Oriole Park at Camden Yards History
When Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened on April 6, 1992, a new era of Major League Baseball began. The park was brand new, but still old-fashioned. State-of-the-art, yet quaint. At less than a day old, it was already a classic.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards inspired a generation of ballpark construction. No longer would communities across America build multipurpose stadiums devoid of character, surrounded by vast parking lots. Ballparks would now be created to nestle neatly into existing and historic neighborhoods and play key roles in the revitalization of urban America.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards captured the nation's attention from day one and in the 20 seasons that followed, has served as the standard by which all new ballparks are measured. Citizens of Baltimore and all of Maryland, as well as Orioles fans throughout Birdland, should take great pride in the fact that our team makes its home in the ballpark that forever changed baseball.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the beautiful baseball-only facility in downtown Baltimore, became the official home of the Orioles on April 6, 1992. The construction of the park was completed in essentially 33 months from the time razing previous structures on the 85-acre parcel began June 28, 1989 in the area known as Camden Yards.
The one-time railroad center is 12 minutes west by foot from the City's Inner Harbor and only 2 blocks from the birthplace of baseball's most legendary hero, George Herman "Babe" Ruth. Ruth's father operated Ruth's Cafe on the ground floor of the family residence located at Conway Street & Little Paca, now center field at Oriole Park. The ballpark originally seated 48,041 (and now seats 45,971), and the project cost was approximately $110 million. It was designed by the Kansas City architectural firm of Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK) with direction and input from the Orioles and the State of Maryland, which owns and operates the facility through its agency, the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA).
Working under contract to HOK were the urban design firm of RTKL, the landscape architecture firm of Wallace, Roberts and Todd, and the engineering firms of Bliss and Nyitray; Rummel, Klepper and Kahl; and Kidde Consultants, Inc. Working under contract to the Orioles were the interior design firm of Forte Design and the graphic design firm of David Ashton and Associates.
Oriole Park is state-of-the-art, yet unique, traditional and intimate in design. It blends with the urban context of downtown Baltimore while taking its image from baseball parks built in the early 20th century. Steel, rather than concrete trusses, an arched brick facade, a sun roof over the gentle slope of the upper deck, an asymmetrical playing field, and natural grass turf are just some of the features that tie it to those magnificent big league ballparks built in the early 1900's. Ebbets Field (Brooklyn), Shibe Park (Philadelphia), Fenway Park (Boston), Crosley Field (Cincinnati), Forbes Field (Pittsburgh), Wrigley Field (Chicago), and The Polo Grounds (New York) were among the ballparks that served as powerful influences in the design of Oriole Park.
The field is 16' below street level and is comprised of a sophisticated irrigation and drainage system below natural grass turf. It is designed to reduce the frequency of rainouts by shortening the length of baseball's most exasperating feature, the rain delay. The field's system makes it possible to get the field ready for play within a half hour after the end of a heavy rainstorm. The drainage system automatically removes as much as 75,000 gallons of rainwater from the field in an hour.
Following the 2000 season, the ballpark's infield and outfield were completely rebuilt, replacing the dirt, sand rootzone mix, sod and drainage. The drainage system was modernized by utilizing an inlaid piping system topped by a fabric mesh and gravel 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 that is genetically darker in color and more durable than the version previously used at Oriole Park, giving the field a more vibrant green color.
For Camden Yards' first nine seasons, outfield dimensions were 333 feet to left field, 364 feet to left center, 400 feet to center, 373 feet to right center and 318 feet to right. Prior to the 2001 season, in conjunction with extensive renovations to the ballpark's playing surface and drainage system, the Orioles reconfigured the ballpark with outfield dimensions that were up to 7 feet larger than those used since Camden Yards opened in 1992. However, it was found that the new dimensions did not significantly improve sight lines for fans, as had been anticipated, and adversely affected the viewing angle of the batter's eye wall.
As a result, the ballpark was returned to its original dimensions before the 2002 season. The changes included moving home plate approximately seven feet closer to the outfield, to its original spot 59 feet from the backstop. In addition, the entire field was shifted several degrees to the first base side and both the left field and right field foul poles were repositioned to their original locations. The foul line measurements decreased from 320 feet to 318 feet in right field and from 337 to 333 feet in left field. The center field distance decreased from 406 to 400 feet and the deepest part of the ballpark, in left center field, decreased from 417 to 410 feet.
The shorter distance to the right field corner than down the left field line is compensated by a 21' high wall, which extends 100' from the right field line toward center. The fence in the rest of the park is only 7' high.
Located beyond right field, the B&O Warehouse is 439 feet from home plate. Built between 1898-1905, the warehouse is the longest building on the East Coast at 1016' (but only 51' wide). It has been preserved and now provides unique office space for the Orioles as well as home for the banquet facilities, the ballpark's central kitchen and space for ballpark operations. The Orioles' main ticket office operates out of the north end of the Warehouse.
The ballpark and warehouse are separated by a 60' wide promenade, an extension of Eutaw Street. Open daily, Eutaw Street is home to plaques dedicated to members of the Orioles Hall of Fame, the Mid-Atlantic Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame and the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame.
Small circular plaques are found in the concrete along Eutaw Street, marking the locations where home runs have landed since the ballpark opened. Through the 2011 season, 39 different players have hit 57 homeruns which have landed on Eutaw Street (24 by the Orioles and 33 by the visiting team). Luke Scott's 6 homeruns are the most by any player in Oriole Park history.
In addition, numbers representing the players whose uniforms have been retired by the Orioles are located outside the north Eutaw Street gates.
Ballpark tours depart regularly from the Baseball Store on Eutaw Street. The Orioles Official Team Store, open daily, is located on the ground floor of the warehouse.
When the Orioles moved to Camden Yards for the 1992 season, they brought with them the right field foul pole that had been used for 37 seasons at Memorial Stadium. The foul pole was affixed atop the tall wall in right field in the Flag Court. Prior to the 2001 season, the Orioles replaced the original Camden Yards left field foul pole with the left field pole that had been used throughout their stay at Memorial Stadium. At 70 feet high, the new/old foul pole is 20 feet shorter than the previously used pole and requires a more modest support structure, which allows more fans in seats in the lower, club and upper deck levels to have an unobstructed view of the field. The foul poles were returned to their original positions when the ballpark was reconfigured to its original dimensions after the 2001 season.
On Veteran's Day 2002, ground was broken at the south end of the Eutaw Street warehouse for a memorial wall to honor residents of Maryland who were killed in all of our nation's wars. Designed by Baltimore-based CS&D Architects, the memorial was created to replace the one razed at Memorial Stadium earlier in the year. The 11-foot-tall, curving black granite wall features the well-known phrase from the Memorial Stadium facade, spelled out in the original stainless steel lettering: "Time Will Not Dim the Glory of Their Deeds." In other links to the old stadium, an urn from East 33rd Street containing soil from all foreign American military cemeteries is displayed under glass, and a plaque explains the significance of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore history. A bench allows visitors the opportunity to rest and reflect at any time during the day or evening, and the memorial is illuminated at night. A dedication ceremony was held on Memorial Day, May 26, 2003.
In May 2005, the Babe Ruth Museum opened its expansion project, Sports Legends at Camden Yards, in the historic Camden Station building at the north end of the warehouse. Covering 22,000 square feet and showcasing more than 10,000 artifacts, Sports Legends is an interactive, innovative tour of Maryland's sports heritage. The space includes exhibits on the Orioles, Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas, along with an in-depth look at the history of the Negro Leagues in Baltimore. Other exhibits include Maryland's minor league baseball teams, college sports, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame.
Opened in 1856, Camden Station had been unused since the 1980's prior to the renovations. In its heyday, the station was the grand passenger terminus of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the country's first commercial railroad. In 1954, the brand-new Baltimore Orioles franchise arrived at Camden Station from a season-opening series in Detroit for their first home game at Memorial Stadium.
Abraham Lincoln passed through the station on several occasions, once en route to his inauguration in 1861, and also on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln's funeral car also stopped there on its way to Springfield, Illinois, for his burial. As part of the renovations, the Gentlemen's Waiting Room will be restored to its Civil War splendor and will interpret Lincoln's passages through Camden Station, the Civil War, and Camden Station's role in America's transportation history.
Major improvements and upgrades have been made to the entire Oriole Park entertainment system within the past several years. Prior to the 2008 season, the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority contracted with Mitsubishi to purchase a new video system for Oriole Park at Camden Yards, replacing the Sony JumboTRON video board and Daktronics matrix and out-of-town boards used since the park opened in 1992. This state of the art equipment includes a Mitsubishi DiamondVision LED video board and LED scoreboard in center field, an LED out of town scoreboard display in right field, and LED "ribbon" boards along the club level and upper deck fascia.
The new DiamondVision LED video board sits atop the LED scoreboard, reversing the placement of the previous system. The LED out of town scoreboard in right field features statistical information in addition to game scores. The narrow auxiliary matrix boards along the club level and upper deck were replaced with LED ribbon boards, providing better definition, brighter images and wider viewing angles. ScorePAD Sports, Inc.'s state-of-the-art STADIUMnet scoring system provides extensive statistical information on each player to help keep fans informed.
In order to preserve the traditional feel of Oriole Park while providing fans with the most modern technology, the Orioles hired an expert design team to work with the Maryland Stadium Authority to deliver major technological upgrades while preserving the ballpark's historic aesthetic.
Phase two of the ballpark improvements were completed prior to the 2009 season and included major control room upgrades, new HD televisions throughout the ballpark and improvements in the coverage and quality of the ballpark sound system. The ballpark entertainment control room replacement allows the entertainment system to transmit a high-definition (HD) signal to the main and auxiliary video boards and further enhance the fan experience at Oriole Park.
The 2009 sound system renovations included 530 new speakers in all, replacing those that had been in place since Oriole Park opened. To improve coverage and consistency of sound throughout the seating area, a number of additional loudspeaker positions were created. New speakers are located in the Upper and Lower Deck seating bowl, Club Level, Main Concourse, centerfield bleacher area and scoreboard. The new system employs digital signal processing (DSP) that is significantly more advanced than what was previously used and allows a much greater level of control. The result is a substantially more uniform listening experience throughout the seating area.
After the 2010 season, the Maryland Stadium Authority completed the final phase of the replacement of the seats in the Oriole Park seating bowl as part of their deferred maintenance program. After the 2009 season, all seats in the lower level from foul pole to foul pole were replaced, along with necessary repairs to the concrete in this area. The work concluded in the winter of 2010-2011, as MSA repaired concrete and replaced seats in the lower level outfield, the club level and the upper deck.
At the request of the Orioles, the Club Level and upper deck at Camden Yards have been furnished with wider seats that are more comfortable for fans. Sightlines for fans on both of those levels were improved with the installation of new, less intrusive railings to enhance the view of those sitting in the first few rows, as well as fans sitting in and around upper deck equal access and companion seats.
Other ballpark improvements made prior to the 2011 season included the installation of drink rails in portions of the club level seating bowl down the left field line, as well as the addition of bistro tables facing the field on the left field club level and the creation of the Miller Lite Flite Deck in the corner of the right field club level. All of the new locations provide a unique, more social experience for fans and are ideal for individuals as well as small and large groups.
Every aisle seat in the park has an extra feature: a reproduction of the 100-year old logo used by the Baltimore Orioles of the 1890's, a National League team that won consecutive pennants in 1894-95-96.
The lower deck comprises some 18,000 box seats between the foul poles. Behind the box seats there are some 6,400 terrace box and lower reserved seats. Prior to the 2004 season, 72 field level seats were installed behind home plate. Seats in the lower stand are generally closer to the field. From the front row of seats to first and third bases, for example, the distance is 45'. From home plate to the screen measures 47'.
The Mezzanine, or Club Level, stretches from the right field foul pole to left-center field and is accessible by escalators, elevators, stairs, and ramps. There is waiter service available at the seats and behind the seating area on the club level concourse is a climate-controlled lounge with private dining and bar areas.
Also on the Club Level are 61 luxury suites, with the ability to accommodate a variety of groups, from smaller gatherings with 14-18 guests to larger parties with 30-40 guests. While some of the suites are leased on a full or partial season basis, a number of them are available for individual game rentals. Three larger party suites, named to honor Orioles legends, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer, can accommodate groups of up to 75 people.
The Upper Deck contains 25 rows of seats (the first 12 are boxes, the last 13 reserved seats) and has a gentle slope of 31 degrees (Memorial Stadium, like many parks, was 33 degrees). A sun roof was constructed to cover half of the upper deck seating area.
Some 1,850 Eutaw Street Reserve seats, among the most popular in the park, are located in right-center field. There are also standing room only tickets that go on sale two hours before game time. The SRO areas are found on the right field flag court and just above the visitor's bullpen in left field.
With the installation of wider seats in the Club Level and upper deck, total seating capacity in the ballpark was decreased from 48,290 to 45,971 beginning in 2011. More than 400 seats are available to fans with disabilities in the equal access areas (EA), which are located throughout the ballpark.
Since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992, many exciting improvements have been made to help enhance the "Oriole Park Experience"...
- Drink rails were installed in portions of the club level seating bowl down the left field line, as well as bistro tables facing the field on the left field club level and the Miller Lite Flite Deck in the corner of the right field club level.
- Concrete and seats throughout the ballpark were replaced following the 2009 and 2010 seasons as part of the Maryland Stadium Authority's deferred maintenance program. Cushions were added to the lower level seats between the bases.
- Prior to 2010, all the rows in the entire ballpark were switched from letters to numbers, to more clearly designate the number of rows from the field or the front of the club and upper levels.
- The Home Plate Plaza Lobby, Home Plate Lounge and Upper and Lower Press Levels were renovated during the 2009 off-season.
- Within the past three years, the entire ballpark entertainment system, including the audio, video and scoreboards, were upgraded or replaced.
- Seats in sections 16-58 were replaced prior to 2004 with chairs with higher backs and padding. Cupholders were also installed to the 6,200 new seats.
- Two rows of seats were added at field level behind home plate prior to the 2004 season, a total of 72 seats. Also, ten seats were added to section 16 and 14 seats were added to section 58 at that time.
- Also prior to the 2004 season, the concrete wall behind home plate was replaced with brick, in keeping with the Camden Yards aesthetic. Two 7.5' rotational signs were also added to the wall.
- Prior to and during the early part of the 2000 season, the entrance area to the Home Plate Plaza Lobby was redesigned to provide a new floor covering, new wall finishes and redesigned elevators.
- Also in 2000, the first floor lobby of the Warehouse at 333 W. Camden Street was redesigned from floor to ceiling to provide improved traffic flow and to accentuate the original structural and architectural elements of the Warehouse.
- Prior to the 2000 season, the fourth floor lobby of the Warehouse also was refinished and improved to create a fresher, more enjoyable experience for those using party facilities and club level ticket holders who use this entrance to the ballpark.
- Included in the improvements made during the 1999 season, the ticket reader system used at the turnstiles was upgraded. The ticket entrances were enlarged and the reader system itself was expanded to allow more types of tickets to be fed through the turnstile readers, providing fans a smoother, quicker entry to the ballpark.
- In an on-going project that began in early 1999, the Orioles offices located in the B & O Warehouse have undergone major renovations in order to give the offices a warmer look. In addition to redesigned office space, new artwork and artifacts are displayed in the lobby and in the glass entry doors.
- Prior to the 1999 season, an Upper Deck Fan Assistance Center was constructed in the Homeplate Elevator Lobby.
- Prior to the 1999 season, the warning track surrounding the playing field was painted a shade of brown to more closely match the color of the infield dirt and to complement the colors of the B&O Warehouse.
- Work was completed on repainting the entire steel "superstructure" of the ballpark. The work was begun prior to the 2000 season and completed during the year.
- The Club Level and Suites have undergone a complete refurbishing, including new furniture, wallpaper and carpeting. The Orioles World Series trophies, Gold Glove, MVP and Cy Young Awards are on view at the entrance to the Club Level. Photos and records of each Orioles team beginning in 1954, as well as other artifacts of the club's history, adorn the corridors. The alcove lounges on the Club Level have been named and decorated in themes, providing greater ambiance for fans and making it easier to meet friends at a designated area, such as the "All-Star Lounge," "Hall of Fame Lounge" and "MVPs Lounge." Photos of members of the Orioles Hall of Fame have been hung outside the party suites in the left field area of the Club Level.
- Smoking was banned from the seating bowl in 1993.
Plaques and other displays around the ballpark honor various athletic accomplishments...
- Orioles Hall of Fame: Located at the north end of the warehouse on the wall at the base of the scoreboard, plaques honor the members inducted annually and are similar in appearance to those enshrined in Cooperstown. They feature the Oriole Hall of Famer's likeness and a brief description of his accomplishments.
- Orioles' Retired Numbers: 4-foot monuments, located at the north end of the warehouse in front of the Orioles ticket windows, honor the uniform numbers worn by Earl Weaver (4), Brooks Robinson (5), Cal Ripken Jr. (8), Frank Robinson (20), Jim Palmer (22) and Eddie Murray (33).
- Mid-Atlantic Scouts Hall of Fame: As a tribute to baseball scouts over the years, the plaques are mounted on a wall on Eutaw Street.
- Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame: The names of Marylanders who left their mark in athletic endeavors and have been inducted into the state's Athletic Hall of Fame are mounted on a wall on Eutaw Street; a full display with highlights of each inductee's career is located in the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, next to the ballpark.
- Cal Ripken Seat: To honor Cal's 278th career homer, surpassing Ernie Banks' major league record for home runs by a shortstop, the Orioles marked the spot where the ball landed (Section 86, Row 4, Seat 10) with an orange seat. The homer came on July 15, 1993 off Scott Erickson, then with Minnesota.
- Eddie Murray Seat: To honor Eddie's 500th career home run, hit on September 6, 1996 off Detroit's Felipe Lira, the Orioles installed an orange seat in the right field bleachers where the ball landed (Section 96, Row 7, Seat 23).
- Eutaw Street Home Runs: Brass baseball plates are embedded into the Eutaw Street sidewalk marking the spots where home runs cleared the right field fence wall. These plates contain the home run hitter's name, his team's logo, the distance the ball traveled, and the date the home run was hit.
- Plaques in the Oriole Park press box have been erected honoring three individuals: the late Rex Barney, Orioles public address announcer for more than 25 years; the late Vernon Joiner, longtime head of the club's famed press box attendants crew; and Bob Brown, the Orioles' public relations director for more than 25 years.
- In ceremonies prior to Cal Ripken, Jr.'s final game on October 6, 2001, the Orioles unveiled a plaque in the first base dugout dedicated to Cal Ripken, Sr. It is inscribed: "Cal Ripken Sr. Dedicated to a lifelong Oriole of thirty-six years, and one of the game's greatest teachers. Coach, manager and devoted mentor to countless young Orioles, "Senior" dedicated his life to baseball and passed on his respect of the game to everyone he coached. He preached "perfect practice, makes perfect" and stressed the importance of being prepared, learning the "Right way" and playing to the best of one's ability every inning of every game. We will always remember his devotion to the Orioles, his love of the game, and his many lessons..."
- Relief pitcher Jesse Orosco made his 1,072nd career appearance on August 17, 1999 to pass Dennis Eckersley for the Major League record for most games pitched. In honor of his accomplishment, the Orioles installed a plaque with Orosco's uniform number, 47, above the bench in their bullpen.
- In honor of Earl Weaver's induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a silver "4" and plaque identifying Weaver's years as manager was added to the Orioles' dugout wall in July 1996, near where the manager traditionally stands.
- First Game: April 6, 1992 vs. Cleveland Indians
- First Pitch: Thrown by Rick Sutcliffe
- First Pitch and Game Time Temperature: 3:20 p.m. EDT; it was a ball...Temperature was 63 degrees
- First Batter: Kenny Lofton, Indians center fielder, flied out to right fielder Joe Orsulak on a 3-2 pitch
- First Hit: Cleveland's first baseman Paul Sorrento, singled to left-center with one out in the top of the 2nd inning
- First Orioles Hit: Orioles first baseman Glenn Davis led off the bottom of the 2nd inning with a single to center
- First Run: In the 5th inning, O's designated hitter Sam Horn walked, went to 2nd base on 3rd baseman Leo Gomez's single and scored on catcher Chris Hoiles' double
- First RBI: Catcher Chris Hoiles hit a ground-rule double (ball bounced over the left-center fence) to score Sam Horn
- First Double: Chris Hoiles, driving in Sam Horn for the ballpark's first RBI
- First Strikeout: Sutcliffe victimized Cleveland's right fielder Mark Whiten in the 2nd inning
- First Home Run: Cleveland's Paul Sorrento (3-run homer), 1st inning, off Bob Milacki, April 8
- First Orioles Home Run: Mike Devereaux, leading off the 4th inning (off Cleveland's Jack Armstrong), April 9
- First Stolen Base: Cleveland's Mark Lewis (against Ben McDonald and Chris Hoiles), 3rd inning, April 9
- First Grand Slam: Randy Milligan, 7th inning, off Les Lancaster, April 17, vs. Detroit
- First Multi-Home Run Game: Milligan (2), off Detroit's Scott Aldred (One on) and Les Lancaster (Grand Slam), April 17
- First Triple: Cal Ripken, 6th inning, April 17 vs. Detroit, off Scott Aldred
- First Save: Gregg Olson, April 19 vs. Detroit, in a 3-2 victory
America's early colonists noticed a bird whose male bore the black and orange colors of Lord Baltimore, Maryland's founder. It was called a Baltimore oriole until the 1960s, when it was observed to interbreed with a bird called Bullock's oriole. The American Ornithologists' Union declared both would be considered a single species: Northern oriole. But later studies showed that, while the two birds sometimes interbreed, the offspring rarely pass along their genes. In 1994, the Baltimore oriole recovered its status as a species.