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No visit to Camden Yards this time ...


As I prepare to head out to Baltimore next week, I started reminding myself of a few things about that great, gritty city, most notably about the depressing realization that a great franchise has struggled mightily in recent years.

A team that once had one of the great blue-collar, neighborhood stadiums (shown at left, with Frank Robinson socking the only ball that ever left the facility grounds) now boasts perhaps the granddaddy or even the prototype of the modern version of the MLB ballpark. I am all but certain I won’t get to an Orioles game this year – I arrive in Baltimore late Thursday night, since I have to shove SCD out the door before I go – and there’s no chance of getting there Friday because of the various auctions we have to cover. I suppose there's technically a chance for a Saturday night game with the White Sox, but I haven't heard any rumblings about it yet.

That’s too bad, because Camden Yards is a great ballpark, even if it is a graying one, now approaching 20 years old. When I first saw the park during the All-Star Game festivities in 1993, I was simply blown away by its grandeur, and I must not have been alone, since the retro style it first embraced has been since been appropriated by more than a dozen newer stadiums.

Ironically, Baltimore might have seemed like an odd choice to champion the notion of the upscale, trendy modern ballpark that caters to the corporate elite with perhaps a greater vigor than it might apply to the hoi polloi. Camden Yards’ predecessor, Baltimore Memorial Stadium, was an inelegant, grimy old throwback, situated smack dab in the middle of a working-class neighborhood.

That said, it was also a wonderful place to watch a baseball game, especially back in the days when the fan demographic was a lot different than it has been for say, the last 20 years.

The other thing I remember about going to games there was the parking situation. The surrounding neighborhoods would make kind of informal arrangements to provide space for cars in just about any jury-rigged fashion you can imagine, and the one I remember most vividly would give me nightmares if I thought about enduring it today.

I can remember parking in a local lot where the cars were simply directed to align themselves snugly alongside and up against every other car. No aisles for going anywhere; if you were the middle car – or I guess even worse, the one planted all the way to the back – you simply waited until all other cars moved. There was no hastening the process in any fashion, no matter how much you hollered or stomped your feet.

I was young and could tolerate such things at the time, but now I guess I’ll settle for the more conventional comforts of Camden Yards.

But not this trip, I’ll betcha.

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