When the Orioles played at Union Park

It took nearly three years and $110 million to build Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Union Park, home of the celebrated 19th-century Orioles, went up in 17 days at a cost of $7,500.

Built in a jiffy in 1891, that stadium served Baltimore’s first championship baseball team, which captured three straight National League pennants from 1894 to 1896. An 8,000-seat wooden edifice, Union Park sat on 25th Street (then Huntingdon Avenue), between Guilford Avenue and Barclay Street.

In less than three weeks, workers turned a hilly pasture, with trees and a stream, into a big-league diamond complete with beer garden, picnic grounds and a ladies’ grandstand. There, for nine years, the Orioles would strut their stuff, the likes of which baseball had never seen. Players such as John McGraw, Willie Keeler, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson and Joe Kelley — future Hall of Famers, all — took Baltimore to the top. They had both the tools, and the tomfoolery, to do it.

At Union Park, the Orioles weren’t averse to doctoring the baselines to favor their bunts. In the outfield, they hid extra balls in the grass, should a base hit bound past them. And they sprinkled soap flakes on the mound, which stuck to the hands of opposing pitchers and messed with their control.

Then, in a flash, it was over. The 1899 season was Baltimore’s last in the NL. Two years later, the Orioles resurfaced, albeit briefly, in the new American League — and a new stadium. In 1905, Union Park was demolished; homes now occupy the site.

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