Oriole Park I

Baltimore Glimpses

March 31, 1992|By GILBERT SANDLER

BEFORE there was Oriole Park at Camden Yards there wa an Oriole Park (at Waverly).

In 1914, when the old Federal League Orioles bought Terrapin Park at the northwest corner of Greenmount and 29th, they properly renamed it Oriole Park. Not caught in a tug-of-war between a governor and an owner, each with an ego the size of all outdoors, the old Oriole Park was never "at" any location. It was just plain Oriole Park.

It was here that the International League Orioles knew the glory ++ of their times, knew many hours of splendor on the grass. They won seven pennants in a row and gave to Baltimore and the game the likes of Joe Hauser -- who outhit Babe Ruth in the International League, setting a record of 63 home runs in a season. The record still stands.

The ballpark was a one-deck, clapboard affair, painted a pale green. It accommodated about 12,000. John Wittig, born and bred in Highlandtown and now living in Arbutus, played in the park. He was a pitcher with the 1937 and '38 Orioles.

"I loved the old park," he said. "It seemed so small. When I turned around on the mound and looked out at left field, I felt as if I could shake hands with the left fielder. It was only about 250 feet or so down the line in both fields. I played with Ab Wright, 'Pooch' Puccinelli, Fritz Maisel, Frank McGowan. Our managers were Bucky Crouse and Rogers Hornsby.

"But I don't have good memories of winning a lot of games in that park. For me and the team in 1938 in Oriole Park, it was a bad year. We came in last."

On the evening of July 3, 1944, the Orioles were playing Syracuse. It was a night game. (Lights had been added to Oriole Park in 1930.) The game went into extra innings tied at four, but Syracuse came up with seven runs in the top of the 10th and won going away. The crowd filed gloomily out of the park, as usual leaving groundskeeper Mike Schofield to hose down the stands.

A few hours later, at 4 a.m. the Fourth of July, fire broke out in the old structure. Stands, offices, locker rooms, the turf itself -- all were burned. Nothing was saved.

That was nearly half a century ago, the last time an Oriole team played in an Oriole Park.

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