Oriole Park brings in the new (season) by saluting the old

December 04, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

The official opening came eight months ago, amid marching bands and oversized game tickets.

But when the Orioles host their Moonlight Madness party tonight, they'll be unveiling a number of new wrinkles at Camden Yards, including a few that should delight the team's devoted history buffs.

After months of planning, the Orioles are showing off three new exhibits tonight. Two honor outstanding Orioles who slipped into the record books during the team's five decades at Memorial Stadium. A third display marks the spots of notable home runs at the new ballpark.

The new touches won't improve anybody's leg room or shorten the lines next year for a souvenir program. But they may add an ingredient that was missing from the ballpark's first season -- Orioles history.

"All we've done is intended to remind us of the grand history of the Orioles," said Janet Marie Smith, an Orioles vice president, who helped create the exhibits. "They'll become memory makers as the park's life goes on."

The museum pieces are just one facet of tonight's ballpark block party, which runs from 6 p.m. until midnight. Other attractions include:

* Special events for memorabilia collectors.

The night's activities include a sale of Orioles mementos and random drawings for dozens of team items, including autographed balls, Orioles warmup jackets and private ballpark tours.

* Events designed for children.

Young fans can visit a face-painting booth and watch strolling street performers. They also can pay a visit to Santa Claus, who may bear a

striking resemblance to University of Maryland football coach Mark Duffner. Admission to all events, including children's activities, is free.

Sprinkled among these events will be dedication ceremonies for the new plaques and monuments, created by Triangle Sign & Service, the Baltimore company that also provided the old clock and twirling birds atop the ballpark's main scoreboard.

Fans who appreciate numbers -- particularly the shiny, 4-foot-tall aluminum type -- should be intrigued by a new display located at the north end of the warehouse. At the spot, the team is paying larger-than-life tributes to Orioles whose uniform numbers are retired.

I= The area includes monuments showing Jim Palmer's 22, Earl

Weaver's 4, Frank Robinson's 20 and Brooks Robinson's 5. Missing is a fifth number retired by the Orioles -- Eddie Murray's 33.

Murray and the Orioles parted on icy terms in 1989, but team officials insist they intended no slight.

"Those monuments are for retired players and when Eddie concludes his major-league career, he'll be so honored," spokesman Rick Vaughn said.

The Orioles Hall of Fame also will be getting a higher profile. Plaques of all 24 inductees will hang from a wall beside Eutaw Street, where they'll be in view of fans searching for beef sandwiches and lost children.

The plaques are not the bronze type that hang at Baseball's Hall of Fame. Instead, they feature photographs of the honored players from their Orioles years, their career statistics and biographies written by the Orioles' unofficial historian, Bob Brown.

The Orioles even are honoring events out of their recent past. Heading south on Eutaw Street, three 5-inch brass baseballs have been imbedded in the walkway that separates the ballpark from the warehouse. Each marks the spot of a home run that reached the pedestrian-only street during the ballpark's first season.

The baseballs feature the name of the home-run hitter, the date of the hit and the player's team name in script lettering. In the first season, the long home runs were hit by visiting players only -- Lee Stevens, Kevin Reimer and Mickey Tettleton.

Future home runs will be marked in a similar fashion, Smith said, turning the street into "a living monument."

"They don't put up many things that will grow and change over time," Smith said. "Our only regret is that we haven't had one hit by an Oriole."

It's ticket time

Bring a scarf. And a credit card.

That, plus a fair amount of patience, should be all Orioles fans need to buy tickets for the 1993 season tonight at Camden Yards.

Starting at 6 p.m., about 1.5 million tickets will go on sale at the stadium for all home games except Opening Day. (Those seats will be distributed by lottery.) Expecting heavy demand, the team will open all 17 ticket windows in the B&O warehouse and several auxiliary windows scattered throughout the ballpark.

But Orioles officials stress that the ballpark isn't the only place to buy tickets tonight or throughout the off-season. Tickets also will be available at the team's regular area outlets and by telephone.

Team officials are taking some steps to try to discourage ticket scalpers from hoarding large blocks of seats. Tonight through Sunday, customers will be limited to a maximum of 10 tickets per game for up to eight games.

How long ticket supplies for the 1993 season will last is anybody's guess. (The team already has capped season-ticket orders at 27,500.) But the Orioles seem confident that supplies will last for several weeks at least.

Said Vince Dunbar, director of sales, "We've just never had this much interest."

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