Last night I failed to mention something that bears repeating.
It had never occurred to me prior to seeing this comic, but if this is legal, moles and gophers would make ridiculously good baserunners.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, frequently referred to as just Camden Yards or Oriole Park, opened as the official home of the Baltimore Orioles on April 6, 1992. The stadium had been built to replace Memorial Stadium, a multipurpose stadium that had served as home not only to the Orioles, but throughout its life also hosted the minor league Bowie Baysox (1993), the Baltimore Colts of the National Football League (from the late-1940s to the early-1980s), the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League (1994-95), the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL (1996-97), and also served as the venue for various high school and college athletic events.
Oriole Park was built as a baseball-only facility in downtown Baltimore. When the city of Baltimore and the Maryland government refused to commit money to replace Memorial Stadium, the Baltimore Colts responded by moving to Indianapolis in 1984. Realizing that the city could also potentially lose the Orioles, city and state officials immediately began planning a new park in order to keep them in town.
Initially, the architectural firm Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) Sport Venue Event (now known as Populous) proposed a design similar to that of the new Comiskey Park. The Orioles turned down the proposal, however, in favor of a more retro-style stadium, wishing instead to follow in the footsteps of the great old ballparks like Fenway, Wrigley, and Ebbets. The new stadium would feature steel, rather than concrete trusses, an arched brick facade, a sun roof over the upper deck, an asymmetrical playing field, and natural grass turf. Construction of the new stadium began in 1989 and lasted 33 months, costing approximately $110 million.
The field itself is set sixteen feet below street level and is comprised of a sophisticated irrigation and drainage system below the grass turf. The purpose of this design is to reduce the frequency of rainouts by shortening the length of rain delays. The field’s system makes it possible to get the field ready for play within half-an-hour after the end of a heavy rain. An impressive feat of engineering, the drainage system can remove as much as 75,000 gallons of rainwater from the field in an hour.
The B&O warehouse that serves as a backdrop beyond the right field wall was a point of contention in the stadium’s design plan. Many people wanted the warehouse demolished, while others fought to leave it in place. Still others liked the idea of using the warehouse as the right-field wall instead of the backdrop. Perhaps it is fitting that the warehouse remains, given the name ultimately bestowed upon the new stadium, though it didn’t end up being the stadium’s right field wall — Eutaw Street separates the stadium from the warehouse, instead. The floors of the warehouse contain offices, service spaces, and a private club. The warehouse has never been hit by a legal home run during regulation play. However, several players have reportedly struck the wall during batting practice, and it was hit by Ken Griffey, Jr. during the Home Run Derby of the 1993 MLB All-Star Game.
Former Orioles owner Eli Jacobs favored naming the new venue Oriole Park. Meanwhile, Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer preferred to name the stadium Camden Yards, after the former rail terminal at the site operated by the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad. After considerable debate, a compromise was reached and it was decided that both names were to be used: Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Following the 2000 season, the ballpark’s infield and outfield were completely rebuilt, and the drainage system was modernized to better protect both the pipes and the playing surface. Following the 2005 season, all new irrigation heads were installed, and in 2007, the warning track around the field was replaced. In 2008, the sod was replaced with a sand-based blend of Kentucky bluegrass to give the field a more vibrant green color. After the 2008 season, a new HD video display and scoreboard were installed below the right field bleachers. Before the start of the 2011 season, the seats in the lower seating bowl were replaced and several skyboxes were eliminated and refurbished to make room for more party suites and casual luxury boxes. The renovation reduced the park’s capacity from 48,876 to 45,971.
Notable events at Camden Yards over the years include the aforementioned hosting of the 1993 All-Star Game. On June 18, 1994, one of the stadium’s multiple-story escalators, overcrowded with fans heading to their upper-deck seats, jerked backward, throwing passengers to the bottom landing. The accident resulted in 43 people injured. On September 6, 1995, Camden Yards witnessed Cal Ripken, Jr.’s record-setting 2,131st consecutive game, and one year later, Eddie Murray blasted the 500th home run of his career at the ballpark.
In 2012, the park celebrated the twenty-year anniversary of its opening, launching the website CamdenYards20.com as part of that celebration. The site featured videos of Opening Day in 1992, a written history of the park and its improvements over the years, and photo galleries of Camden Yards, featuring everything from ballpark construction to celebrity visitors.
The success of Camden Yards sparked a trend in the construction of more traditional, fan-friendly ballparks in downtown locations across the U.S. The park also ended a quarter-century trend of multipurpose stadiums in which baseball and football teams shared the same venue. Although intended to cut costs, the fundamentally different sizes and shapes of baseball and football fields ultimately made this concept inadequate for either sport. By the 2012 season, all but two MLB teams (the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics) played in baseball-only parks.
You surprise yourself on some balls off the bat. You don’t think you have a chance to catch it. And then your natural ability just takes over.
While it doesn’t look like there’s going to be the typical “Star Wars Night” promotions going at at ballparks tonight, it appears that ESPN has found another way to exploit the fan holiday. I won’t be watching the broadcast (I don’t have ESPN), but that won’t stop me from indulging in a Star Wars movie or two in honor of the day.
May the Force be with you all!
On May 3, 1950, Vic Raschi of the New York Yankees balked four times in a single game against the Chicago White Sox. Raschi was reportedly bothered by a new rule requiring “a one-second stop before delivery with men on base.” Despite the four balks, not to mention Raschi giving up ten hits and four walks, the Yankees won the game. Raschi somehow kept the White Sox to just three runs, despite all the baserunners. The Yankees scored four runs and won the game 4-3, thanks mostly to three RBIs from Phil Rizzuto.
Raschi’s four balks in one game is part of a seven-way tie for second place. In first place is Bob Shaw, who balked five times in a game in 1963. This one game against the White Sox accounts for four of the eight times Vic Raschi balked in his entire career.
I stumbled across the above image while browsing Pinterest a few nights ago, and it sent me down a rabbit hole looking at the history of aluminum baseball bats. For all the reading I did, I wish I could have found more details about aluminum bat history, but I’ll share here what I did manage to find.
William A. Shroyer patented the first metal baseball bat in 1924 (depicted in the image above), though metal bats were not actually seen in baseball until they started getting produced by Worth Sports Company in 1968 (Worth, Inc. is now a division of Rawlings and Jarden Team Sports). Little League Baseball approved of the use of aluminum bats in 1971, and the NCAA legalized the use of aluminum bats in 1974. By 1975, Worth held the majority of the U.S. aluminum bat market and had produced the first official Little League and NCAA Collegiate aluminum bats.
By today’s standards, however, Worth bats really weren’t that great. According to former Ithaca College baseball head coach George Valesente, “[The Worth bats] made a pinging noise. Grips were not comfortable because they weren’t using the proper leather on the grips. Sometimes, it would start to dent and ding.”
In the late-1970s, Easton introduced a bat made from a stronger grade of aluminum and with rubber grips. Louisville Slugger also soon joined the aluminum bat manufacturing business, and the popularity of aluminum bats skyrocketed, though they were not allowed in major league games. At the collegiate and amateur levels, the switch from wood to metal bats served primarily practical purposes. Because wooden bats were easily breakable, teams would often run dry of bats during games. Aluminum bats essentially eliminated this problem.
In 1993, both Easton and Worth introduced titanium bats, and in 1995 Easton and Louisville Slugger introduced an even lighter grade of aluminum bat. Given the continual improvements of bat technology, it is not hard to understand the popularity of metal bats. Compared to their wooden counterparts, aluminum bats allow for greater bat speed and distance on batted balls, primarily as the result of weight distribution and the ability to make aluminum bats stiffer and lighter. Aluminum bats can even be made to weigh up to 5 ounces less than their length in inches.
Metal bats continue to be banned in Major League Baseball for safety and competitive reasons. For players making the transition from using metal bats in high school or college ball to wooden bats in professional ball, struggles frequently abound. The “sweet spot” on an aluminum bat is much larger and the physics of using a metal bat versus a wooden bat are noticeably different. Players have to relearn their swing and retrain their muscle memory, if they hope to become successful at the big league level. Many purists argue in favor of the classic wooden baseball bat, but one can certainly see that aluminum bats have many appealing qualities for a ballplayer.
Baseball isn’t just the stats. As much as anything else, baseball is the style of Willie Mays, or the determination of Hank Aaron, or the endurance of a Mickey Mantle, the discipline of Carl Yastrzemski, the drive of Eddie Mathews, the reliability of a (Al) Kaline or a (Joe) Morgan, the grace of a (Joe) DiMaggio, the kindness of a Harmon Killebrew, and the class of Stan Musial, the courage of a Jackie Robinson, or the heroism of Lou Gehrig. My hope for the game is that these qualities will never be lost.
~George W. Bush
This piece by Joyce Kessel was published in 2011 in Spitball Magazine. There’s a strong sense of nostalgia, especially in the language about attending minor league games.
I grew up a National League fan
of the Pirates, Cards, Reds & Giants,
not even knowing many decades before
my Buffalo Bisons played in the Senior League
well before becoming a minor league stalwart.
So I’d pray for sunny skies over Forbes Field
rather than Cleveland’s “Mistake by the Lake.”
My rare defection to the American League
came when the Orioles gained Frank Robinson
in that lopsided trade and after,
who couldn’t have appreciated Cal Ripken?
My dad & I would troll the minor leagues
where for some reason affiliations
didn’t seem to matter as much,
at least not to me,
who took in the green expanses
beyond dirt as the glowing diamonds
they were meant to be,
even in parks that were bare shadows
to Little League fields today.
In bandbox fields
and open air bleachers
we’d watch players with numbers,
but no names on their uniforms,
trading cards in their future or past
or not at all, their talents raw and wild.
I learned a geography of Rustbelt cities:
Toledo Mudhens, Columbus Clippers,
Rochester Redwings, Syracuse Chiefs,
Geneva Cubs, Oneonta Yankees,
Niagara Falls Rainbows,
a day’s ride away,
hoping they’d play two,
and mastering the geometry
& hieroglyphs of scorecards.
On April 26, 1901 at Philadelphia’s Columbia Park, 10,547 fans witnessed Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics making their American League debut, losing to the Senators, 5-1. The Western League had been renamed the American League in 1900 by league president Ban Johnson and declared itself the second major league in 1901. Philadelphia’s new franchise, led by Mack, had been created to compete with the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies.