As the Orioles celebrate their 20th season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, I take a look back at the top 20 moments in the history of the ballpark. Selected moments had to relate directly to the action on the field at the time. No orchestrated events such as World Series anniversary celebrations or Orioles Hall of Fame inductions were eligible.
20. Wieters’ debut
19. Nomo tosses only no-hitter in Oriole Park history
18. Orioles rally from nine-run deficit against Boston
16. Showalter takes the helm
15. Palmeiro homers in Oriole debut
14. Griffey’s Warehouse shot
13. Sparring with Seattle
12. Davis defies the odds
11. Hoiles’ slam stuns Mariners
10. Game 6 of 1997 ALCS
9. 1993 All-Star Game
8. Moose misses perfection
7. Eddie comes home
6. Bonilla’s slam in first playoff win
5. The first Opening Day
4. Birds shrink Big Unit to win 1997 ALDS
3. No. 500 for Eddie
2. Farewell to Cal
1. 2131 (and 2130) – Sept. 5-6, 1995
Was there ever a doubt what the No. 1 choice would be?
For anyone who’s ever invested the tiniest amount of emotion in sport, there are no words to describe those two nights at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1995. To attempt to find the prose to describe the experience does it no justice, whether you were one of the lucky in attendance or simply watched in your living room.
If it were a movie, no one would have believed it as Ripken homered in both the record-tying and record-breaking games against the California Angels.
The endless number of curtain calls, the flashbulbs popping every millisecond, the victory lap around the field, and the many tears of joy that were shed.
You won’t find a more emotional, beautiful moment in which a city expressed its love and appreciation for a sports hero.
The simple act of showing up to play everyday, ignoring the aches and pains and the fatigue of a 162-game baseball season, wasn’t the most impressive feat in baseball history, but it was one to which we all could relate and, more importantly, respect. Cal Ripken’s journey toward Lou Gehrig’s incredible streak of 2,130 consecutive games played was a quest we all felt a part of in some odd way.
At a time when baseball was at its lowest point following a strike that wiped out the World Series and delayed the start of the 1995 season, fans around the country needed a player in which they could begin to reinvest their love for baseball. Ripken was that man, and the Streak became bigger than the game despite his desire to downplay its significance.
The 22-minute standing ovation that culminated with Ripken’s jog around the perimeter of Camden Yards, shaking hands and offering smiles to the many fans who had watched the Streak transform from a unique piece of trivia into a symbol of dedication and tenacity over the course of 14 seasons, was an experience unlike any other in professional sports.
Despite all his accomplishments in an eventual Hall of Fame career, those two nights cemented Ripken’s legacy not only in Baltimore but in the history of the national pastime. For two nights, the Charm City shared Ripken with the rest of the baseball world while swelling up with pride that he was our own.
It lacked the exhilaration of a world championship, but the euphoric emotion shared by all would never be eclipsed anywhere else in any arena.
It wasn’t just the top moment in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but it was the proudest a city could feel for a professional athlete who had provided so much joy over a tremendous career.