As I have shown with Tiger Stadium, I’m always a bit saddened when a historic ballpark becomes obsolete and the only viable option for teams that want to remain relevant in their communities is to replace it. This goes both for places I’ve visited and those I never got to see — or even knew existed.
That is the case with Cobb Field, formerly of Billings, Mont. I never knew about the place, and from the looks of things, it was what you’d expect from a Depression-era field — little more than a grandstand stretching from first to third base, a rickety press box perched on top. Tonight, the field (named for the owner who brought the Billings Mustangs to town in 1948) will be featured in a documentary on MLB Network (preview) that will give an inside look at a day in the life of the old ballyard in its final season, 2007.
There’s always something that draws me to these little fields, often tucked into the community, sometimes merely across the street from people’s homes — only a long foul ball away from a thump on the roof or a cracked window. I’ve visited two of them: Dwyer Stadium, home of the Batavia Muckdogs in upstate New York, and World War Memorial Stadium, the former home of the Greensboro Bats in North Carolina. The latter, dedicated in 1926, memorializes the first World War and was used in both Bull Durham (the bus pulls up in front during a road trip) and Leatherheads. (Photos to come in a future Photo Friday post.) I guess it’s the whole “humble roots” aspect of the game and the quaint image of minor league life in the middle of the 20th century — you know, back when ballplayers juiced themselves on little more than liquor and greenies.