It is the birthplace of The Star-Spangled Banner, the resting place of Edgar Allen Poe, and the place where a stadium constructed during the nostalgia-soaked 1980s defines the paradigm for retro ballparks.
Petco Park, PNC Park, and several others, indeed, have Oriole Park at Camden Yards in their DNA. It began the erasure of the circular goliaths built in the 1960s for multiple sports, changing the game of ballpark architecture for urban planners, government officials, and fans. Shea Stadium hosted the Jets and the Mets. Going to the “Vet” for a sports fan meant either a Phillies game or an Eagles game. Memorial Stadium gave Baltimore a home for the Orioles and the Colts.
Oriole Park ushered in a back to the future approach to creating a space where baseball can flourish.
- The statues of Oriole icons are amazingly detailed. When observing Jim Palmer’s left leg extended just before releasing the ball, you almost think the statue will come to life. Brooks Robinson stands in a slight crouch, waiting for a line drive or ground ball. Earl Weaver, hands in back pockets, appears ready for another argument with an umpire.
- The Baltimore Sun has an electric sign past center field with its shortened name—The Sun. When there’s a hit, the “h” flashes. An error prompts the “e” to flash.
- Baseball-themed plaques dot Eutaw Street outside the outfield perimeter, marking the spots where balls have landed. One plaque sits on the exterior of a restaurant—Ken Griffey, Jr. knocked that dinger during Home Run Derby of the 1993 All-Star Game.
- A statue of Babe Ruth stands outside an entrance, reminding entrants that, while the Bambino found pitching success in Boston and earned legend status with home runs in New York, he is a Baltimorean.
- Cal Ripken, Jr. made baseball history at Oriole Park in 1995, when he eclipsed Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games.
- Pope John Paul II celebrated mass at Oriole Park when he visited Baltimore on his 1995 trip. The NBC television show Homicide features Frank Pembleton, played by Andre Braugher, watching the Pope’s visit on television.
- On April 6, 1992, President George H. W. Bush threw out the first pitch for the first game at Oriole Park. It was a fitting moment for the former first baseman for Yale.
- Baltimore’s rich train legacy permeates the ballpark. Beyond right field, the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Warehouse stands as a testament to the city’s transportation past, occupied present by team offices. Camden Yards is the site of the B&O’s rail yard in days of yore.
- Dave, The West Wing, and The Wire contain scenes at Oriole Park—the first two offerings focus on fictional presidents throwing out the first ball. In an episode of House of Cards, the fictional vice president, Frank Underwood throws out the first ball; Kevin Spacey, an Orioles fan, plays the devious Underwood in the series.
- Baltimore’s communal feeling surrounds Oriole Park. Its aura is one of friendliness. Its history, one of the richest in baseball. Major League Baseball planted a flag in Baltimore when the St. Louis Browns moved after the 1953 season, but it was not the first MLB team for the city. Dating back to 1882, Baltimore had a major league presence. When a game takes place at Oriole Park, it continues a legacy ignited by John McGraw, Hughie Jennings, and Wee Willie Keeler; bolstered by Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, and Jim Palmer; and cemented by Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray, and Earl Weaver.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on September 25, 2016.