With less than a week until the start of the 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 – July 22, 1996
He was supposed to be a lifer in Baltimore.
You just don’t picture your best player for over a decade going someplace else.
But as a result of a disintegrating relationship with owner Edward Bennett Williams and the local media when the Orioles hit hard times in the late 1980s, Eddie Murray had requested and been granted a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Juan Bell, Brian Holton, and Ken Howell in December 1988 (My apologies for bringing up the worst trade return in franchise history — yes, it was worse than the Glenn Davis trade).
It appeared to be the sad end to an eventual Hall of Fame career in Baltimore as Murray played the next eight seasons with the Dodgers, New York Mets, and Cleveland Indians, never looking quite right in anything but an Orioles uniform.
However, the baseball gods arranged the circumstances for a reunion eight years after the trade with the Orioles looking for a designated hitter to plug into an already formidable lineup. Manager Davey Johnson’s plan to use Bobby Bonilla in the role had resulted in a miserable start for the surly slugger and his reinsertion into the outfield. The Orioles sent struggling pitcher Kent Mercker to the Indians in return for the 40-year-old Murray, who was finally coming home where he rightfully belonged.
It had been 2,849 days since Murray had last donned his customary No. 33 Orioles jersey — which had been retired by the club without any fanfare after the trade to the Dodgers. His return came against the Minnesota Twins on July 22, 1996, and it was as if the star had never left, with 42,129 screaming “Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die!” to resurrect the celebrated chant from Memorial Stadium years earlier.
How would “Steady Eddie” respond in his first game back with the Orioles? In the fifth inning and hitting from the right side of the plate, Murray homered to left-center off Minnesota starter Rich Robertson as a euphoric crowd was momentarily taken back to the late 70s or early 80s. Murray earned a curtain call after hitting his first round-tripper as an Oriole since Sept. 22, 1988.
The Orioles lost in Murray’s debut, falling 9-5 to the Twins, but no one would forget his homecoming to the club that had drafted him 23 years earlier.
Shortly after his return to Baltimore, the struggling Orioles — who were 51-52 on July 28 — began to gel, storming to a 37-22 finish to win their first wild card berth. Many players credited Murray’s veteran presence as an important factor in the team’s turnaround in the final two months of the season.
But for Orioles fans who had idolized Murray for his 12 seasons in Baltimore prior to the frigid departure, it was a heartfelt lesson that you can come home again.