SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
What's in a name? The Chicago White Sox, mired in the middle of the American League Central division, announced this week they have signed a 13-year deal to rename the park where they play Guaranteed Rate Field. Guaranteed Rate is a national home loan company headquartered in Chicago. But as Rick Morrissey wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, (reading) Guaranteed Rate Field? You're kidding, right? Was Year End Clearance Sale Stadium already taken?
Ridicule broke out on social media. I sure joined in. What's next in corporate stadium names - The Viagra Dome, Preparation H Park, Prozac Stadium? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Ex-Lax field. But maybe some of us are being just a little fussy. Most ballparks today bear the name of a company that's paid for it to be displayed there. Those of us who treasure the lineage of ballpark names should remember that Boston's Fenway Park and Chicago's Wrigley Field, those most cherished and unchanging stadiums, began as corporate names more than a century ago. Corporate names have become standard overseas, too, including the former Kleenex Stadium in Japan, Mitsubishi Forklift Stadium in the Netherlands, the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in British Columbia and the Bargain Booze football stadium in Northwich, England. I'm not sure I'd like to go to a game where the home team is behind at Bargain Booze Stadium.
Besides, no corporate stadium named seems to replace the nicknames that fans coin for them. The White Sox now call their park U.S. Cellular Field, but fans call it The Cell. Houston's Minute Maid Park is called The Juice Box. Cleveland fans still call their ballpark The Jake because it was built as Jacobs Field. Progressive Insurance bought naming rights, but Progressive Field sounds more like a yoga center in Greenwich Village. After a while, some corporate names even strike their own music. The minor league Trenton Thunder play at the Arm & Hammer baseball park. The Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers play in the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. And the Gary, Ind., RailCats of the Northern League play in U.S. Steel Yard Stadium.
Someday, I'd like to see a game where Japan's Fukuoka Hawks baseball team play the Fukuoka Yahoo! Dome. I imagine tens of thousands of fans chanting Fukuoka Yahoo!
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CENTERFIELD")
JOHN FOGERTY: (Singing) Well, I beat the drum and hold the phone, the sun came out today. We're born again, there's new grass on the field. A-roundin' third...
SIMON: John Fogerty - and you're listening to NPR News.
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