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Aspen Ideas Festival: Paul Goldberger on 'Ballpark: Baseball in the American City'

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Paul Goldberger explores how baseball has shaped our cities.
Pulitzer prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger explores how baseball has shaped our cities.
Ian Wagreich | Courtesy of The Aspen Institute

Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger takes an entirely new look at the history of baseball, in his new book, "Ballpark: Baseball in the American City."

He explores how baseball and its ballparks shaped our cities — both physically and psychologically — at the Aspen Ideas Festival. 

Moderator Elliot Gerson of the Aspen Institute called it a “unique and wonderful book.”  He said the book contains the story these ballparks tell about America, our culture and especially American urbanism. 

“In a sense they mirror the history of America’s cities — and especially America’s idea of a city,” Gerson said.

In the opening of the book, Goldberger writes, “while baseball, the game, might not be the ultimate American metaphor, the ballpark is.” Particularly, he writes, “how they evoke the tension between the rural and urban, between Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian visions.” 

The best ballparks, Goldberger says, are “an extraordinary combination of funkiness and monumentality … something you rarely see in architecture.” 

Of the ballparks that were torn down, Goldberger says Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, N.Y., is “the baseball equivalent of the loss of Penn Station.” In the 1950s, Goldberger says, “we didn’t know better. There was no a great consciousness of historic buildings then.” In 2008, when Tiger Stadium in Detroit was torn down, “we really knew better. There was no excuse.”

From the so-called “golden age” of ballparks, there are only two left, Goldberger points out: Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago. 

Paul Goldberger is contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and former architecture critic at the New Yorker and the New York Times. At the New York Times he won the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism.