For about three decades, a ballpark in Abell was the center of baseball in Baltimore. Then, on July 4, 1944, the stands, offices, turf and the roof burned down.
Ravens executive O.J. Brigance, a former linebacker battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease whose presence inspired current players during last season’s Super Bowl run, and his wife Chanda participated in the first pitch ceremony before Thursday evening’s Orioles game for Major League Baseball’s 4 ALS initiative and ALS Awareness Month. The Brigances’ appearance was the latest in a series of moving first pitch ceremonies at Camden Yards.
Longtime Orioles usher Charlie Zill, battling lung cancer, honored at first-pitch ceremony, 7th-inning stretch
Battling lung cancer, Charlie Zill, the longtime Orioles usher celebrated by fans for dressing up in overalls and “Zillbilly” teeth and twirling a fake orange fiddle during the 7th-inning-stretch playing of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” just wanted to attend one more game. Wednesday night, he got that and more, throwing out the ceremonial pitch prior to the Orioles’ contest with the Tampa Bay Rays.
As James Earl Jones stated in the movie “Field of Dreams;” “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.”
While the official start of spring in the United States comes in late March every year, baseball fans nationwide mark the beginning of the season at a different time — Opening Day.
And, for Orioles fans, hope springs eternal for that one special day every year.
Although the average attendance for a game at Camden Yards has barely surpassed 21,000 in each of the past two seasons — less than half the ballpark’s capacity — Orioles fans continue to show up for the Opening Day festivities.
Fans pack bars and restaurants from the Inner Harbor to Camden Yards before making the trek into the stadium for the game. That’s if they go to the game at all.
Some people travel into the city for the social aspect of Opening Day, without actually having a ticket into Camden Yards. Some businesses around the Baltimore area close early — or for the entire day — so employees can partake in the partying. To them, it’s more than just the start of another baseball season.
It’s an opportunity to celebrate one of the city’s great traditions.
No matter how dismal the prediction for the Orioles in 2012 — another last-place finish is projected by most analysts — Camden Yards will be filled to near-capacity and fans will be optimistic for a victory.
Once again this year, for Orioles fans, hope springs eternal for that one special day.