Last word on what to name the stadium We can all hope this is the . . . (but it won't be)

Gordon Beard

July 17, 1991|By Gordon Beard

OTTO von Bismarck, the first chancellor of the German Empire, would have understood the hassle over the naming of Baltimore's new downtown ballpark . . . and how to come up with a solution.

It was the Prussian statesman who observed, in a speech March 15, 1884, that "politics is not an exact science, but an art."

Because of that, perhaps, he is also credited with saying, "Politics is the art of the possible." No one is certain that he did; but then, no one knows for sure that Abner Doubleday invented baseball, either.

Just as in politics, many factions in the stadium controversy have stepped forward to be heard, and only a few have offered suggestions of merit.

The resulting protracted and mostly meaningless debate mirrors what occurs on almost any subject in the city and county councils, at the General Assembly or on Capitol Hill.

After months of posturing, what happens? The decision-makers are about to come up with a solution designed to rankle the fewest. That may be the chicken way out, but it works.

So welcome to "Oriole Park at Camden Yards," which, in deference to Babe Ruth, includes a statue of the Sultan of Swat in a prominent spot on the grounds. In effect, of course, it will be known simply as Oriole Park.

Who cares that Oriole Park was once associated with the minor leagues? So was the team name, but that wasn't changed when Baltimore returned to the American League in 1954.

And why the fuss just because Oriole Park promotes the business entity using the stadium? Because after spending $205 million in public money to keep millionaire Eli Jacobs' business in town, that would seem the prudent thing to do.

Anyway, the ballpark was built expressly for baseball, so why not a name that tells exactly what to expect when you go there?

(Kids riding the light rail will thrill when the recording announces, "Next stop, Oriole Park," just as I did on the No. 8 streetcar when the conductor yelled, "29th Street, Oriole Park.")

Keeping Camden Yards as part of the formal name provides a specific location, ties in with preservation of the old B&O warehouse and satisfies some railroad romantics (although, as the son of a longtime B&O employee, I don't remember my father ever going to work at "Camden Yards").

No fan, writer or broadcaster could be expected to use the whole appellation, "Oriole Park at Camden Yards," but it does provide a frame of reference.

When, and if, an adjacent new football stadium is constructed, whatever name is picked for that would be followed by " . . . at Camden Yards" -- the same way Royals Stadium (baseball) and Arrowhead Stadium (football) are part of the Harry S. Truman Complex in Kansas City.

As for the Babe, let's honor our native son with a spectacular slugging statue, a plaque listing some of his many accomplishments, a map marking the spot in short center field where he spent part of his youth, along with directions and an invitation to visit the nearby, and soon-to-be-expanded, Babe Ruth Birthplace/Orioles Museum.

Ruth was famous because of his heroic feats as a New York Yankee, not because of the happenstance of birth. He'll always be remembered wearing pinstripes.

And let's face it, the Babe didn't have happy memories of his wayward youthful days and seldom returned to visit his hometown. So let his spirit rest in peace.

The next time Evening Sun sports columnist John Steadman calls Babe in heaven (only John knows the number, but I suspect the area code is 1), I wouldn't be surprised if the Babe told him:

"Look, kid, I was a Yankee. Hell, go ahead and honor your hometown team."

Gordon Beard grew up on South Charles Street, not far from the new ballpark. He worked a few months in the B&O warehouse, thereby spending more time in the area than Babe Ruth.

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