As the Orioles celebrate Oriole Park’s 30th anniversary at Camden Yards this weekend, there’s no denying it’s one of America’s greatest sporting venues.
Its downtown location, retro vibe, and use of existing decor—in Baltimore’s case, the B&O Warehouse—have been copied across the country, hence the catchy marketing slogan, “The ballpark that changed baseball forever.”
It really is a great place to watch a game. The assumption is that it should only get better now that $1.2 billion has been appropriated by the Maryland State Legislature for improvements to the Camden Yards complex (which also includes M&T Bank Stadium).
Oriole Park could use some upgrades, including its scoreboard and sound system and, perhaps, the lobby to provide alternative views of the playing field. The latter is a complicated structural concept that can alter the classic look of the park . So if the Orioles just wanted to make minor cosmetic upgrades, that would probably suffice as well.
“It’s nice to see the place still looking great,” said Hall of Fame pitcher Mike Mussina, one of many former Orioles invited to the birthday festivities. “I know they’re building new stadiums and doing new things, but this one still looks as good as ever.”
It makes sense to celebrate this iconic stadium on its 30th anniversary, especially as heading into this season there didn’t seem to be anything to celebrate on the pitch. This weekend was meant to be a welcome respite after another difficult season.
Mussina and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray headline Saturday’s celebration, which highlights some of the best moments in stadium history.
Other former players to be honored on Saturday include Mike Devereaux, who in 1992 committed one of the park’s biggest home robberies; Jeff Reboulet, who hit a huge playoff homer against Seattle’s Randy Johnson in 1997; Rodrigo Lopez and Jay Gibbons, who battled in the snow on Opening Day 2003; Robert Andino, whose game-winning shot at the end of the 2011 season knocked the Boston Red Sox out of a potential playoff spot; and the affable Ubaldo Jiménez, who kicked off both the division championship in 2014 and the ‘fanless’ 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. Neither did Chris Davis, who broke the club record in one season in 2013.
There are a few other notable absences, including Brady Anderson, Adam Jones, Delmon Young, and Matt Wieters, among others. This list could be a column on its own.
But one thing the list of Camden Yards highlights illustrates – besides the Orioles’ ownership needing an olive branch extension to important alumni such as Anderson, Jones, BJ Surhoff and Mike Bordick, among others – is the incredible lack of indelible team moments in The Camden Yard Story.
That’s really what makes this time so interesting, because baseball in Baltimore is so much better this year. And yet, we all know that good is not always good enough.
In 30 years, Camden Yards has hosted 16 playoff games: 8 each in the ALDS and ALCS. The Orioles are 7-9 in those contests.
Oriole Park, however, has never hosted a World Series game. In 30 years.
“For me, it’s very disappointing. We were close for a few years,” said former Orioles wide receiver Chris Hoiles, who played his entire major league career in Baltimore and was part of the 1997 team that went wire to wire to lose in the Premier League. ‘ALCS versus the Cleveland Indians. “It’s disappointing in itself when you know you have the team to do it and you go wire to wire and you don’t do it. I think we had the team to beat, and unfortunately we didn’t. weren’t there at the end.
It’s a common theme throughout the club’s tenure at this stadium. Some good teams, some highlights. But not enough in a given season.
“I just know that in 1992 and 1993 we had a chance. We played an excellent defense. We had a lock pen. We could direct Big Ben (McDonald) and Mussina there. We had a chance,” said Rick Sutcliffe, who won the stadium opener in 1992. “For some reason in 1992 and 1993 the Orioles couldn’t do it, and I think that probably took the first chance for people to see a World Series here at Camden Yards.
Then it was 1996 and 1997. And then 2012 and 2014. Good teams; no World Series appearances.
“It would be a great show to have a World Series here in Baltimore,” Mussina said. “There are a lot of other factors that come into play. Sometimes it’s luck. But one day. One day, we hope they will have the opportunity to host one.
The drought is 38 years and counting. Conversely, the Orioles played in six World Series and won three during their 37-year tenure at Memorial Stadium.
Camden Yards outperforms Memorial in every way except field play. And the championship memories created there.
“Memorial Stadium was not pretty. The lodges, there were a lot of things that had a lot to be desired,” Sutcliffe said. “I don’t think there’s anything in this stadium that they haven’t thought of. And now those same fans who were here 30 years ago, they have an exciting team to watch once more.
Who knows what will happen to these young Orioles this year and in the near future? But the ex-Orioles who were at Camden Yards on Friday afternoon are hoping the momentum created so far this season will continue to build until the playoffs are a formality and the World Series is a reality.
“Once that happens, and it will hopefully happen sooner rather than later, it’s going to be crazy,” Devereaux said. “The best fans I’ve played in front of, and they deserve to have a playoffs and a World Series here. And if that happens, I’ll be here. Because I just want to see how it all goes and have a World Series here in Baltimore, at Camden Yards, which is the best stadium in the country, I wish I was here to check that out.
Gibbons played for the Orioles from 2001 to 2007, some of the darkest days in franchise history. In 2012, when the club won the AL wild card and qualified for the ALDS against the New York Yankees, Gibbons donned the jersey of his best pal Brian Roberts and flew from California in Baltimore to watch a playoff game, undetected, from the right field bleachers.
“I think it was also the first game I’ve come back to as a fan since I’ve played,” Gibbons said. “The atmosphere was so electric in the stands. … You could just see the passion from the fans. That’s what I’ve always felt (it would be). If we won, it would be like this every night.
Andino said he’ll never forget that 2012 ALDS and how much Orioles fans wanted playoff baseball after 14 years without it. He said he could only imagine what it would be like when the Orioles finally reach the Fall Classic.
“I think when this place gets to a World Series, it’s going to explode. One hundred percent,” Andino said. “I mean, just (remember) when we were in the playoffs with the Yankees, at what that was crazy.”
And it was even stronger two years later, when Young’s double clicked around left field and three runs were scored in Game 2 of the ALDS – it was the most heartbreaking moment of my playing career. sportswriter.
Baseball is cyclical. The Orioles will be good again. And the seeds are planted this year for the next group to make at least one playoff run. Or more.
This 30th anniversary weekend reminds us of how great Camden Yards used to be. And is.
And it also reminds us of the one thing that would make this stadium complete.
“It’s great to see the fact that these guys are winning. It’s been a long time. And it brings fun to the game and to Baltimore fans,” Devereaux said. “I think the future is bright. … I think there’s a bright future for winning baseball in Baltimore, which is well deserved.
(Photo: Julio Cortez/Associated Press)