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Take a tour of ballparks with Pat Sajak


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03/19/2004 5:00 PM ET

Take a tour of ballparks with Sajak

Host's favorite shrines can be seen on Travel Channel

By Mark Newman / MLB.com


Pat Sajak is a longtime baseball fan and hosts a weekly show for MLB.com Radio. (AP)




Anyone who listens to Pat Sajak's weekly show on MLB.com Radio knows that the popular game-show host is as comfortable spinning baseball yarns as he is spinning wheels. And one of his best stories is vintage 1959, when his hometown White Sox clinched the American League pennant in Cleveland and the celebration began back in Chicago and around old Comiskey Park.

"It was a rarity for that city, and the place went nuts," Sajak said. "So nuts, in fact, that Mayor Daley decided to set off the air raid sirens right after the last out of their pennant-clinching game. It really wasn't such a good idea, given the fact that it was 10:30 p.m. at the height of the Cold War. It caused a panic not seen since Orson Welles' 'War of the Worlds' broadcast a couple of decades earlier."


Old Comiskey is long gone, and the well-traveled "Wheel of Fortune" host has seen enough Major League parks since then to appreciate the unique personality and flavor that each stadium holds for its fans. Saturday, beginning at 9 p.m. ET (and then repeated throughout the season), the Travel Channel will televise back-to-back, one-hour specials in which Sajak will give a tour of the ballparks that have an extra-special place in his heart.


"One of the shows is called 'Pat Sajak's American League Ballpark Tour' and the other one you can probably guess," deadpanned Sajak. "We're not calling this 'Best Parks' -- we're just saying that these are great parks to visit. The premise of the show is that ballpark tours are great even without a ballgame. Most parks provide tours to fans all year long, and most have a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes things to see."


Sajak was asked by MLB.com for a sneak peek of the five parks he will highlight for each of the Travel Channel shows -- and to briefly explain why he selected them. In no particular order, these are the venues:


American League

Fenway Park. "It is the oldest and quirkiest in the league, and still one of the most beautiful."


Kauffman Stadium. "The Royals may have some small-market problems to deal with, but their ballpark is strictly big league. The fountains are one of the most distinctive features of any park."


Safeco Field. "Whoever thought a retractable roof could be beautiful? Form and function at its best."


The Ballpark in Arlington. "It is one of the best of the new breed. It's hard to imagine a more fan-friendly field."


Oriole Park at Camden Yards. "The one that started it all. Between Camden and Cal Ripken, the Orioles may have done more than any other team to rejuvenate the game following the 1994 strike."


National League

PNC Park. "One of the great shames is that the Pirates' play of late has kept this new jewel hidden from the baseball world."


Coors Field. "It's beautiful and it has a brewery. What more could you ask of a ballpark?"


SBC Park. "The Giants' home became an instant classic. It seems as if McCovey Cove and the giant glove have been there forever."


Dodger Stadium. "It's hard to believe that this gorgeous facility is the second-oldest in the National League. No franchise has done a better job of keeping their park feeling brand new."


Wrigley Field. "The oldest, but still the best. Every fan wants to go there at least once, and every ballplayer would like to play there once. It is truly a living legend."


That living legend, Sajak said, is his "favorite among the group."


"I grew up in Chicago and lived and -- mostly -- died with the Cubs," he said. "But, oddly enough, I was one of those rare breeds of Chicagoans who loved both the Cubs and the White Sox. In fact, my first game was at old Comiskey Park. Because we lived close to it, I attended many more games there than I did at Wrigley. Bill Veeck owned the (White Sox) at the time, and he introduced the exploding scoreboard, players' names on the uniforms, new baseballs coming from some underground device behind home plate, a picnic area, and so many other innovations. But, for me, his best move was making every home Sunday date a doubleheader. For a buck-and-a-half I could watch six hours of baseball from the left field upper deck."


Still as eager as ever to watch a game in person, Sajak will be in Arizona to provide MLB.com Radio listeners with play-by-play for two Cactus League exhibitions on March 22 and 23. "The first game involves the White Sox and the second features the Cubs," he said. "Could a Chicago kid ask for anything better than that?"


The Travel Channel shows are produced by R.C. Entertainment, in association with Pat Sajak's P.A.T. Productions. Dave Williger, one of the executive producers of the special for P.A.T., said there "surely will be voices heard from fans of Yankee Stadium and others, but the purpose was just to show five of Pat's favorites in each league -- and there is a good chance we might tour people through other parks later this year."


Williger also said the shows further reinforce Sajak's growing reputation as someone known not only for a game show, but also for the grand old game. Sajak is understandably regarded by most as the liege lord of letters. Once inside a Major League park, though, he is just one of the happy minions, taken back in time as if the air-raid sirens were blasting again in the Windy City.


"It's funny -- when we contacted the Travel Channel to tell them we want Pat to host the special, they had no perception of him as a baseball fan, or to do anything with baseball," said Dave Williger, one of the executive producers for Pat Sajak's P.A.T. Productions. "So they were pleasantly surprised at his knowledge of the game. We have known him for a long time and know his interest. I think we're finding more and more people who are now realizing he's a huge baseball fan."


Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Guest Moneyball

i saw the best food in baseball. did you see how empty pps was? all they could show was the empty tent outside the stadium, the hot tubs with a bunch of sluts and wannabes in them, and the backs of marlins pitchers (the pitchers looked bored) another black eye for miami fans. i can't wait till we have 25000 people a game this year 60% will not know what the hell they are watching. i also can't wait 'til we have more smart fans in the stands lets say 75% will know what they are watching

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