In 1963, as a 10-year-old St. Louis Cardinals fan, he watched his home team play a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. “I saw Stan ‘the Man’ Musial with my own eyes!”

Active stadiums visited:


Number of closed or demolished stadiums visited:


Stadiums left to see:

Arizona, Colorado, Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, and Toronto. He plans to finish his stadium tour in Miami’s new stadium in 2013.

How he ranks the stadiums:

Auer evaluates the stadium’s design and mood, considering the view from his seat in the stadium, the character and aesthetics of the structure, and the overall experience sitting in the park.

Something old:

“Wrigley Field has fewer character features than Fenway, but it is a small park and makes a fan feel like he or she has just travelled through a time warp seeing baseball the way it looked in most parks in the ’20s and ’30s. In this way, Wrigley just exudes the nostalgia and the moodiness of the history of baseball.”

Something new:

“In Cleveland, the stands feel close to the game. There is a nice uniformity to the look around the stadium with some very nice elements added in. And, as you walk along the concourse where the vendors are lined up, you can turn and look right onto the field. This concourse design is showing up in most of the very new stadiums and it is the one, best, new design feature in major league stadiums in my opinion.”

A sore thumb:

“For me, Detroit’s new stadium looks odd. Even the aspects they intentionally tried to make special just add to the odd feel.”


The year the John T. Brush Stairway opened, running from Coogan’s Bluff to the Polo Grounds.

June 19, 2011:

The day Auer found the abandoned (and fenced-off) steps and climbed them.


Minor injury—“a black and blue right heel”—sustained when Auer jumped off the fencing at the high end of the steps.


“Even though I go to all these lengths to see the stadiums, I’m somewhat bored at the game.”

Why bother?

“Baseball seems to have a timelessness about it. Fans of today are seeing a game played much as it was played when it was loved by so many past generations. The game and the parks themselves serve to link us with the past and our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers. The fascination of visiting so many different American cities and seeing how each of them has chosen its own venue for baseball is part of the draw. But it is also the tie to the past and the moody feeling of linking with decades long ago.”

Auer’s Ranking of 24 Major League Stadiums:

A+: Boston, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh
A: Cleveland, St. Louis
A-: Baltimore, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati, Houston, Minnesota
B+: Kansas City, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia, Texas
B : New York Mets
B-: New York Yankees, Tampa Bay, Washington DC
C+: Milwaukee
C: Atlanta, Oakland
C-: Seattle
D+: Detroit

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