There have always been things in the minors that were missing from the majors (including, for a while this year, baseball). For instance, without the farm leagues we would have no Pony nights—the stands half full of kids and fathers, each of the former praying that he will be the one to win the pony, each of the latter praying that he won't. We would have no weddings at home plate (page 46). We would have no billboard flaunting a Visalia, Calif. dairy's inspired conception of a flower-eating cow. Whether AAA, A A, A or rookie league (officially there is no such thing as Class B ball anymore, much less C or D), the minors furnish a more relaxed atmosphere, more casual contact with the players—you might run into one beneath the stands on your way after a hot dog. A minor league park is easy to park near, hard to get mugged outside of and a good place to collect your thoughts in. If you are young you will know the spot to slip over—or through—the fence. And the rightfielder may be living in your neighbor's spare bedroom. Nothing minor about the importance of all that.

Brainard Park (above), in Artesia, N. Mex., housed minor league ball for 11 years; now its press box looks down on Little Leaguers. A more substantial perch is afforded by Grayson Stadium (below), better suited for football but now home of the Savannah, Ga. Braves and sedate fans. The Geneva, N.Y. Senators look ragged in spots (right).

The Pawtucket Red Sox play a few games in Newport, R.I. behind the charming facade above. In Geneva, Shuron Park is one of few places open at night. Local kids (below) may ignore the game, but they buy hot dogs, and those who don't climb a fence pay admission.

In McCoy Stadium (rear view above) in Pawtucket, R.I. last year Mr. and Mrs. Max Oliveras were wed at home plate. With music. The groom was observed psyching himself up in a wheelbarrow under the stands: his mother gave it a try on the bench.