03/17/11 12:56 AM ET
Baseball going green on St. Patrick's Day
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
That is especially true in Major League Baseball, and definitely on St. Patrick's Day. Here are 10 reasons we get all worked up about the game's primary color:
Natural grass. No. 1 on the list of green in baseball is always the lush blades of turf that take our breath away when we walk through concourse openings and see the first glimpse of an emerald expanse. Why do we love that infield and outfield grass so much? Just ask a groundskeeper like Murray Cook, an Irish descendant known to many as MLB's field and venue consultant, who last week also became official turf consultant for the National Mall & Memorial Parks.
"Natural green grass stirs our conscious to remind us that spring is just around the corner," Cook replied in an e-mail to MLB.com. "We all have childhood memories of playing in the yard or ballfield with our friends and the beauty of green grass breathes new life into those feelings, telling the world we are ready for spring. So plant a plant in honor of St Patty's day. Preferably not a shamrock as they are considered a broadleaf grassy weed for baseball fields."
St. Patrick's Day attire. The Pirates will wear green hats and there will be green bases used at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla. The Tigers will don green caps with the Old English D, as is their St. Patty's tradition, and food will include corned beef and cabbage. The Royals will don green caps, while select players will also wear green batting gloves and wristbands; the list goes on around the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese, referring to the development surrounding the team's spring home of Roger Dean Stadium, said, "Obviously people get excited about St. Patty's Day, especially down in Jupiter. They pretty much close Abacoa down. People get pumped up for it, and we'll go out there throwing the green around. It will be fun to switch it up a bit."
Green Monster. Carl Crawford becomes the new custodian of the Green Monster in a few weeks, following in a famous line of Boston left fielders, including Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez. But in truth, the Green Monster belongs to all of Red Sox Nation and to all of baseball. It is 37 feet high, with a manual scoreboard on the bottom, dents from doubles toward the top, and coveted seats overhead.
This is what the great John Updike wrote about it in beginning his classic 1961 essay about Williams, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu":
"Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man's Euclidean determinations and Nature's beguiling irregularities. Its right field is one of the deepest in the American League, while its left field is the shortest; the high left-field wall, three hundred and fifteen feet from home plate along the foul line, virtually thrusts its surface at right-handed hitters. On the afternoon of Wednesday, September 28th, as I took a seat behind third base, a uniformed groundkeeper was treading the top of this wall, picking batting-practice home runs out of the screen, like a mushroom gatherer seen in Wordsworthian perspective on the verge of a cliff."
Green Monster's green lights and green mascot. Fenway has one of the last hand-operated scoreboards in the Majors in its left-field wall. Green and red lights are used to signal balls, strikes and outs. Each scoreboard number used to indicate runs and hits measures 16 inches by 16 inches and weighs three pounds. The numbers used for errors, innings and pitchers' numbers measure 12 inches by 16 inches and weigh two pounds each. And don't forget about Wally the Green Monster inside the wall, coming out frequently to hang with fans.
Wrigley Field ivy. The Cubs' home is an iconic green wonderland, the second-oldest active MLB venue after Fenway. Among its famed features is the ivy that adorns the brick outfield wall, ironically often referred to as "Boston ivy." The original vines were purchased and planted by legendary team builder Bill Veeck in September 1937. He had bittersweet strung from the top of the wall to the bottom, then planted the ivy at the base of the wall.
Countless baseballs have disappeared into the thick vines during summer months. If a player loses a ball in the vines, he can step back and raise his arms to signal to the umpire that the ball is lost. The umpires will call time and, if there is no dispute that the ball was interfered with, the batter is awarded a ground-rule double.
If baseball sticks around long enough on the north side, you can see the ivy turn into beautiful autumn shades. The last good example of that was in 2003 when the Cubs made it to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series -- into the second half of October. For the sake of Cubs readers, we will leave it at that.
Brian Wilson's beard? OK, we actually have no idea if he would just happen to dye his beard green for the Giants' night game at home against the Angels in Scottsdale, Ariz. But judging by his past styles of orange cleats and the ancient mariner graybeard look on "George Lopez Tonight," who would put it past him?
When asked how he might celebrate the day when everyone gets to join him in being Irish, Wilson simply said with a sideways glance, "It's a good day to wear green. Everybody likes to wear green on St. Patrick's Day."
Citi Field seats. This will be the third year for the Mets' ballpark, and one of the many features that shot it up toward the top of most gorgeous stadiums is that expanse of deep-green seats. And don't forget about the green pickles on a Shake Shack burger between innings.
Phillie Phanatic. Arguably the No. 1 mascot in all of sports, the 6-foot-6 fuzzball from the Galapagos Islands has entertained generations of adoring fans. Stop by Phanatic Central anytime for news, videos, wallpaper, merchandise and just to see what he's up to.
Green Collar Baseball. That's what it says on top of oaklandathletics.com -- the home of the last bastion of green in MLB uniforms. From Vida Blue to Trevor Cahill, just picture that bright green garb, infused with yellow, a summertime tradition.
Greener pastures. Some players stay with their teams practically forever -- Derek Jeter, Edgar Martinez, Craig Biggio, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr., George Brett as examples. The majority move to find something else, either by desire or by necessity. While we wait to find out whether Albert Pujols will be one of those one-team lifers, we're about to find out whether Jayson Werth, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Zack Greinke, Carlos Pena and the like will find greener pastures with their new clubs in 2011.
Green is always on display in the National Pastime, and on one day every Spring Training it gets even more dominant in the color scheme. It means Opening Day is that much closer, so this now is also a good time to click those familiar little green boxes with the "T" and order seats for the regular season.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Follow @MLB on Twitter. MLB.com reporters Jason Beck, Jenifer Langosch, Matthew Leach and John Schlegel contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.