MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

From the inaugural game notes, “A traditional, baseball only, urban ballpark …

“Oriole Park is a traditional ballpark located in a dense urban setting. The configuration of the playing field and seating bowl were dictated by geometry. The street trusses were modeled after older parks, a roof covers half of the upper deck and the brick facade of the park resembles that of the adjacent historical warehouse. The out of town scoreboard, located in right field, is in the field of play.”

And the adjacent historical warehouse that nearly met the wrecking ball before construction? Ah, The Warehouse:

“Beyond the right field wall is the restored B&O Warehouse, actually six warehouses combined together, eight stories high and over 1,100 feet long. Built in 1898, it is now an integral part of the ballpark structure … It is the longest building east of the Mississippi River.”

Those game notes were from April 6, 1992.

Impossible. Oriole Park at Camden Yards will soon be 30 years old? How on earth was this allowed to happen? It seems as though it were only yesterday when we allowed the place to swoop us into its vast, yet intimate emerald and red brick setting. To this day, though, Oriole Park is as beautiful and cutting-edge traditional as ever.

It is the ballpark that changed ballparks forever, and on Tuesday, the Baltimore Orioles went out of their way to remind us all that the coming baseball season – if, of course, there is one (thank you, weasel Rob Manfred) will commemorate and celebrate (as though the Angelos family had anything to do with it) the 30-year anniversary of the ballpark that changed everything. Wow.

When Memorial Stadium, the former home of the Orioles and the Colts on East 33rd Street, turned 25 the year was 1979, and, yes, as youngsters at the time, it was a mere implication to us that it had been around forever. And in that time and stage of our young lives, it had been.

Yet because of the restlessness that had been put into the air by the Orioles’ new Washington-based owner Edward Bennett Williams, talk of a new stadium for the Orioles was beginning to heat up as a means of keeping the team in Baltimore and away from D.C.

But most of us did not want a new home for the Orioles. We loved Memorial Stadium and we took it personally when it was said to be no longer good enough, because to us, that was the same as saying Baltimore was not good enough.

Memorial Stadium, in that splendid neighborhood of Waverly, was our home, and with the way Orioles attendance began to soar, EBW soon began to understand that Baltimore did not want a new home and he would relent, himself falling in love with the charm of what was once known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum.

Time, however, stands still for nothing, and after the midnight departure of the beloved Colts in March of 1984, William Donald Schaefer, first as Baltimore’s mayor and then as governor of Maryland, championed the funding of the two-stadium complex now known as Camden Yards. It kept the Orioles in town, and eventually brought the Cleveland Browns, where they would become the Baltimore Ravens.

But, my, how time flies, as we have learned to grow very, very fond and proud of Oriole Park. Still, you never get over your first true love, and for many of us that first love remains Memorial Stadium.

Nonetheless, thank you Baltimore and the state of Maryland for this magnificent gem known as Camden Yards. And for all of us, thank God we have the dream of an upcoming baseball season through the dead of winter for the rest of our lives. For the expectancy of it all and the realization that it is so close you can touch it (when, in reality, it really isn’t and might not be given the current labor landscape), does strange and wonderful things to us all

Just as a natural sadness surrounds us in October with the completion of our great projects, a natural thrill engulfs us in March and in April as we embark upon those same projects.

Middle-aged (or old) men are as amped with anticipation as a teen-aged boy who has finally convinced the Homecoming queen to go on a date with him to Lookout Point. A long, wondrous adventure awaits, even though for most of us, the season, like the date, will end with unfulfilled promise, rather than the long imagined taste of the promised land.

In the end, there is only one winner in baseball. Oh, but how each new season and the mighty quest to become that winner is worth every step of the way, as it is certain to provide memories and joys that will last a lifetime.

So, to the heavens, please allow there to be an on-time Opening Day. And when (if) it is on time, we will be the first to wish a Happy Opening Day to us all, particularly to the person who places the orange scarf on the statue of Brooks at the downtown Baltimore intersection of Russell Street and Washington Boulevard each Opening Day.

Like the annual glass of cognac and the toast at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, it’s a Bawlmer thing, hon. And when it’s the baseball season in Baltimore, there is only one toast to give — Ain’t the beer cold!

Particularly on the day of our first snow of the year, let’s have a cold one now; and have sweet dreams of a hot summer day at that brand new grand dame, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT