#Shortstops: A complete view of the game

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Kelli Bogan

For baseball fans, the love of the game is a complete package: The team, the players, the action on the field and the ballpark where the game is played.

Most fans of the game, can still remember the first time they visited a ballpark, traversing through the sometimes dark bowels of the stadium before stepping out into the stands, the smell of hot dogs and peanuts heavy in the air. It is an experience that all fans share regardless of team or location.

Each stadium is unique, with its own personality shaped by the resident city’s culture and history. As a result, it is a dream of many a baseball fan to visit all of the Major League ballparks. A recent donation to the Museum’s Photo Archives documents one fan’s achievement of this dream.

Jim McKinnis was a baseball fan as a child but it took an appreciation of a specific player and an artistic technique to reignite his passion as an adult.

“Through my admiration of Nolan Ryan’s accomplishments, I had ‘rediscovered’ my love of baseball a decade earlier, (around) 1990, when coincidentally I had evolved a photo art technique which was well suited for sports, a la LeRoy Nieman, somewhat,” McKinnis said. “In 1994, I decided to take my son, who had just turned 13, to the four remaining parks from when I was 13: Yankee Stadium, Fenway,
Tiger Stadium and Wrigley. We also visited Cooperstown, my first visit as well. So the seeds were there.”

The inspiration to make the stadium journey came five years later.

“The ‘trigger’ was the tragic crane accident in Milwaukee in 1999,” McKinnis said. “I realized that the year delay in closing County Stadium was an opportunity to see where Henry Aaron had played. I guess that I was regretting not having seen ballparks I had only heard of as a kid. (And) A new camera, the
Hasselblad X-Pan, had just been introduced in 1998, offering a unique panoramic feature utilizing 35mm film. That made the idea really attractive.”

This panoramic of Camden Yards is among the photos donated to the Hall of Fame by Jim McKinnis. PASTIME (Jim McKinnis/National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

In 2000, McKinnis embarked on his journey, with a camera in hand, to photograph all 30 Major League ballparks. It took him 56 days crisscrossing the country, starting in Houston and ending in Arlington, Texas. He traversed a total of 13,000 miles by Greyhound bus and stayed in youth hostels, both to make the trip affordable and to “see America.” At each stadium, he documented his travels by taking black-and-white panoramic photographs which are now part of the Hall of Fame’s photograph collection.

McKinnis is contemplating a similar trip in 2020. Of the 30 stadiums he photographed in 2000, 12 have been replaced. Others have had major updates and changes. And, in addition to the documentary appeal of recreating the trip, the journey itself created a desire for a revisit.

“I had as a young boy always been fascinated by the shapes of stadiums, the unique outfields, Ebbets, the really odd configuration of the Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, later Fenway and Wrigley, Tiger Stadium,” McKinnis said. “(But) even though the (other) stadiums may be new, the same game is played there.”

A panoramic negative of Enron Field, now known as Minute Maid Park, taken on April 21, 2000. PASTIME (Jim McKinnis/National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

These negatives capture a brief moment of time but they allow us to view ballparks that have left us, visit old favorites, and share the journey of one baseball fan who has lived the dream of so many.

Kelli Bogan is the manager of the photo archives at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series