Ranking the best baseball towns in (North) America
This is not an easy list. How do you determine a great baseball town?
With attendance? Too simplistic.
By atmosphere? It's hard to get rowdy when your team isn't any good.
By scarcity? A one-sport town is going to have an advantage, but that doesn't mean it'll take it.
By jersey sales? You don't have to live in Chicago to have a Kris Bryant jersey.
It's an amalgamation of all of it, and it's an inexact science at best. But as someone who has been to all but a small handful of Major League parks (the two Pennsylvania yards, Citi Field, and the new Braves' suburban home) I feel marginally qualified (which is about as good as you can get) to amalgamate those things into an overall ranking.
It wasn't easy — not by a long shot — and it will probably offend the easily offended.
But this is the list.
So with apologies to Pittsburgh (a football town, first and foremost, then hockey), Seattle (a great place to see a game, but ultimately a Seahawks and outdoors town), Milwaukee (it's all about the Packers, even in the summer), Washington (not enough of a track record, but it's getting there), Minneapolis (great park, but it's clearly a Vikings' town), and Philadelphia (it's all about the Eagles, baby), here are the top 13 baseball towns in North America.
Jerry LaiUSA TODAY Sports
The Angels might be an afterthought in both their own metro area and the national landscape, but the Halos draw year in, year out. They've attracted an average of more than 37,000 fans per game every season this decade. That's commitment, even if you don't notice.
Richard MacksonUSA TODAY Sports
San Diego loves the Padres, though there hasn't been much to cheer in recent years. And while PetCo Park is often a wonderful vacation for visiting fans — particularly ones from Los Angeles when the Dodgers come to town — the Padres fan base has stood strong. There might not be a more engaged group of fans in the country — their push to get the Padres back in brown uniforms has been tremendous — and that should only increase now that San Diego is a one-sport town.
Christopher HanewinckelUSA TODAY Sports
The Royals' strong run re-ignited a long dormant fire in Kansas City. The loyal fans who stuck through some thin, thin years were rewarded but all of Kansas City fell back in love with their team. The only question is how long it can stick.
Denny MedleyUSA TODAY Sports
There's so much to do in the summer in Los Angeles — the last thing you'd think to do is to sit in traffic to go watch a baseball game — yet the Dodgers put an average of 45,000 through the gates for every game. Dodger Stadium is the place to be.
Gary A. VasquezUSA TODAY Sports
Tigers fans are perpetually underrated on lists like this — this is a baseball-loving town that gets behind its team at home and on the road in a big way. The only thing that pulls the Tigers down on this list is that Tigers fans seem to divide loyalty in several different directions — Red Wings, Pistons, Lions, Michigan/Michigan State. Michiganders get behind them all.
Rick OsentoskiUSA TODAY Sports
Toronto is a righteous sports town — look at how they get behind the Leafs and Raptors come playoff time. But when the all-time great summer city has a good baseball team (and, apparently, when they don't, too ...) there are few better places to be than on the shore of Lake Ontario. Rogers Centre has become one of the best atmospheres in baseball over recent years, just confirming the belief that Toronto is a great baseball city.
Dan HamiltonUSA TODAY Sports
The O.G. baseball city. Baseball is still the No. 1 sport in Cincinnati, even though there hasn't been much to root for in recent years — still, the Reds are pulling better attendance than the American League champion Indians this year.
Frank VictoresUSA TODAY Sports
Yes, New York has it all, but when its baseball teams are playing well, the entire city turns into a sports bar. No, the Mets and Yankees don't fill the seats every game — blame the 1 percent and their PSLs for that — but few fanbases are more committed than New York's.
Noah K. MurrayUSA TODAY Sports
Baltimore is not a big city, and being in Washington D.C.'s shadow doesn't help much either. Even in a two-sport town, Orioles fans never turn off their fandom. And when the O's are playing well — as they have for the past few years — you're going to hear about it.
Tommy GilliganUSA TODAY Sports
The city lives and dies with the Red Sox, though they also live and die with the Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots. The post-curse reinvention has been... interesting, to say the least ... but there's no way Boston will ever fall out of the top 5 of this kind of list.
Bob DeChiaraUSA TODAY Sports
The Cubs fans showed up for decades of terrible baseball — an allegiance that made the victory all the sweeter last October.
White Sox fans — there aren't many, but they're hardcore.
Chicago might have the Bulls, Blackhawks, and Bears, but it's a city that's divided between the north and south sides — a baseball town.
Jerry LaiUSA TODAY Sports
San Francisco has one professional sports team that actually plays in San Francisco.
The Warriors — they're in Oakland, for now, right next to the A's. The 49ers play down in Santa Clara, a few miles from the San Jose Sharks' area and just down the road from the Earthquakes.
But the Giants — they're all San Francisco. And with a gorgeous ballpark and a ton of recent success, you can't go more than few feet in The City without seeing the interlocking SF logo. It'll be interesting to see how San Francisco responds to the Giants' poor play early this year and the Warriors' cross-bay move in the years to come, but for now, San Francisco is a baseball town and an elite one at that.
John HeftiUSA TODAY Sports
St. Louis and the Cardinals are synonymous. What other team and city can say that? Sometimes it is just as simple as that. The "Best Fans in Baseball" might not always be self-aware — no fan base is, though — but they're all-in on the Cardinals. You can't question that kind of loyalty.