Backstory: Baseball by the numbers

As stats-happy fans wind up for the start of the baseball season, here's a few figures they may have missed.

Milestones to watch for

Barry Bonds is 22 home runs away from passing Hank Aaron for most career home runs, 755.

Craig Biggio is 70 hits away from 3,000.

Barry Bonds is 159 hits away from 3,000.

Manny Ramírez needs 3 more grand slams to tie Lou Gehrig for the all-time lead with 23.

15 more wins by Roger Clemens will tie him with Warren Spahn for the most career victories by a pitcher since the 1920s, with 363.

Highest-paid players in 2006 (in millions)

1. Alex Rodriguez, $21.7, New York

Yankees

2. Derek Jeter, $20.6, Yankees

3. Jason Giambi, $20.4, Yankees

4. Jeff Bagwell (now retired), $19.4,

Houston Astros

5. Barry Bonds, $19.3, San Francisco Giants

Minimum starting salary

$380,000

Teams that have never won the World Series

Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals

Houston Astros

Milwaukee Brewers

Texas Rangers

San Diego Padres

Seattle Mariners

Colorado Rockies

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

America's favorite sports to watch

Football – 43 percent

Basketball – 12 percent

No Favorite Sport – 12 percent

Baseball – 11 percent

Auto Racing – 4 percent

Golf – 3 percent

Figure Skating – 3 percent

Soccer – 2 percent

Ice Hockey – 2 percent

Boxing – 2 percent

Best and worst ballparks

(according to Philip J. Lowry, author of "Green Cathedrals")

Top five:

Wrigley Field, Chicago – Your own time machine. The ivy on the outfield walls and the bleachers transport you blissfully back to the 1930s.

Fenway Park, Boston – The Green Monster in left field ensures you never need to wonder where you are: You're in ballpark heaven. See a game here, and you'll understand why fans view ballparks as cathedrals.

Yankee Stadium, New York – Listen closely, and you can hear the ghosts of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb and Cy Young, Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

PNC Park, Pittsburgh – Arriving by boat on the river, you know this is going to be a magical experience. The architects got everything just right here, including the imposing view of the Pittsburgh skyline.

Minute Maid Park, Houston – Tal's Hill in center field echoes the outfield embankments of such vaunted past venues as Crosley Field in Cincinnati.

Bottom five:

Rogers Centre, Toronto – Even with a new name, this is still the SkyDome, the ugliest shopping mall to ever be called a ballpark.

US Cellular Field, Chicago – Front row of the upper deck is farther from the plate than the last row in the second deck of old Comiskey Park.

Metrodome, Minneapolis – Balls get lost in the white roof and bounce off speakers. The right-field wall is known as the Hefty Bag, and the grass is a football carpet.

Dolphins Stadium, Miami – The name says it all: Nobody even pretends this is a baseball stadium.

Chase Field, Phoenix – When a ballpark's major attractions are a swimming pool and an ugly roof, you know it's not much of a venue.

Rule changes

Time between pitches: To speed up the game, a pitcher will have 12 seconds to deliver the ball when no runner is on base, down from 20 seconds now. The price for each violation: a called ball.

Batter's box presence: A hitter will have to keep one foot in the batter's box throughout his time at the plate, except for certain game-play conditions, such as after he swings at a pitch or if a timeout is called. This is another attempt to move the game along. Scofflaws will be assessed a strike.

Head games

Big league baseball caps are no longer made of 100-percent wool. They're now all polyester, designed to wick away perspiration.

Average attendance (2006)

Highest:

New York Yankees: 51,858

Los Angeles Dodgers: 46,400

New York Mets: 43,327

St. Louis Cardinals: 42,588

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 42,059

Lowest:

Oakland Athletics: 24,402

Pittsburgh Pirates: 23,269

Kansas City Royals: 17,158

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: 16,901

Florida Marlins: 14,384

Most expensive tickets (2006 average)

1. Boston Red Sox– $46

2. Chicago Cubs – $34

3. St. Louis Cardinals– $30

4. New York Yankees – $28

5. Philadelphia Phillies – $27

Least expensive tickets

1. Kansas City Royals – $14

2. Colorado Rockies – $15

3. Texas Rangers – $16

4. Florida Marlins – $17

5. Atlanta Braves – $17

Diversity in the dugout

27.4 – Percentage of foreign-born players on the 2006 opening day rosters of the 30 Major League Baseball teams. The Dominican Republic, with 85 players (10.5 percent of the league), produced the most players born outside the US. Venezuela was next with 43 players followed by Puerto Rico with 33. Mexico and Canada had 14 each, Japan 9, and Cuba 6.

Presidential lob

William H. Taft was the first president to throw out the first pitch, a toss from the stands in the Washington Senators' game on April 14, 1910.

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