As we’re only days away from 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. Baltimore hosts the Midsummer Classic – July 13, 1993
After the Orioles won their third World Series in October 1983, the next 10 years would be a largely forgettable period in Baltimore sports history. Just a few months after that championship, Robert Irsay and the Colts would skip town in the middle of the night, leaving Baltimore without an NFL team for the next 12 years. The Orioles would fall on hard times as their farm system had dried up after years of producing premium talent.
As a result, Baltimore had sadly become an afterthought in the sports world, but that changed with the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992 and the news that Baltimore would host the All-Star Game for the first time since 1958. The baseball world was about to see the Charm City’s gem of a ballpark and would proceed to copy its retro-classic style with new ballparks throughout the league.
After Ken Griffey Jr. had put on a memorable show the previous day in the Home Run Derby, the best players in baseball played the 64th Midsummer Classic in the best ballpark in baseball. Maryland’s favorite son Cal Ripken earned the loudest ovation from the 48,147 in attendance.
The game was dominated by the American League in a 9-3 victory for the Junior Circuit with Minnesota Twins outfielder Kirby Puckett earning MVP honors with a home run and two runs batted in. However, the game provided two moments that would be talked about for years.
The first came in the top of the third inning when Phillies first baseman John Kruk stepped to the plate against Mariners lefty Randy Johnson, notorious for his wildness and dominance against left-handed hitters. It would result in one of the more humorous sequences in baseball history.
The second memorable moment was far less amusing to Orioles fans and was a reminder that division rivalries took priority over league loyalties. Earlier in the night, the hometown fans had voiced their disdain for Toronto manager Cito Gaston and the seven Blue Jays selected for the game by booing them loudly during team introductions. That, however, would pale in comparison to what occurred in the ninth inning — and even the years to follow.
We may never know the full story, but what transpired left a sour taste in the mouths of Orioles fans for a long time. As Mike Mussina threw in the bullpen, Blue Jays closer Duane Ward took the mound for the top of the ninth as most fans assumed the Orioles pitcher would enter the game to close out the win for the American League.
However, as Ward recorded the first two outs and began to work against Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, fans realized Mussina would not be getting the call and responded with thunderous boos for Gaston that made the pre-game jeers sound affectionate. Gaston shook his head and smiled in disbelief as Ward struck out Piazza for the game’s final out and the boos continued to rain down on the field as American League players congratulated each other.
While some accounts differ, Gaston had apparently told Mussina he would not use him in the game. Mussina explained he was simply completing his regular work between starts since he would pitch for the Orioles three days later in Milwaukee. However, Gaston interpreted Mussina’s timing as a way of showing him up and forcing him to put the hometown pitcher in the game.
Regardless of whose story you believe, the incident would only pump more venom into Baltimore fans’ disdain for Gaston and the world champion Blue Jays as the slogan “Cito Sucks” (see below) had been born. The manager would be vilified in Baltimore for years as fans never forgave him for leaving Mussina in the bullpen in favor of his own closer in a blowout victory in Baltimore. It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise wonderful showing by the Charm City and its beautiful ballpark.