Camden Yards simply doesn't measure up

July 13, 1994|By John Steadman

Why baseballs are flying out of Camden Yards at a rate that may reach a record clip can now be addressed via the revelations of the tape measure. The dimensions to right- and left-center field, plus straightaway center, are inaccurate by as much as 10 feet in all three directions, including the so-called power alleys.

The moment of truth arrived when a reporter and team public relations director Dr. Charles Steinberg, representing the Baltimore Orioles, utilized a mobile measuring device, similar to the kind used by construction crews, in an attempt to verify the distances from home plate to left-center, to dead center and to right-center that are posted on the fences.

It resulted in what is perceived as serious discrepancy. A sportswriter clocked the footage from the plate to the outfield and Dr. Steinberg immediately retraced a similar path to double-check the footage. The two measurements were in close agreement.

What the fact-finding fence mission proves is that either the Maryland Stadium Authority or the Orioles, under the previous ownership of Eli Jacobs and Larry Lucchino, were negligent in providing accurate information.

If the latest measuring effort is valid -- and there's no reason to think otherwise -- then 364 to left-center is either 352 or 354. Center field, labeled 410, is either 397 or 400 and the so-called 373 to right-center is either 362 or 363.

The published figures have been suspect since the park opened in 1992 and the suspicion was increased when a man involved in building the facility known as Oriole Park at Camden Yards said he was present when home plate was moved away from the grandstand in an effort to create more space in foul territory.

Now, following the tape-measure review, there's reason to believe there's mathematical proof to support such a contention.

The foul lines, from home plate to the left-field flag pole and a similar measurement down the right-field line, showed the posted numbers to be correct. To left, it's 333 feet; to right it's 316, exactly as advertised. But the playing field, in other parts of the Baltimore homer haven, were as follows:

Left-center is reported as 364 feet. The "S&S" reading (which might be construed as standing for Steinberg & Steadman) came to either 352 or 354. The slight variance is explained by the fact two different men measured the route and may have slightly erred in retracing the path from home plate to the designated distances. Center field is marked as 410 on the fence but 397 or 400 feet by the latest measurement. Right-center said to be 373, is either 363 or 362.

The vast discrepancies, comparing the announced dimensions with what was discerned yesterday, are an embarrassment. Oriole Park, which has been lavished with praiseworthy reviews, is offering distances that are inaccurate.

Owner Peter Angelos, interested in offering the public a square deal, may want to make corrections for the sake of purity. If not this year, then certainly for next season. Steinberg expressed surprise over the differences found in the targeted home run areas.

"Some of the home runs are being hit where it's agreed the ball travels better than it does in other directions," commented Steinberg. "Left-center, not far from the bullpens, where there's an opening in the structure, seems to be most susceptible direction for getting maximum carry. There may be a wind tunnel of sorts in that specific area. Balls hit to right field that you think might be out of the park sometimes quickly lose their power.

"The kind of fly balls, long and far, that Boog Powell used to loft, don't seem to get out of here with too much frequency. They kind of die. The bazooka shot Mickey Tettleton blasted the first year the park was open and the kind of line drives Brady Anderson often produces appear to be the ones going over the right-field barrier, not the high trajectory hits."

Baltimore winds from April to June generally originate from a northwest direction but come June and hot weather, the summer breezes, what there are of them, prevail from the southwest. This, by way of explanation, would offer some assistance to balls going to left field -- toward the bullpens, the sector Steinberg talked about.

"I studied physics but, in this situation, my lack of in-depth knowledge on the subject, prevents me from talking from that kind of a perspective," added Steinberg. "I do believe the warehouse wall interferes with the air currents, both going and coming, and this would most certainly have an influence on home runs."

He promised an effort would be made by the Orioles to review every home run hit in the park the last 2 1/2 years to see if a tendency can be established as to where most balls disappear.

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