Ranking the “best” baseball cities in America is no easy task.
To accurately compare the differing levels of passion, character, knowledge, and atmosphere that exist in various cities across the U.S. could take years of charting statistics, meticulously forming rubrics, sketching Venn diagrams, and scientifically drawing conclusions.
Unfortunately, I have done none of this.
So, what follows is a decidedly unscientific ranking of the best baseball cities in the country. It considers fans, stadiums, ownership, and highly biased personal opinion.
Although it is nearly impossible to capture, this list is really about the cities that best encapsulate the spirit of baseball and the communal love of the game.
Los Angeles would probably rank higher on this list if Dodger fans would stop beating opposing fans into comas. If nothing else, you can say that Dodgers fans make up a passionate fan base.
Dodger Stadium is an institution, and, as long as you don’t wear your black and orange, it’s a great place to see a ballgame. Grabbing a Dodger dog and a beer, having a seat in the bleachers, and watching some drastically overpaid middle infielders hack away is as American as apple pie.
Joking aside, the city of Los Angeles has consistently supported the Dodgers over the last few years, and given some of the team's horrible contracts and historically terrible ownership, that is nothing to sneeze at.
Welcoming fans, decent attendance numbers, a bright-n-shiny new stadium—Minnesota has a lot going for it.
Unfortunately, seeing a baseball game in Minnesota before 2010 was not exactly one of the most enjoyable experiences the sport had to offer.
The Metrodome’s turf was out of date, the ceiling was blinding and almost comically difficult judge fly balls against, and the outfield walls seemed to be held together by duct tape and Hefty bags.
Credit goes to Minnesota fans for sticking with their team in the face of a crappy stadium and the threat of contraction.
But, passion and love can only carry a team so far, and they can’t override the prospect of having to dig your car out of several feet of snow to see an early season game—not a huge tourist draw.
Before you mock Anaheim’s place on this list, take a look at the attendance numbers.
Since Arte Moreno purchased the team in 2003, the Angels have placed in the top six in MLB attendance every year. Moreno has been widely recognized as a fan-friendly owner who makes sure that games are affordable for middle-class fans while keeping the team competitive on the field.
Angels Stadium is well known as a family-friendly destination, and even though Angels fans may not have the extreme passion of fans other teams, Anaheim possesses the complete package for a great baseball experience.
Hold on. Let me brace myself for the wrath of Philly fans. Ok, now I’m good.
Let me begin by acknowledging that the Phillies are the 2011 MLB leaders in attendance. They have a fan base that is clearly passionate about baseball and one of the most dangerous rosters in the sport.
But, this list isn’t simply about competitiveness on the field—after all, any city that fields a competitive team will see its stands fill up.
For a team with a great on-field product, Philadelphia doesn’t help their case with a ballpark that is simply average. Philly’s offense is very talented, but the oversized little league field that is Citizens Bank Ballpark could make the 2001 Tampa Bay Devil Rays look like the 1927 Yankees.
Philadelphia’s fans have also earned a reputation for being harsh and uninviting to visiting guests. While this may reflect the passion of the fan base, it certainly detracts from Philly’s campaign for “best baseball city in America.”
Four words: sausage races and beer.
Now, if that doesn’t add up to a great baseball experience, I don’t know what does.
Milwaukee hasn’t always been able to put a competitive product on the field. The Brewers organization has only recently begun to rise from the depths of incompetent ownership and general affiliation with Bud Selig, but the city has remained firmly in the Brewers' corner.
Sausage races and beer. That really says it all.
As far as places to watch a baseball game go, it’s hard to beat AT&T Park.
Giants fans represent their beautiful stadium perfectly. They are fun, passionate, and appreciative of a good on-field product but simply don’t have the pure, unadulterated need to live and die with their team like their counterparts in some other cities.
The city of Chicago is great for baseball. Too bad the Cubs can’t do the city justice.
Wrigley Field is a baseball institution, and the commitment that the city of Chicago has shown to maintaining the history and integrity of the building mirrors the support that Chicago fans have given to the Cubs.
Yes, I know there are two teams in Chicago, and White Sox fans certainly deserve their fair share of credit for defining the city’s love for baseball, but let’s face it: Chicago ranks so highly on this list for one reason—they have been continually willing to support one of the least successful franchises in any sport.
An argument could be made for Chicago as the No. 1 baseball city in America due to the incredible passion that has allowed Cubs fans to blindly root in the face of abject failure for 102 years. But, the local love for the Bears and even Blackhawks chips into Chicago’s case as a pure baseball town.
It’s hard to put Boston higher on this list because it is becoming increasingly difficult to label the city a “baseball town.”
It used to be a baseball town, to be sure, and I’m positive that on some level it still is. I lived there for two years of my life, and at no point was baseball anything besides the biggest story in local sports.
But that was before the Patriots started winning championships. And the Celtics got Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. And the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.
Ironically, sports success has hurt Boston in these rankings. The Red Sox are still tremendously popular in Boston, but there is so much winning to go around that a 162-game season simply doesn’t hold the same gravity that it once did.
A Red Sox postseason failure used to mean a long, cold winter awaiting even more failure. Now it just means that it’s time to watch another local team dominate its respective sport (also: a look at Tom Brady’s new haircut! WICKED AWESOME!).
That said, Boston meets every requirement for a great sports city. Brilliant ownership and management, historic stadium, knowledgeable fan base….it’s all there…
…But come on, with all the winning that Bean Town has seen lately, I couldn’t have them come in No. 1 yet again.
Let’s just say it: Yankees fans can be annoying.
The Yanks have won 27 world championships, although the sentiment around New York seems to be that that number should be closer to triple digits. Obviously that’s a bit of hyperbole, but Yankees fans have become accustomed to winning, and expect nothing less. And they won’t hesitate to tell you about it.
While this sense of baseball entitlement is annoying to 29 other fan bases, there is no denying that baseball has a special place in New York, and that the game truly does mean something in the Big Apple that it does not in any other city.
Spend an October in New York. Pick up a Post or a Daily News. Listen to the people in the streets, the cabs, the office buildings and the restaurants discuss the Yankees (I guess I should probably throw the Mets in here, but that’s all they are on this list—a throw-in), and you too will realize that while other cities have great fans, New Yorkers take it to the next level.
The only reason New York isn’t No. 1 (besides the fact that Yankees fans are insufferable), is because this “taking it to the next level” can quickly go wrong and cease to exemplify the spirit of the game.
I don’t have an official rubric for what constitutes a great baseball city, but if I did, St. Louis would knock it out of the park—pun totally intended.
The Cardinals have great fans that consistently sell out games. They have a great stadium, and one of baseball’s brightest stars at first base. The team’s ownership and management are top-notch, and baseball is priority No. 1 in the St. Louis sports landscape.
And that is really what separates St. Louis from other great baseball cities. The Cardinals are by far the biggest draw in town. It is a baseball city in the purest sense of the word.