Baltimore's winning game

April 07, 1992

It is as certain as anything can be that the Baltimore Orioles will win the American League pennant this year and go on to sweep the World Series for the first time since 1966. No other conclusion can be drawn from the glorious opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards yesterday and the clean, decisive triumph the Birds achieved over the Cleveland Indians.

The city performed as well as the ball club -- and so did the weather, which was crisp and sparkling. Streets were clean, traffic was flowing despite the horror stories, the stadium itself was an architectural wonder, shops and restaurants were filled with celebrants.

The opening of Oriole Park should provide a needed boost, economic and psychological, for downtown Baltimore. It is City Fair and Harborplace and Aquarium and Science Center and the grand promenade along Pratt Street all over again. No matter the setbacks of urban America, which Baltimore has in abundance, something always comes along to raise our sights and civic spirits.

This splendid new ballpark will attract tens of thousands of visitors, many of whom will not just watch a game and go home but will be offered a cornucopia of entertainment, shopping, dining out and museum-going -- all within a short walk of everything and within reach of half a dozen forms of transportation. Washingtonians, longing for a glimpse of the "real America," have only to take a MARC train almost right to the door of the new stadium. There they will encounter real Baltimoreans riding to their new park on their brand-new light rail system from Timonium or the still-young Metro from Owings Mill. Plus all those thousands of cars that, at least on opening day, did not -- repeat not -- create the mother of all traffic jams.

For Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who got more cheers than boos, the opening of Oriole Park must have been especially gratifying. He promoted the project during his time as mayor, then pushed it hard during the halcyon days (before the recession) when he first became governor.

Mr. Schaefer wielded giant scissors to cut a giant orange ribbon stretching from the left field foulpole to its counterpart in right field. But others were around who deserved plaudits, not least Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, who weathered disappointment and foul-up to score an architectural home run.

Of course, the city feels nostalgia for Memorial Stadium. And rightly so. One woman was heard to remark: "This doesn't feel like Baltimore. But it will, madam, it will -- and for some it already does.

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