Not the Newcastle Casino Lose Your Money Park, it turns out. That illadvised idea lasted less than 24 hours, but it still seems we are doomed to stick the “Chickasaw” label on the park, which has as much to do with baseball as if we’d named it for Snooki.
From the moment the ballpark opened in 1998, citizens and patrons have been less than comfortable with the whole naming-rights scenario. First it was Southwestern Bell, then Southwestern Bell Bricktown, then AT&T. Anyone who came up with the cash could presumably decide what to call a place where baseball is played, even when the name had nothing to do with baseball or common sense.
People who love baseball, more than any other sport, cherish the legends and traditions of the game. That’s why the ballpark is flanked by streets named for Mickey Mantle and Joe Carter, both revered Oklahoma-born players. It’s why a statue of Johnny Bench stands watch over … well, poor Johnny came very close to welcoming folks to a place named for a casino.
So what is the answer? There’s another baseball legend from Oklahoma who has yet to be honored at The Brick. Born in Earlsboro, he played 21 years for the Pittsburgh Pirates, won two World Series titles, was an MVP, hit 475 career home runs and was one of the most revered players of his era. He went to the Hall of Fame in 1988.
If you know and love baseball, you recognize Wilver Dornell Stargell, universally known as Willie. When he died in 2001, baseball fans knew they had lost not just one of the best players of his era, but one of the great gentlemen as well.
The folks who run the RedHawks can wriggle out of this mess with a simple solution: Announce that no naming rights will be sold, that to make up the financial difference ticket prices will increase by 50 cents or a buck a seat (no hardship to fans who routinely pay $4 for a soft drink) and that henceforth and hereafter, in perpetuity, the park will be named Willie Stargell Field.
The Mandalay baseball people who own the RedHawks have a chance to get it right after getting it very wrong. I’ll gladly pay a little more for my seat when they do.
—Mike Brake, Oklahoma City
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