April 6, 1992: Oriole Park at Camden Yards Opens In Baltimore

Asymmetrical and quirky, Oriole Park was the first ballpark to have entirely straight wall segments since Brooklyn’s famed Ebbets Field. Power-hitter friendly, the park’s dimensions are 333 feet to left field, 410 to left center, 400 to dead center, a just 318 to right field. It features a picnic area for fans and a unique, split-level, two-tiered bullpen. Many seats provide excellent views of Baltimore’s skyline. Oriole Park also returned MLB to having advertising on the outfield walls—something that had vanished from major league stadiums since Philadelphia’s Shibe Park closed its doors forever in 1970. In other sports, advertising on the playing surface looks intrusive and tacky. In baseball it is largely perceived as “a warm fuzzy”: another nostalgic and welcome reminder of the good old days.

The most noteworthy feature of the ballpark, of course, is also connected to the defunct railroad that once occupied the site. Dominating the landscape, the old B&O Warehouse stands prominently behind the right field-bleachers. (A long-distance view of the ballpark might leave one with the incorrect impression that the warehouse is a short distance from the last row of the bleachers. It is not. Eutaw Street separates the two. The gap provides a fan-friendly and family-friendly area where vehicular traffic is prohibited. It contains many shops and restaurants. Since the playing field is situated 17 feet below street level, it is possible for fans to watch a game from Eutaw Street—provided they have tickets.) The initial plans were to demolish or at least truncate the abandoned building, but designers were quick to realize that its classic red-brick wall provided another sentimental backdrop to Oriole Park. The structure was saved and refurbished to accommodate modern offices—including some used by the baseball club—along with service spaces and private clubs. On the far side of the warehouse is a convenient terminus for commuter rail service.

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Opening Day itself turned out to be a classic pitchers’ duel. After President George H.W. Bush tossed out the ceremonial first ball, Baltimore’s Rick Sutcliffe tossed an impressive complete-game 2-0 victory over Cleveland’s Charles Nagy who also lasted the distance. Indians’ center fielder Kenny Lofton was the first man to come to bat at Oriole Park. He flied out to Joe Orsulak, the Orioles’ right fielder. Both Baltimore runs came in the fifth inning. Sam Horn drew a walk with one out. Leo Gomez singled, moving Horn to second base. Catcher Chris Hoiles drove in the first run in the ballpark’s history with an RBI ground-rule double that bounced over the fence in left-center field—the only extra-base hit either team managed that afternoon. Gomez went to third base. Billy Ripken’s squeeze bunt brought Gomez home. That was the extent of the offense. Even the length of Oriole Park’s debut game was refreshingly old-fashioned: It took just 122 minutes to complete. The first home run at Camden Yards would come two days later on April 8. It was a three-run blow struck by Cleveland’s Paul Sorrento. The first triple in the new digs was hit by hometown hero Cal Ripken Jr. on April 17.

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