333 W. Camden St., 888/848-2473, http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com
There have been a couple of incarnations of the Baltimore Orioles throughout baseball history; this current club came to Baltimore in 1954 from St. Louis, where they had been the Browns. The American League East Orioles have won three World Series, in 1966, 1970, and 1983. The last World Series win was the first (and only) for a young shortstop named Calvin Edwin Ripken, Jr.; Cal would go on to break the Major League Baseball consecutive game streak in 1995, a milestone and celebration that many critics cite as the first step baseball took back into America’s hearts after the players’ strike of 1994 (a year in which there was no World Series).
The early years of the Orioles (known affectionately as the O’s) were a mixture of good and bad, with the majority of their games played in the now-demolished Memorial Stadium. Loyal crowds packed the house during the team’s glory years, which ran from that 1966 championship year until the next World Series in 1983. The team was made up of All-Stars who played hard and led by a mean, foul-mouthed, happy-go-lucky and fearless manager of short stature and massive confidence named Earl Weaver; naturally, they had the undying loyalty of the city’s fans.
The opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1991 was a revelation to American baseball fans; the stadium wasn’t one of the typical huge, monolithic, concrete bowls that had became de rigueur throughout American cities. It was a throwback to storied stadiums like Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston—built downtown, and not out in the suburbs where the fan base lived, designed to hold about 48,000 fans, and crafted of brick and wrought iron, meant to evoke the feeling of old-time baseball and Americana (and this was done even before the steroid scandals of the early 2000s). A few years after the Orioles moved downtown, they became the powerhouse of the A.L. East, reaching the American League Championship Series in both 1996 and 1997, but falling short both times.
Recent years have been less kind to this club. After losing 93 games (and winning only 68) in 2008, the Orioles marked 11 straight years of losing records, and finished last in their division for the first time in 20 years. Hopes continue that the team will eventually compete again, but the once-devoted fan base that used to sell out the park has been cut by two-thirds. The stadium is packed, however, when the in-division rival Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees come to town; their boisterous, proud fans take over the seats, providing their teams with an away-from-home advantage.
If you’re planning to pay a visit to the park, take some time for a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility ($7 for adults, $5 for kids), including the luxury boxes, the press box, and the Orioles dugout. Getting to see the stadium from the field is a real thrill, no matter how old you are.
Now, to attend an Orioles game like a real Baltimorean, here’s a simple guide. First, pay a visit to the Babe Ruth statue outside the main gate on Camden Street. Notice anything strange about this tribute to George Herman Ruth? If you did, you’re a real seamhead: the sculptor gave Ruth a left-handed glove, but Ruth was a lefty. Owing to the team’s decade of dismal performances, you can get a decent ticket (prices run from $9 on bargain nights for nosebleeds to $80 for the primo behind-the-dugout seats) at the ticket booth right before the game.
Once inside, stop by former Oriole great Boog Powell’s pit beef stand (just follow the plume of beefy smoke) and grab a traditional Baltimore pit beef (it’s roast beef cooked over a very hot flame) sandwich and a beer. Then head to Uncle Teddy’s (also on your way in, but in the stadium proper) and grab a handmade cinnamon pretzel. Get to your seat in time for the national anthem; there’s a peculiar Baltimore tradition to follow during the song, which was written here. When the singer reaches the “O say does that Star-Spangled Banner” line, everyone in the stadium yells “O!” in tribute to the beloved, if currently hapless, O’s.
© Geoff Brown from Moon Baltimore, 1st Edition