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O'Donnell holds best seat in game


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These Quad City River Bandits seem oblivious to what some consider the best seats in baseball: a chance to see John O'Donnell Stadium's view of the Mississippi River and the Quad-Cities skyline.

To some, Chicago's Wrigley Field is the most grand, genuine setting for the world's greatest game.

To Wrigley's credit, it remains a baseball park -- not a domed stadium or a mega-mall with plastic grass, but a ballpark, complete with its own setting and atmosphere.

While Wrigley and even Boston's Fenway Park are wonderful throwbacks to glorious days of baseball's past, access to these cathedrals is not easy.

John O'Donnell Stadium, the Quad-Cities' jewel along the Mighty Mississippi, is easy to reach. It remains but a hop-skip-and-tollbooth away for most of us to enjoy. To even the most cynical of sports fans in the Quads, there is not a more innocent setting to watch sports than in John O'Donnell Stadium.

This riverside beauty, built in the 1930s, features LeClaire Park on one side and the rolling waves, sights and sounds of the grandest river of them all on the other.

With busy river traffic passing by and sister cities floating on the horizon, a night of baseball brings with it a three-hour Midwest motion picture during spring and summer nights.

The park and the view have been the topic of discussion for many visiting dignitaries.

Former St. Louis Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog says he's never witnessed a better view in baseball than sitting in the stands and looking out onto the Mississippi.

``I've been all over the country and been in parks in all shapes and sizes, but nothing gives up a view like this one,'' Mr. Herzog said of O'Donnell. ``What a great way to see a game and all that comes with it.''

Bill Bavasi, general manager of the Anaheim Angels, says: ``A bag of peanuts is all I need to make my day when I get there (O'Donnell). I can sit up and watch a game with the best view in baseball just over the outfield fence.

``No matter what went wrong with the day, it's all better when I'm there.''

Those taking in a game at John O'Donnell should know the river view will remain first and foremost. Davenport laws prohibit the double-decking of outfield fence signs in right and center fields, just to preserve the view of the river from the stands.

While the view may sell the night, the simplicity of Class A baseball will reflect a lost era.

There are no million-dollar stars to worry about. The goal for the young men fighting long odds is to make it to the next level. You will see all-out play and tremendous hustle. You will see that look of determination forgotten by many of today's big-league stars.

John O'Donnell Stadium is a setting where a father and son can share that special moment only a father and son can share. It is a place where dreams are made and hopes are built.

There is not a better seat in baseball, not a better view of what the game is all about, than John O'Donnell Stadium.

-- By John Marx (January 26, 1998)

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