It’s well documented that Oriole Park at Camden Yards revolutionized ballpark design when it opened in 1992. Reconnecting baseball to downtown Baltimore, it tied together the city’s Inner Harbor and bridged the neighborhood’s industrial past with its cosmopolitan future.
Camden Yards became the standard for new parks that sought to re-integrate the sport within the urban fabric of its host city–a monumental undertaking, but well done in San Francisco, San Diego, and Denver among others. These new parks did not only harken to the neighborhood ballparks of yesteryear, they one-upped them with modern amenities like jumbotrons, luxurious clubhouses, and more-than-edible cuisine.
But beyond the B&O Warehouse and intimate skyline that ostensibly create a palpable sense of place, Camden Yards champions the subtleties of a golden era in ballpark, and greater American, architecture.
Here are some of the highlights I noticed during my trip to the Yards in April.
Eutaw is a city street that cuts right through Camden Yards. On game days, it’s a lively promenade of vendors and jubilant fans sandwiched between the iconic warehouse and the playing field. Peering down Eutaw Street, you can see the city’s skyline, including the nearby Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, another remnant of industrial America. It’s a vantage point that celebrates both the urban and the sport, and a gateway to an idyllic experience of both.
Street Lights and Concourse
If I could star in a period drama, I’d want to be an investigative journalist in 1920s America who throws on a fedora in the evening hours to meet his source smoking a cigar beneath the dim light of an ornate street lamp, illuminating the shallow puddle of a recently-passed summer rainstorm. In the storm’s wake, the glistening asphalt steams with a warm waft of the scent that only asphalt vapors can emanate.
Now take the pandemic-related sign and team store neon out of that picture, turn the sky a dark blue and gleaming yellow and you have the setting I’m looking for.
Even the covered concourses of Oriole Park incorporate these lights, further encroaching the urban near the green fields of the game.
Inside the covered concourse, the concession stands and bathrooms are on the playing field side, veiling the spectator’s view of the field until they walk through a tunnel to their seating section.
Such a delayed revelation of the playing surface may seem annoying to some, but it creates and enchanting moment for a first-time fan walking through the dark tunnel only to see the pristine, verdant diamond for the first time in his life.
On each aisle seat in Camden Yards is a cast iron insert of this logo. The script B’s were used by the Baltimore Baseball Club in the 1890s.
The logo is crossed by two baseball bats, and standing in the center is a left-handed batter.
Janet Marie Smith, an architect who became the Orioles’ vice president overseeing stadium design and construction, wanted these ornate seat logos to resemble the script logos on benches in Tiger Stadium and Polo Grounds.
Smith, actually, had to fight hard with Larry Lucchino, the team president, to preserve the B&O Warehouse and use it to frame the entire park.
A standing-room only area done so well in Baltimore, the flag court was replicated in Minneapolis’ Target Field, which opened in 2010. It features pennants of each American League team.
During games, it’s a great vantage point, atop the high right field wall, to stand and watch for free, regardless of where your ticket is. It’s also a frequent home run landing spot during both batting practices and games.
Similarly to the seats, the iron gates of Camden Yards feature an ornate design. This time, it’s orioles facing each other the way two stone lions might sit on either side of a manor’s driveway.
The brick exterior and broad gates give a rightful sense of grandeur to entering the park.
Home Run Plaques
On Eutaw Street, facing the sky, are brass baseballs that mark the landing spots of home runs that reached the promenade on the fly. But one plaque faces the field.
Ken Griffey Jr. is thus far the only player to ever hit the B&O Warehouse on the fly during an official event–the 1993 Home Run Derby.
Stop by Eutaw Street to see his and many others’ plaques freezing their accomplishments in time.
Club Level Windows
On the 200 level, an enclosed-concourse club, wide semicircular windows look out over Baltimore. Catch a wicked sunset on the third base side, as pictured to the left.
A hallmark of modern ballparks is that they honor the intricate urban architecture of the early 20th century, but lace it with modern amenities of the 21st. An air-conditioned concourse with wide windows is a great example of that.