Its downtown location and vintage feel and use of existing backdrops—in the case of Baltimore, a B&O warehouse—have been copied across the country, hence the catchy marketing slogan, “The stadium that changed baseball forever.”
It really is a great place to watch a game. The assumption is that it should only improve now that $1.2 billion has been allocated by the Maryland legislature for improvements to the Camden Yards complex (which also includes M&T Bank Stadium).
Oriole Park could use some upgrades, most notably to the scoreboard, sound system, and possibly to the lobby to provide alternate views of the playing field. The latter is a complex structural concept that may change the classic appearance of the garden. Therefore, if the Oriole simply wanted to make minor cosmetic improvements, that would probably suffice as well.
“Nice to see the venue is still on display as it was ever before,” said Hall of Fame player Mike Musina, one of the many Orioles invited to celebrate the anniversary. “I know they are building new stadiums and doing new things, but it still looks as good as before.”
It makes sense to celebrate this iconic stadium on its 30th anniversary – especially considering that with this season approaching, it doesn’t look like there will be anything to celebrate on the pitch. This weekend was supposed to be a welcome respite from another rough season.
Musina and Hall of Fame Eddie Murray were highlights of Saturday’s celebration, which highlights some of the most important moments in the stadium’s history.
Other former players to be honored on Saturday include Mike Devereux, who in 1992 had one of the park’s greatest homegrown burglaries. Jeff Ribolit, who played a major playoff against Seattle’s Randy Johnson in 1997; Rodrigo Lopez and Jay Gibbons, who wrestled through the snow on Opening Day 2003; Robert Andino, whose 2011 season finale win was eliminated by the Boston Red Sox from a potential playoff spot; and the cute Ubaldo Jimenez, who started the playoff in the 2014 league title and No Fans game in 2015.
The man who created the most enduring moment in Camden Yards history, Iron Man Cal Ripken Jr., had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t make it. Nor could Chris Davis, who broke the club’s record in one home season in 2013.
There are some other notable absences, including Brady Anderson, Adam Jones, Dilmon Young, and Matt Witters, among others. This list can be a column by itself.
But one thing that this list of great Camden Yards moments makes clear – besides that the Orioles ownership needs some olive branch – extends to such important alumni as Anderson, Jones, PJ Surhoff and Mike Burdick, among others – is the astonishing lack of indelible team moments in Camden history Yards.
That’s really what makes this timing so interesting, because baseball in Baltimore is so much better this year. However, we all know that good is not always good enough.
In its 30 years, Camden Yards has hosted 16 playoffs: 8 each at ALDS and ALCS. The Orioles are 7-9 in those competitions.
However, Oriole Park did not host the World Championship game. In 30 years.
“For me, it’s very disappointing. Former Orioles catcher Chris Howells, who played his entire Big League career in Baltimore and was part of the 1997 team that turned into a losing streak only to lose in the ALCS to the Cleveland Indians, we were close a few years ago,” said Chris Howells, a former Orioles catcher who played his entire Big League career in Baltimore “It’s disappointing in and of itself when you know you have the team to do it and you go wire to wire and then don’t. I think we had the team to beat it, and unfortunately we weren’t there at the end.”
It’s a common theme throughout the club’s tenure at this stadium. Some good teams, some tumultuous moments. But not enough in any given season.
“I just know that in ’92 and ’93 we had a chance. We played a great defense. We had the door lock. We could run Big Ben (McDonald) and Musina there. For whatever reason,” said Rick Sutcliffe, who won the field opening in 1992. In ’92 and ’93 the Orioles couldn’t do that, and I think that probably took away the first chance for people to watch the World Championships here at Camden Yards.”
Then that was in 1996 and 1997. Then 2012 and 2014. Good teams; No World Championship appearances.
“It would be a great sight to have the world championships here in Baltimore,” Musina said. “There are a lot of other factors that go into that. It’s luck sometimes. But someday. Someday you wish they would have the opportunity to host one.”
The drought is 38 years old and the number is increasing. Conversely, the Orioles have presented six world championships, and won three, during their 37-year stay at Memorial Stadium.
Camden Yards beats Monument in every way possible, except for playing on the field. And memories of the tournament were created there.
“Memorial Stadium was not beautiful. “In the clubs, there were a lot of things to be desired,” Sutcliffe said. “I don’t think there was anything on this stadium that they didn’t think of. Now, those same fans who were here 30 years ago, they have an exciting squad to watch again.”
Who knows what will happen with these young Orioles this year and in the near future? But former Orioles who were at Camden Yards on Friday afternoon are hopeful that the momentum created so far this season will continue to grow until the post-season becomes a formality and the world championship becomes a reality.
“Once that happens, hopefully, sooner rather than later, it’s crazy,” Devereux said. “The best fans I’ve ever played against, and they deserve to have a playoff game and a world championship here. And if that happens, I’ll be here. Because I just want to see how it all plays out and have a world championship here in Baltimore, at Camden Yards, which is even better.” stadium in the country, I’d like to be here to check it out.”
Gibbons played with the Orioles from 2001 to 2007, some of the darkest days in the franchise’s history. In 2012, when the club won the AL wild card and advanced to ALDS against the New York Yankees, Gibbons donned the jersey of his best friend, Brian Roberts, and traveled from California to Baltimore to watch a playoff, in disguise, from the right field stands.
“I think that was the first game I’ve been back in as a fan as well, since I’ve played,” Gibbons said. “It was very hot in the stands. … You could just see the passion of the fans. It’s what I’ve always felt (it will be). If we win, it will be like that every night.”
Andino said he’ll never forget ALDS 2012, and how badly Orioles fans want baseball after 14 years without it. He said he can only imagine what it will be like when the Orioles finally make it to Fall Classic.
“I think when this place reaches the World Championships, it will explode. One hundred percent,” Andino said. “I mean, (remember) just when we were in the playoffs with the Yankees, how crazy it was.”
And it sounded even louder two years later, when Young sprinted around left field and scored three runs in Game 2 of ALDS—that was the most touching moment of my sports writing career.
Baseball League. Orioles will be good again. This year the seeds are sown for at least the next batch for the post-season tour. Or more.
This 30th annual weekend reminds us of how amazing Camden Yards was. and he.
It also reminds us of the one thing that makes this stadium complete.
“It’s great to see the fact that these guys are winning. It’s been a long time. And it’s bringing some fun to the game and to the fans in Baltimore.” “I think the future is bright. …I think there is a good future for some baseball winners in Baltimore, which is well deserved.”
(Photo: Julio Cortez/The Associated Press)