Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 23: Camden Yards on $0.00 a Day

Babe's Dream!

“Babe’s Dream” commemorates baseball legend Babe Ruth, who was born in Baltimore and who’s among the very, very few players I read about during my short-lived baseball phase back in third grade.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

Longtime MC readers know my wife and I aren’t sports fans. We’ll attend games, matches, or races if an employer holds an event at one of our local venues, such as that time we saw a Pacers game from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse cheap seats, or that time we took in a July 4th Indians game at Victory Field, or that time I spent an afternoon at Indy 500 practice. But when it comes to our independent leisure time or our vacations, sports arenas — even the famous ones — almost never factor into our planning. If they’re a convenient neighbor or backdrop to the attraction we actually came to visit, we’ll include them if they catch our eye.

Since 1992 Oriole Park at Camden Yards has been the home of the Baltimore Orioles. Their 2017 season recently ended in depressing fashion, but their stomping grounds seemed nice. The Orioles were out of town while we were in Baltimore, but Anne and I had two other reasons for dropping in. The park was next door to the next tourist attraction I wanted to see. More importantly, Anne’s sources told her there was a smashed-penny machine on the premises. Smashed pennies are kind of her thing.

We had to walk a few blocks west from where The Charm City Circulator dropped us off. Along our path was the Baltimore Convention Center, which I understand occasionally hosts the kinds of conventions we like.

Baltimore Convention Center!

At this point in our lives we’re not prepared to travel this far just for cons, but who know what the future may bring.

A bit past that was Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The unwieldy name was a compromise between parties who couldn’t make up their minds. I’d be curious to know which half the locals prefer.

Camden Yards!

2017 marked the 25th anniversary of their grand opening, when they gave the Orioles reason to keep calling Baltimore home and not abandon it like certain other sports teams we maybe shouldn’t mention.

Games or no games, the Orioles’ official merchandise store is open daily for tourists and fans who feel the impulse to go buy Orioles stuff anytime.

Oriole merch!

I don’t mind orange shirts, but team logos just aren’t my thing.

Beyond the souvenirs was Oriole Park itself. We weren’t sure we were allowed out there without paying admission of some sort. We could’ve asked or just barged out there, but decided not to push the issue.

Hall of Fame!

That Hall of Fame wall in the distance might have some interesting plaques on it, but we’ll never know.

We searched the shop up and down, but saw no sign of a smashed-penny machine anywhere. It wouldn’t be the first time her sources misled us. I still recall the time we visited a bus station in Birmingham, Alabama, on a dreary Sunday morning in 2015 to look for a machine in vain, probably while the locals stared at us in confusion and/or suspicion. We exited out the east door and wandered around to the north end of the building, where we found brighter signs of life, by which I mean the actual park entrance. We also realized other pedestrians were allowed to walk up and down the sidewalk between the souvenir shop and the stadium, but we didn’t think there’d be much more to investigate in that direction and limited ourselves to the entrance plaza.

Oriole Park bush!

Choose your favorite park decoration: the pretty bush or the promises of Oriole phone interaction.

BBQ Stands!

Ex-Oriole Boog Powell’s barbecue stands are reputedly a major highlight on game days. Really sorry we missed out.

Oriole trashcan!

Can YOU hit the target with your trash like a real Major League pitcher?

Later that night in the hotel room, Anne was scrolling through our memories of the day on her li’l camera screen when she suddenly stopped and totally freaked out.

Closer examination of her photos had revealed her true quarry had been hiding in plain sight all along.


Penny Machine!

Oh. hey. The back of the penny machine. That we spent a lot of time looking for. And was right outside the shop. In the walkway. Where we didn’t bother to walk. AND we photographed it. By pure accident. That’s…uh, yeah, that’s nice. We’re not seething or feeling stupid or anything.

The niftiest part of their plaza was the field of retired baseball numbers, some of whom had names and reputations we recognized. Some we didn’t, but other sports fans out there just might. Earlier in the entry you might’ve noticed the numbers of #20 outfielder Frank Robinson, who went on to become the first black manager in the majors; and #5 third baseman Brooks Robinson (no relation), one of the first inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

More where that came from:

Field of Numbers!

Also in the field of numbers: #22 pitcher Jim Palmer, who was there for all three of the Orioles’ World Series wins to date; and #33 first baseman Eddie Murray (I think).

Cal Ripken Jr!

#8 shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., whom Wikipedia calls “one of the best shortstops and third basemen in baseball history.” Again, this isn’t my field of expertise, but it sounds legit.

Jackie Robinson!

Even I know who Jackie Robinson was, and even before the (rather excellent) movie starring Black Panther‘s Chadwick Boseman. Highly recommended.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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