Oriole Park

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Exterior of the fifth old "Oriole Park" (originally "Terrapin Park", built 1914) at northwest corner of Greenmount Avenue and 29th Streets 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 downtown home of the Baltimore Orioles, its full name being Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

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

First Oriole Park[edit]

The first field called Oriole Park was built on the southwest corner of Sixth Street / Huntingdon Avenue (later renamed 25th Street), to the north; and York Road (later Greenmount Avenue) to the east. The park was also variously known as Huntingdon Avenue Park and American Association Park. It was the first home of the major league American Association professional baseball franchise, the first to bear the name of the Baltimore Orioles, during 1882–1888.

Second Oriole Park[edit]

In 1889, the Orioles 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 renamed 29th Street) (on the north) and York Road (later Greenmount Avenue) (on the east). The future 9th Street (later renamed 28th Street) would be south, and the future Barclay Street would be west. This field in the then suburban village of Waverly, a community then just outside the northeast city limits of Baltimore at North Avenue (then called Boundary Avenue), from 1816, served as the home of the American Association Orioles entry during 1889 through the first month of the spring season in 1891.[1]

A rough diagram of the ballpark which appeared in the Baltimore Sun on March 21, 1889, showed the diamond and the stands in the northern portion of the block, with the outfield in the southern portion. The club's reason for abandoning the park after just two full seasons is implied in another Baltimore Sun article, for April 27, 1891, describing the upcoming Union Park as "better and more convenient". Coincidentally, Oriole Park II was one city block south of two later Oriole Parks at 29th Street and Greenmount Avenue in the early 20th century, 1901–1915 and 1916–1944.

Union Park / Third Oriole Park[edit]

The club opened Union Park (sometimes called Oriole Park, and retroactively tagged Oriole Park III) in early 1891 also south of Waverly at Greenmount Avenue and Sixth Street (also called Huntingdon Avenue, and today known as 25th Street) and operated there for the rest of the 1890s, when the team joined the National League of 1892 after the competing American Association folded. Union Park was the Orioles' home during the first "glory years" of Baltimore baseball. Despite their great success in the 1890s, with three straight National League pennants and winning the "Temple Cup" Series twice, Baltimore was dropped when the National League contracted from 12 to eight teams in 1900.[2]

American League Park / Fourth Oriole Park[edit]

The newly formed American League from the reorganized Western League, under its new president Ban Johnson, took up in 1901 where the reduced National League had left off the previous year, adding some of the dropped cities while directly challenging the National in other cities. 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 but slightly farther north as the 1889–91 field site (located at 39°19′22″N 76°36′37″W / 39.32278°N 76.61028°W / 39.32278; -76.61028) from the last years of the old American Association.

The American League's new Orioles and charter member team played for two seasons before they were transferred north for the 1903 season to become the New York Highlanders (or the New York Americans), as part of a peace pact and recognition agreement between the two competing baseball leagues, and to give the American League a foothold in the nation's largest city. That Highlanders team soon became known as the New York Yankees. Baltimore revived professional baseball as a minor league club, an entry in the Eastern League (later renamed International League), which began play at this same Oriole Park/American League Park. There they were very successful, producing some remarkable and marketable players, including the local star Babe Ruth, who was sold to the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher, and later gained even greater fame as a home run slugger with that same New York Yankees franchise which had begun in Baltimore.

The block was rectangular, with home plate in the northwest corner. A Baltimore Sun piece about the new Terrapin Park on May 29, 1914, gave the dimensions of Oriole Park (IV) as left field 322 feet, center field 475 feet, right field 318 feet.

Terrapin Park / Fifth Oriole Park[edit]

The last and by far the best known Oriole Park prior to Camden Yards is the fifth one, 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, in Chicago (for the Chicago Cubs) were made of steel and concrete, but Terrapin Park was made of wood, which would prove to be its undoing, but its eventual demise would boost Baltimore's chances of returning to the major leagues.

Terrapin Park was built on a wedge-shaped block bounded by 10th Street (later renamed 29th Street), York Road (later Greenmount Avenue), 11th Street (later renamed 30th Street) and the angling small alley-like Vineyard Lane (originally Gilmore Lane). That is, it was directly across the street, to the north and west, from the existing Oriole Park/American League Park. That competition proved too strong for the Orioles, who moved out of Baltimore in mid-season 1914. The Federal League experiment ended after two seasons, and a revived Orioles club acquired the newer park to the north in 1916, renaming it Oriole Park, (now retroactively labeled Oriole Park V). The abandoned Oriole Park IV property became the site of a Billy Sunday tabernacle.

Following the demise of the "Fed", the Baltimore professional baseball interests became a primary party in an antitrust legal suit filed against Major League Baseball and involving the Commissioner of Baseball. This resulted in the landmark 1922 U.S. Supreme Court decision, in Federal Baseball Club v. National League, that exempted baseball from antitrust laws.

On April 18, 1919, the Red Sox came through town on their way north from spring training, and played an exhibition game at Oriole Park (V). Ruth then put on a hitting exhibition the likes of which Baltimoreans (and most others) had never seen before, rocketing four home runs out of the ballpark, three of which were estimate to have traveled 500 feet or more.

The Orioles had great success at this ballpark, winning seven consecutive International League championships from 1919 through 1925.

In 1930, Oriole Park (V) joined the growing ranks of minor league ballparks with lights for night games. The Orioles played a couple of exhibition games against major league teams, then staged their first International League night game on September 11.

Due to World War II travel restrictions, the 1944 Boston Red Sox held spring training at the park, rather than traveling to Florida.[3][4]

Terrapin / Oriole Park was located at 39°19′26″N 76°36′40″W / 39.32389°N 76.61111°W / 39.32389; -76.61111. Home plate was toward the southwest corner, in the "vee" of the wedge-shaped block. The playing field was small by modern standards. The exact dimensions are not known with precision, but a Baltimore Sun item from May 2, 1935, indicates left field 290 feet, center field 412 feet (it was about 450 before the scoreboard was added), and right field 313 feet.

1944 fire and aftermath[edit]

This fifth 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, a fire of uncertain origin (speculated to have been a discarded cigarette) totally consumed the old ballpark and every object the team had on-site, including uniforms and trophies.

The club quickly arranged to make their temporary home in Municipal Stadium, the city's football field which had opened in 1922. Literally rising from the ashes, the Orioles went on to win the International League championship, and then the Junior World Series over Louisville of the American Association. The large post-season crowds that fall of 1944 at Municipal Stadium, which would not have been possible at the old wooden Oriole Park, caught the attention of the major leagues, and Baltimore soon became a viable option for struggling teams who were considering moving to other cities.

Motivated by the Orioles' success, the city chose to rebuild the old Municipal Stadium as a multi-purpose facility of major league caliber, which they renamed Memorial Stadium. Two new tenants were the National Football League's newly relocated Baltimore Colts in 1953, and then the new "big league" Orioles, when the St. Louis Browns transferred to the city in 1954.

The new (sixth) Oriole Park[edit]

After operating for nearly four decades at Memorial Stadium, in 1992 the club moved downtown to a new baseball-only facility which revived the traditional local ballpark name as Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Sources[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  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.
  3. ^ "Ball Clubs Change Only Three Camps". The Palm Beach Post. AP. January 23, 1944. p. 19. Retrieved November 9, 2018 – via newspapers.com.
  4. ^ "Red Sox Arrive Today For Oriole Park Drill". The Baltimore Sun. AP. March 26, 1944. p. 20. Retrieved November 9, 2018 – via newspapers.com.