City Baseball Magic


by Philip Bess

Knothole Press; ISBN: 0967398606

$8.95, paperback–64 pp., including 46 black and white plates

Copies are available directly from Knothole Press


or may be ordered from any bookstore.

CITY BASEBALL MAGIC is a polemic on behalf of the traditional urban baseball park, and an exercise in “pragmatic idealism.” Today’s new “retro” baseball stadiums look wonderful, but are outrageously expensive and do not provide the intimacy or community of the classic neighborhood ballparks built in the early 1900′s.  They are a drain on taxpayers, they yield seating arrangements that are worse for the average fan in the upper deck, they result in huge ticket price increases, and they tend to destroy the physical and spatial fabric of cities. But most of these liabilities can be ameliorated by once again understanding the baseball park as an urban building subject to the physical constraints of urban networks of streets and blocks. To demonstrate this thesis, Bess offers the wonderfully conceived Armour Field, a proposal for neighborhood design and a new ballpark originally presented in the late 1980′s as an alternative for the new stadium that the Chicago White Sox were determined to have built to replace the venerable old Comiskey Park on Chicago’s south side.  Still relevant today, the proposal addresses social, cultural, and economic issues, as well as issues of baseball and urban aesthetics; and demonstrates the superiority of the traditional neighborhood ballpark over the modern stadium in ways both tangible and intangible.


What the critics say about CITY BASEBALL MAGIC:

“Bess’ thin but incisive…book…has become a cult classic among those who want to do more than just grumble about eating $5 tube steaks in the nosebleed sections of new $500 million “baseball entertainment complexes.”  In this book, Bess details how huge stadiums have torn the fabric of urban neighborhoods, distanced fans from the game they love, and fostered the inflationary spiral that has enabled greed to permeate baseball….   With a new preface its only update, this year’s 10th anniversary reprint…feels as fresh and relevant as ever.”

–Britt Robson, Utne Reader


“Bess approaches baseball park design from the perspective of a committed urbanist and baseball fan….  He argues convincingly that the issues that surround stadium design are important to everyone, and are the same issues that confront cities as a whole: suburbanization, the dominance of the automobile, neglect of central cities and local neighborhoods, and architectural standardization.”

–Kevin Fry, AIA Memo