Oriole Park

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Exterior of Oriole Park in 1938.

Oriole Park is the name of several former major league and minor league baseball parks in Baltimore, Maryland.

It is also half the name of the current home of the Baltimore Orioles of the American League, its full name being Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Early Oriole Parks

All of the early incarnations of "Oriole Park" were built within a few blocks of each other.

The first field called Oriole Park was built on the southwest corner of Sixth Street / Huntington Avenue (later 25th Street) (north); and York Road (later Greenmount Avenue) (east). The park was also variously known as Huntington Avenue Park and American Association Park. It was the first home of the major league American Association franchise called the Baltimore Orioles, during 1882–1889.

In 1890, the club moved four blocks north and opened a new Oriole Park, retroactively tagged as Oriole Park II. It was on a roughly rectangular block bounded by 10th Street (later 29th) (north); York Road (later Greenmount) (east); 9th Street (later 28th) (south); and Barclay Street (west). This field served as the home of the AA entry only briefly, during 1890 and for the first month in 1891.1 The club's reason for abandoning the park after barely more than one full season is unknown.

The club opened Union Park (also sometimes called Oriole Park - i.e. Oriole Park III) in early 1891 and operated there for the rest of the 1890s, joining the National League when the Association folded, and producing the first glory years of the Orioles. Despite their great success in the 90s, Baltimore was dropped when the League contracted from 12 to 8 teams in 1900.2

The newly formed American League took up in 1901 where the National had left off. They opened a new Oriole Park, retroactively called Oriole Park IV, as well as being dubbed American League Park by the contemporary media. It was on the same site as the 1890-91 experiment (located at 39°19′22″N 76°36′37″W / 39.32278°N 76.61028°W / 39.32278; -76.61028). The AL's Orioles played for just two uneventful seasons before they were transferred north to become the team now known as the New York Yankees, where they eventually became the most successful team in the history of major league baseball. Baltimore was thus reduced to minor league status, as an entry in the International League (then known as the Eastern League) which began play at this same Oriole Park. There they enjoyed some success, producing some marketable players, notably one local boy, Babe Ruth, who was eventually sold to the Boston Red Sox and later gained even greater fame with the same New York Yankees that had begun in Baltimore.

Terrapin Park / Oriole Park

The last and by far the best known Oriole Park prior to Camden Yards started in life as Terrapin Park. It was the home field of the Baltimore Terrapins of the short-lived Federal League of 1914–1915. Some of the Fed facilities, such as the eventual Wrigley Field, were made of steel and concrete, but Terrapin Park was made of wood, a fact that would prove to be its undoing and ironically boost Baltimore's chances of returning to the major leagues.

Terrapin Park was built on a lopsided block bounded by 10th Street (later 29th), York Road (later Greenmount), 11th Street (later 30th) and the angling Vineyard Lane. That is, it was directly across the street, to the north, from the existing Oriole Park. Presumably that did not sit well with the Orioles, but the minor league club survived the challenge. The Fed only lasted two seasons, and the Orioles acquired the newer park in 1916 and renamed it Oriole Park, now retroactively labeled Oriole Park V.

Following the demise of the Fed, the Baltimore baseball interests became a primary party in an antitrust suit filed against Major League Baseball. This resulted in the famous Supreme Court decision, in Federal Baseball Club v. National League, that exempted baseball from antitrust laws, a ruling that still stands. That fact is out of scope of this discussion except to point out that Baltimore had been spurned by the big leagues yet again.

Terrapin / Oriole Park was located at 39°19′26″N 76°36′40″W / 39.32389°N 76.61111°W / 39.32389; -76.61111.

Fire

This Oriole Park was the club's home for the next 28½ seasons. The team enjoyed great success, especially in the early 1920s when the Orioles won seven consecutive International League pennants. Great care was always taken to protect the aging wooden structure, such as hosing it down after games. But on the night of July 3, 1944, the old park's luck ran out. A fire of uncertain origin (speculated to have been a discarded cigarette) totally consumed the old ballpark and everything the team owned.

The suddenly homeless club took refuge in Municipal Stadium, the city's football field. Literally rising from the ashes, in heroic fashion, the Orioles went on to win the International League championship that year, and also the Junior World Series over Louisville of the American Association. The large post-season crowds at Municipal Stadium, which would not have been possible at Oriole Park, caught the attention of the major leagues, and Baltimore suddenly became a viable option for teams looking to move. Had the fire not happened, Baltimore's baseball saga may well have turned out quite differently than it has.

Spurred by the Orioles' success, the city chose to rebuild Municipal Stadium as a multi-purpose facility of major league caliber, which they renamed Memorial Stadium. Baltimore, which had seemed to get "no respect" time after time in the past, finally became big league again in 1954, this time for many years to come.

Sources

  • House of Magic, by the Baltimore Orioles.
  • Green Cathedrals, by Phil Lowry.
  • The Home Team, by James H. Bready.
Preceded by
first ballpark
Home of the
Baltimore Orioles

1901 – 1902
Succeeded by
Hilltop Park
Preceded by
None
Home of the
Baltimore Terrapins

1914 – 1915
Succeeded by
Defunct
Preceded by
first ballpark
Home of the
Baltimore Orioles (minor league)
Succeeded by
Memorial Stadium

References

  1. ^ "1891 Log For Oriole Park II in Baltimore, MD". Retrosheet. Retrieved 8 August 2008. 
  2. ^ "Union Park in Baltimore, MD". Retrosheet. Retrieved 8 August 2008. 







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