Oriole Park at Camden Yards
The 15-year period from 1989-2004 saw an explosion in ballpark construction, with 17 teams finding new homes and baseball fans suddenly enjoying modern amenities and better sight-lines. Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened April 6, 1992 and immediately became the standard by which all other stadiums would be judged, with its traditional ballpark design, inclusion of historical details, sense of place within the downtown community and consideration of the players and fans needs and desires. The ballpark is universally embraced by the players, the fans and the city.
Those standards and that vision were the mantra of team President Larry Lucchino, who hired the talented Janet Marie Smith as the Orioles Vice President for Planning and Development in 1989. She oversaw the design and construction of the Orioles’ new home. The construction, which began in 1989 and was completed in 33 months, combined the skills of contractor HOK, urban design firm RTKL, landscape architecture firm Wallace, Roberts and Todd, and Smith, among others. The cost to build Oriole Park was $110 million.
Hall of Fame traveling photographer Jean Fruth gives us a view into the beauty of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Orioles Park sits on an 85-acre parcel at the foot of Baltimore’s downtown Inner Harbor, on what was once a railroad center. It’s located just two blocks away from Babe Ruth’s birthplace and center field is where Ruth’s father operated “Ruth’s Cafe,” on the grounds of the family residence. The ballpark seats 45,971 today.
The view from the Fourth Floor Bridge, which connects the warehouse and ballpark, includes The Bromo Seltzer Tower, a distinct Baltimore landmark.
There’s great attention to historical detail at Oriole Park, starting with the brick façade, which was the first modern stadium to replace the concrete and steel structures that dominated ballpark architecture in the 1960s and 70s. The stadium seats are ballpark green until they are filled with fans, and then one becomes immersed in a sea of black and orange as fans proudly display their team’s colors.
The B&O Warehouse, which was built at the turn of the 20th century and still today remains the longest building on the East Coast, looms large along Eutaw Street, behind the right field bleachers.
Eutaw Street is adorned with bronze baseball markers, which signify home runs to reach the concourse beyond right field. Only one marker is affixed to the historic warehouse beyond the street, and represents 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Ken Griffey Jr.’s blast in the 1993 Home Run Derby, prior to the All-Star Game.
The team’s flag court is located between the right field out-of-town scoreboard and Eutaw Street, and contains each of the American League flags that arranged daily in the order of the divisional standings.
Atop the centerfield scoreboard are a pair of Oriole wind vanes while the scoreboard’s clock spells "Baltimore Sun" rather than using numbers. The "H" and "E" in the logo light up to denote a Hit or an Error.
Historical Orioles logos, slogans and songs are prevalent throughout the concourses. Each row of ballpark seats contains the Orioles logo from the 1890s, when the team was in the National League and a dominant force. Ornithologically correct birds, baked in enamel, adorn all gates around the ballpark. And the Orioles have even planted a garden outside of the ballpark, specifically designed to attract orioles to the area.
Cal Ripken Jr. spent the last 10 seasons of his 21-year Hall of Fame career in Camden Yards, and is the author of many of the parks most indelible moments. Eddie Murray was in the National League when the ballpark opened, but came back in a trade in his second to last season, and was able to call it home for half of a year. Other recent Orioles in Cooperstown including Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver never spent time in a dugout at Camden Yards, but they join Ripken and Murray as the six Orioles with statues in the Picnic Garden located behind the bullpens, which are exposed so fans can watch relief pitchers loosen their arms.
Counted among the ballpark’s many memorable moments are Ripken Jr. tying and then passing Lou Gehrig to set the all-time record for consecutive games played, and Murray hitting his 500th career home run. And with the excitement surrounding today’s first place Orioles, many more great moments could be a breath away.