Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thinking Outside the 'Bandbox'

The Twins' new ballpark, on national TV for all to see tonight when the Minnesotans host the fearsome Yankees, is no bandbox.

Yet those homer-happy Blue Jays made Target Field feel like one earlier this summer.

“They made the place look like a little bandbox,” Twins outfielder Denard Span told the NY Times yesterday. “It’s hard to believe. We complain all year about the place, and they come here and hit like 10 home runs."

UPDATE: Today's NY Times!: "The Twins’ new Target Field is not the bandbox the Metrodome was, and the Twins, accordingly, scored 36 fewer runs in 2010..."

A bandbox.

Any time someone needs a metaphor for a small baseball stadium, they opt for bandbox. The Phillies newish stadium? Definitely a bandbox. "The Phillies raised the left-field fence at Citizens Bank Park 2 1/2 feet and moved it back five feet following the 2005 season, less than two years after it opened," wrote earlier this year. "Pitchers at Citizens Bank Park had complained that the ballpark played like a bandbox."

Yankee Stadium? Was a bandbox last year, short porch and all. "New Yankee Stadium is a bandbox," wrote Ohio's Times-Reporter.

Not so much this year...maybe it's the wind.

Of course, Denard Span's usage--"a little bandbox"--is redundant. A bandbox is, by definition, little.

But what the heck is a bandbox when it's not a baseball metaphor? I'd guess it's like an orchestra pit--a small box that sees several musicians jammed into it to provide music for theater. Or maybe something like a bandshell--another tight performance space for musicians.

I'd be wrong.

Merriam Webster's calls it a "cylindrical box of paperboard or thin wood for holding light articles of attire."

MW's second definition references the diamond. "A structure (as a baseball park) having relatively small interior dimentions.)

Wikipedia offers a few different uses for bandbox, including a novel by Thomas Mallon about a '20s men's magazine called, yup, "Bandbox," and the 1712 attempt on the Earl of Oxford's life that's known as "the Bandbox Plot." says the first usage of bandbox in the baseball context came from John Updike in The New Yorker in 1960.

"Fenway Park is a little lyrical bandbox of a ballpark," wrote J.U.

It's very strange that such an archaic word is still called upon as the metaphor of choice for small ballparks. Think about how many types of boxes are more current than the bandbox. The cigar box. The tackle box. The jewelry box, the music box. The glove box.

And it doesn't necessarily have to be a word ending in "box", does it? I mean, a small ballpark could be likened to a "cookie jar" or a "bread basket." (Wait, "breadbasket" is already in use in baseball slanguage.)

OK, enough on the topic. I have to hit the cleaners before they close and grab my new bandbox.

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