Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Champions Of America

TigerBlog has a book called "Lost Ballparks," which is a mix of text and pictures of stadiums that used to be homes for Major League Baseball teams but long ago were demolished.

The book includes great old pictures of places like Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh (home plate from that stadium was left in the exact spot where it was and is now inside a building at the University of Pittsburgh), Jarry Park in Montreal, Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota and of course Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn and the Polo Grounds in Manhattan.

TigerBlog has always loved to drive by stadiums - and airports for that matter. He's gone out of his way to go past Shea Stadium (could be in "Lost Ballparks II) and La Guardia Airport on his way back from Long Island, just to check out the structures and, in the case of airports, to watch planes take off and land and see "what man can do," as his cousin Jill once said.

There's always been something fascinating about a stadium to TigerBlog. Maybe it's the fact that no two look exactly the same, or maybe it's the idea of what location was chosen to build them. TB isn't sure.

He's seen plenty of old pictures of Ivy League stadiums, most of which are still in use today.

Palmer Stadium, of course, joined the "lost" list more than a decade ago. TB has dozens of old pictures of the building, many of them when it was jammed with fans going back to the days when the pictures also include an area for horses to be "parked" during the games.

One of the best old Princeton football pictures TB has seen is not from Palmer Stadium but rather Franklin Field at Penn. In that picture, from the 1950s, a Princeton receiver is juggling a pass as two Penn defenders close in. The best part of the picture is probably the enormous crowd that filled the building at 33rd and Spruce.

Crowds like that no longer come to Ivy League football games, but it doesn't mean that Franklin Field can't still be a draw.

In fact, you only need to go back to last weekend and the Penn Relays to see almost every seat filled.

The event drew 48,531 Saturday, and the huge crowd got to see Princeton do something it hadn't done in 71 years.

The 4xmile relay team of Chris Bendsten, Donn Cabral, Kyle Soloff and Mark Amirault won the event in a time of 16:19.98, giving Princeton its first Championship of America victory at the Penn Relays since the sprint medley won in 1940. It was the first 4xmile win in 80 years at the Penn Relays for the Tiger program.

Of course, the Championship of America is a Penn Relays term, and there are other kinds of championships ahead for Princeton to compete for, beginning this weekend with the Ivy League Heptagonal championships at Yale.

The winners there will be crowned Ivy League champion, something that Princeton has already won this year in cross country and indoor track and field on both the men's and women's side.

Beyond the Heps, there's NCAA qualifying and ultimately the NCAA championships, a place where Cabral finished as the runner-up a year ago in the steeplechase and where Princeton can make a literal run at All-America honors in several events this year.

So where does the Penn Relays win rank?

Pretty high.

For starters, the Penn Relays are the oldest relay event in the country. Anything with that kind of tradition that can still draw crowds like it does is to be respected.

In fact, TB was trying to remember the last time a Princeton team competed in front of that many people at an event other than the Penn Relays. It had to have been football way back when, no?

And then there are the schools that Princeton outran to win the event.

Anytime you win a big race by getting past schools like Indiana and Villanova and by ultimately out-kicking Arkansas, you've done something big.

Princeton's 4xmile win the other day was a great moment for the program. Would those involved trade the Championship of America for a championship of the Ivy League this weekend?

Maybe. But hey, they're not mutually exclusive.

There's plenty of reason to celebrate one while getting ready for the other.

1 comment:

#1 Fan said...

You're great, TigerBlog.