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Goodbye To Tal's Hill, A Beloved — And Hated — Houston Ballpark Landmark

ARUN RATH, HOST:

I'm sad to report that one of the weirdest features in a major league baseball park will be gone next season - the infamous Tal's Hill at the Houston Astros Minute Maid Park.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Four 36 to center, this ball is drilled. And up the hill - as soon as you - as soon as you - how many times have you seen guys do that - try to go up that hill? You're running on flat ground, then all of a sudden you hit a hill that you don't see coming, and down you go.

RATH: Named after a longtime Astros executive, Tal Smith, Tal's Hill sits in deep centerfield and slopes up 30 degrees, forcing outfielders to dash up an incline in hopes of snagging the ball. It's made for some spectacular face plants.

JESUS ORTIZ: Many have fallen on their faces. If you and I tried it, we'd fall on our face.

RATH: Jesus Ortiz covers the Astros for the Houston Chronicle. He says no players have been injured on Tal's Hill, but the incline and the massive flagpole at the back have caused a lot of frustration over the years. He recalls the Brewers' Ritchie Sexon's hit in 2003.

ORTIZ: That would've been a homerun anywhere in the world - any ballpark in the world, any major-league ballpark, Japanese major-league ballpark anywhere. And he had to settle for a triple because it hit high up the flagpole.

RATH: At the same time, dramatic catches on the hill usually make SportsCenter's top ten plays of the day. Even so, Ortiz says he's not a fan of Tal's Hill.

ORTIZ: It's one of those things that a minor-league ballpark would put in and you'd say oh, that's cute. But for a major-league ballpark, you're like Houston doesn't need it.

RATH: And it looks like the Astros' management agrees. This week the team announced that next season the hill will be removed and replaced by additional seats and concession stands. But for me, a few extra homeruns is not worth losing those weird and wonderful moments.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Centerfield run back towards Tal's Hills - up on Tal's Hill. Wow, what a play (unintelligible). A stolen one up on Tal's Hill.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.