|Chronological Tour: Stop 378
Joe Becker Stadium
Home plate entrance to Joe Becker Stadium, Jul-2015.
Sunset over the park, as seen from beyond the right-field wall.
The view from directly behind the plate.
- Location: Fourth and High streets, Joplin, Mo.
- Opened: 1913 (stadium rebuilt 1937, 1972, 2015)
- Home team: Joplin Miners, Western Association (1914, 1922-32, 1934-53), Western League (1917-21, 1933); Joplin Cardinals, Western Association (1954); Joplin Blasters, American Association (2015-16)
- Capacity: 1,070 (as of 2011); 2,500 (approx., 2015)
This has been the home of baseball in Joplin, Mo., for a century. Professional teams started playing here in 1914. Twice, the grandstand burned down, in 1936 and 1971, the second fire after professional baseball had been gone for nearly two decades. However, the park remains as a monument to the rich history of baseball in this southwest Missouri city along the path of historic Route 66. Mickey Mantle, who came from Commerce, Okla., about 25 miles away on Route 66, played here in 1950, leading the Western Association with a .383 batting average.
Mercifully, the stadium was about a mile north of the path of destruction wrought by a category F5 tornado in the spring of 2011 that devastated the city. The Missouri Southern Lions, a program in NCAA Division II, used the facility until recently, but they have now opened their own ballpark.
The park is named for Joe Becker, who ran the Miners from 1936-42 and also served as a pro baseball umpire and scout.
I was not able to get into Joe Becker Stadium during my 2011 visit. However, I had a new opportunity in the 2015 season, as the stadium was completely rebuilt and the Joplin Blasters of the American Association, an independent professional league, have begun play. The Blasters operated as the El Paso Diablos through 2013 but were dormant for a season after the arrival of the Triple-A Chihuahuas. Unfortunately, the Blasters were out of business after the 2016 season. They have been replaced in the league roster by the Cleburne (Texas) Railroaders, who will receive a new ballpark in 2017.
Getting to the Game
This is a drive-to park, located three blocks north of 7 Street (MO 66) at High Street. 3 Street has been vacated in the block by the park, and it is part of the parking lot controlled by the club. There is also limited on-street parking. Owners of business lots in the neighborhood are not afraid to call for tow trucks if game visitors park on their property.
Watching the Game
The lowest box seats (closest to the backstop) are actually below field level, making it difficult to see the game, although you have a really close-up view of the on-deck batter if you're lucky. The higher box seats give you a better angle, although the poles holding up the backstop net do create an obstruction.
Other reserved seats and even the general admission area give you a better view, and the top rows might even get a breeze.
The concourse does not completely wrap around the field. The bullpens and clubhouse access are just beyond the left-field wall. Old bleachers are available in left field, but fans must walk around from right field (where they can also watch from a grassy berm).
Enjoying the Game
Here is where the park lost points for me. The public address announcer was less than proficient on the day I attended, even getting the score wrong during the seventh inning. The production crew also insisted on continuing the music they started for a batter as much as two pitches into the plate appearance, merely fading the music out as the pitches arrived. I can tolerate limited sound effects, but this was, as Alice in Wonderland said, much of a muchness.
The park does have a beer garden down the left-field line, and a modest kids’ play area beyond the first-base bleacher that features not only a bounce house but also a basketball rim.
Pre-renovation photos from 2011: Home plate entrance (then at Third and High) ... View from right field
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This page updated 13-Nov-2016