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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 renamed 25th Street), to the north; and York Road (later Greenmount Avenue) to the 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 professional baseball franchise, the first to bear the name of the Baltimore Orioles, during 1882–1889.
In 1890, 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); York Road (later Greenmount Avenue) (to the east); 9th Street (later renamed 28th Street) (on the south); and Barclay Street (on west side). 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 A.A. Orioles entry only briefly, during 1890 and for the first month of the spring season in 1891. The club's reason for abandoning the park after barely more than one full season is unknown. Coincidentally, it was one city block south of two later Oriole Parks at 29th Street and Greenmount Avenue in the early 20th century, 1901-1914 and 1916-1944.
The club then opened Union Park (also sometimes called Oriole Park - i.e. also retroactively tagged Oriole Park III) in early 1891 also south of Waverly at Greenmount Avenue and Sixth Street (also called Huntington Avenue, later today known as 25th Street) and operated there for the rest of the 1890s, when the team joined the National League of 1876, when the competing American Association folded, and producing the first glory years of the Orioles of the "Gay Nineties". Despite their great success in the 90s, with three straight N.L. pennants / championships and winning the old "Temple Cup" and several runner-up finishes, Baltimore was unceremoniously dropped when the League contracted from 12 down to 8 teams in 1900.
The newly formed American League from the reorganized Western League, under famous leader and new president Ban Johnson, took up in 1901 where the reduced Nationals had left off several years earlier, adding some of the dropped teams and adding others in additional cities. They opened a new Oriole Park, (also 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 further north as the 1890-91 experimental baseball field site (located at ) from the last years of the old American Association. The A.L.'s new Orioles and charter member team played for just two uneventful seasons before they were transferred north for the 1903 season to become the New York Highlanders, (and occasionally known as the New York Americans) as part of a peace pact and recognition agreement between the two competing baseball leagues and to give the Americans a respectable foothold in the nation's largest city. That Highlanders team is now known since 1913 as the New York Yankees. Baltimore was thus reduced to minor league status, as an entry in the Eastern League and later renamed International League, which began play at this same Oriole Park/American League Park. There they enjoyed some success, producing some remarkable and marketable players, notably one local boy, first as a stunning pitcher, George Herman ("Babe Ruth") Ruth, who was eventually sold to the Boston Red Sox and later gained even greater fame as a home run slugger with the same New York Yankees that had begun in Baltimore.
Terrapin Park / Oriole Park (fifth)
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 was its undoing and boosted Baltimore's chances of returning to the major leagues.
Terrapin Park was built on a lopsided 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. That is, it was directly across the street, to the north and west, from the existing Oriole Park/American League Park. Presumably that did not sit well with the Orioles, but the minor league club initially survived the challenge. The "Federals" only lasted two seasons, and the Orioles acquired the newer park to the north in 1916 and renamed it Oriole Park, (now retroactively labeled Oriole Park V).
Following the demise of the "Fed", the Baltimore professional baseball interests became a primary party in a famous antitrust legal suit filed against Major League Baseball and involving the Commissioner of Baseball. This resulted in the famous U.S. 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.
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, 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 from 1922 on the north side of the new 33rd Street boulevard in former Venable Park (where it was also sometimes known as "Baltimore Stadium" or "Venable Stadium"). Literally rising from the ashes, in heroic fashion, the Orioles went on to win the International League championship that year in the middle of World War II, with many of the country's professional baseball players away overseas in the armed forces or in domestic defense work, and also the Junior World Series for the leading minor league champions 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 suddenly became a viable option for teams later looking to move to greener pastures after almost a half-century of stagnation. Had the fire not happened, Baltimore's baseball saga may well have turned out quite differently than it has.
Spurred by the I.L.'s Orioles' success, the City in 1950 chose to rebuild old Municipal Stadium as a multi-purpose facility of major league caliber, also adding the 1953 inclusion of the National Football League's new relocated franchise of the Baltimore Colts, adding additional facilities and including an upper deck, which they renamed Memorial Stadium, after the casualties and veterans of the recently concluded World War II (complementing the downtown War Memorial Plaza across from Baltimore City Hall for those from the First World War). 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 and decades to come.
The "Oriole Park" name eventually returned in 1992, when the Orioles opened their new ballpark in Camden Yards. It is often said that the phrase "at Camden Yards" was added to distinguish itself from the other Oriole Parks that previously existed.
- House of Magic, by the Baltimore Orioles.
- Green Cathedrals, by Phil Lowry.
- The Home Team, by James H. Bready.
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