History of Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park At Camden Yards, 2013 (Wikipedia)

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.

Quote of the day

There’s hitting, there’s defense, and there’s baserunning. And as long as you keep those three separated, you’re going to be a good player. I mean, you can’t take your defense on the bases, you can’t take your hitting to the field, and you can’t take your baserunning at the plate. But defense, is number one.

~Ken Griffey, Jr.

ken griffey jr

Hall of Fame Simpsons

The 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony doesn’t take place until the end of the month, but if you’re Homer Jay Simpson, you’ve already been honored this year.  On May 27, 2017, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum celebrated the 25th anniversary of that iconic Simpsons episode, “Homer At the Bat.”  This Simpsons episode featured the voices of Ken Griffey Jr., Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, as well as other baseball personalities, and first aired February 20,  1992.

As part of the event, Homer Simpson himself was “inducted” into the Baseball Hall of Fame with a little ceremony:

 

Some of Homer’s co-stars in the episode even made a special trip to Cooperstown for the event:

 

Homer HOF
Baseball Hall Twitter

And, as you can see above, Homer even received his own plaque:

Homer plaque

Congratulations, Homer!

 

Infographic: 1998 Home Run Chase

Here’s an infographic by Craig Robinson plotting out the day-by-day progress of the three main contenders in the 1998 home run chase.  I had completely forgotten that Ken Griffey, Jr. was a part of this race in the beginning.  He ended the season in pretty great shape, even if he didn’t pass Maris’s mark.

Click on the image for a larger view.

info-1998hrchase

Baseball: The Tenth Inning, Ken Burns

baseball

I just finished watching Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball: The Tenth Inning.  Unfortunately, I have to admit that I have yet to watch the original Baseball documentary, but when I found The Tenth Inning at the public library, I had to jump on the opportunity to at least watch that much.

The Tenth Inning is a two-DVD set that covers the story of Major League Baseball through the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century.  From the strike of 1994, to the influx of Latino players, to the home run race of 1998, and delving into a long look at the steroid scandal of recent years, this documentary does a good job of not only looking at the game itself, but also at the relationship between baseball and its fans.  We see how baseball struggles against its own demons — greed, drug use — and consistently manages to rebound and draw its supporters back in.

My biggest criticism of the documentary lies in its extensive coverage of the steroid scandal.  While hats were tipped to the likes of Ken Griffey, Jr., Cal Ripken, Jr., and Ichiro Suzuki, there were many moments throughout both DVDs that I felt like I was watching the Barry Bonds Show.  We get an almost biographical look at Bonds’ background, his early years in baseball, his career as a whole, and his attitudes about the game through all of it.  The focus of the second DVD primarily revolved around steroids, with Bonds right in the middle of it, of course.  Meanwhile, all the teams that won World Series championships in the early 2000s received about twelve seconds of coverage each.

It’s unfortunate that such a negative chapter in baseball history has drawn so much attention.  But as the documentary still reminds us, at the end of the day, it is baseball itself that keeps fans coming back.  In spite of greed and scandal and steroids, baseball in itself is still a pretty great game.