MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Impossible. Oriole Park at Camden Yards will be 30 years old? How on earth has this been 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, and I should imagine will still be, even with its cosmetic surgically-created left-field dimensions. Though, I have my doubts …

Oriole Park is the ballpark that changed ballparks forever, and if the Major League Baseball owners, who locked out the Major League Baseball players, can see it through their greed to bargain fairly and to negotiate a new and fair collective bargaining agreement, the next baseball game in Baltimore will mark the beginning of the 31st season and the 30th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which, the Orioles announced last week, will be helped to be celebrated by none other than Paul McCartney, who will bring his Got Back Tour to Oriole Park on June 12 .

When Memorial Stadium, the former home of the Orioles and the Colts on East 33rd Street, turned 30, the year was 1984, and was five years after Edward Bennett Williams, the high-profile Washington defense attorney, had purchased the franchise and had begun to ferment the restlessness throughout the Baltimore community that a new stadium would be ideal for a long and lasting relationship between the Orioles and the city of Baltimore, rather than to create the need for him to move the Orioles to his hometown of Washington. It was up to Baltimore and the state of Maryland, EBW suggested, to decide to do what they felt was right.

It was also up to Orioles fans to start attending Orioles games at Memorial Stadium in larger numbers, which the fans did, as 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 it was 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 in the late 1970s, it hadn’t taken long for EBW to soon begin to understand that Baltimore did not want a new home, and he would just as soon relent himself into falling in love with the charm of what was once known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum.

Time, however, stands still for no one, and after the midnight departure of the beloved Colts in late 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 to town, where they would become the Baltimore Ravens.

My, but how time flies, as we have learned to grow very, very fond and proud of Oriole Park and of Ravens Stadium, now M&T Bank Stadium. But you never get over your first true love, and for many of us that first love remains Memorial Stadium.

Still, Baltimore and the state of Maryland are so lucky to have this magnificent gem known as Camden Yards. It has kept the Orioles in town and, despite the existence of the Washington Nationals, has kept the Orioles home in Baltimore and, once the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Orioles come to a new lease agreement (which they will soon do), it will keep them here for even longer.

And, oh, yeah … the Baltimore Ravens are pretty fond of Camden Yards as well.

Hey, 30 years moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it, right?

We will have more on Oriole Park at Camden Yards during its 30th anniversary season … once, that is, it is allowed to begin.

(The Top 10 Baseball Movies of All-Time continues. Previously: No. 1, A League of Their Own; No. 2, Bull Durham; No. 3, Eight Men Out)

  1. The Natural (1984):

This adaptation of the Bernard Malamud novel is the one that got the 1980s baseball movies (good baseball movies) boom going.

Doesn’t stay accurate to the book, but in a movie like this one, in which Robert Redford is the star and has a gorgeous left-handed swing to boot, that’s okay. Directed by Baltimore’s Barry Levinson, “The Natural” also stars Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Barbara Hershey, Kim Basinger and Wilford Brimley, who plays New York Knights manager Pop Fisher, but who will remind you of former Allegany football coach Jack Gilmore.

The film recounts the experiences of Roy Hobbs, a one-time phenom with great “natural” baseball talent, spanning decades of Hobbs’ life and career and the decisions he made along the way that proved costly.

Best line of the film? Roy Hobbs telling Iris (Close) from his hospital bed, “God, I love baseball.”

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications 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 [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT