Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Camden Yards is arguably the most influential ballpark built since Shibe Park and Forbes Field pioneered the modern fireproof baseball stadium in 1909. In the spirit of Shibe and its immediate successors — the fourteen classic parks of 1909 to 1923 — it uses a steel structural system, a brick exterior, and an angular geometry. More than any other stadium in nearly seven decades before it, this 48,000-seat park reflects an urban context. To a great degree, it takes the shape of its site, and it keeps its right and center field seats low in order to allow dramatic downtown skyline views and an uninterrupted vista of the restored historic B&O; warehouse just across Eutaw Street. That thoroughfare has been turned into a pedestrian plaza, enlivened by shops and eateries on the warehouse’s ground floor, and by Boog Powell‘s outdoor barbecue stand. Team offices, service spaces, and a private club occupy the other warehouse floors. The warehouse is a formidable challenge for lefty sluggers. It has been reached on the fly by Ken Griffey Jr. in batting practice, but not during a game (at least through the 1997 season.)

Inside, it is the first big-league park since Ebbets Field to have an outfield wall made up entirely of angled straight wall segments. Like Ebbets, it is a good home run park, although not to such an extreme degree. However, it cuts down on other forms of hits, and is thus something of a pitcher’s park, disproving Bill James’ pre-opening assessment. The stadium’s linearity is not confined to the outfield. It also characterizes the foul territory and the three-tiered seating geometry, except for the curve behind home plate.

It is this overall angularity of form and structure that gives Camden Yards its old-fashioned character, and sets it apart so dramatically from its predecessors. Its steel structure is another departure from conventional postwar practice — this was the first major-league use of steel since the Braves moved to Milwaukee. The use of steel columns, beams and trusses is another reason that Camden Yards feels like a classic park, and the later retro ballparks have continued to use that structural material. Its seating proximity to the field is the best of the post-Skydome parks, and it seats 48,000. The large scoreboard in right-center, designed by an artist, and the ads on the outfield walls also contribute to the park’s old-time feel.

The Camden Yards outfield was the site of a saloon operated by Babe Ruth‘s father, and the Bambino was born and lived just a few blocks away. On the Eutaw Street promenade, a large bronze statue of the left-handed Babe sports a right-handed fielder’s glove. But so far the player most strongly associated with Camden Yards is not Ruth, but Cal Ripken, who broke Lou Gehrig‘s record of 2,130 consecutive games played before a capacity Baltimore crowd on September 6, 1995.