What makes perfect baseball sense -- which means it probably won't be done -- is to change the nondescript name of Oriole Park at Camden Yards to Ripken-Ruth Field or Ripken-Ruth Park, whichever you prefer.
It would be a million-dollar promotional idea for the city of Baltimore and the Orioles to take advantage of the opportunity to put a worthy name, belated or not, on the 3-year-old facility. What's a better choice than Ruth, the greatest gift Baltimore gave to the sports world, and Ripken, born in Havre de Grace and raised in Aberdeen, who is about to establish himself as the game's new Iron Man?
The city and the Orioles would be able to further perpetuate their achievements and, at the same time, capitalize on the two most famous names to be identified with the team in its long and distinguished history. The park itself would then be a draw. Fans would want to visit a ballpark named jointly for Ripken and Ruth.
Unfortunately, a major-league park has never been named for a player, which is an embarrassment for baseball. True, there was Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, Griffith Stadium in Washington and Comiskey Park in Chicago, but they were named for owners who once had been players.
Baseball has been remiss in not naming parks for players of exceptional talent rather than owners who were more concerned with the daily attendance count and trips to the bank. From that standpoint, Baltimore would be establishing a historical precedent.
As it is now, Camden Yards is named for a Brit who never set foot in America. He died before the game was even invented. He was the first Earl of Camden, one Charles Camden.
Having Camden's name on a baseball park is tantamount to putting Peter Angelos' name on a cricket grounds in London. Would that make any sense? Absolutely not. But Ripken, who is about to set baseball's longevity record, and Ruth, the greatest player and the most colorful personality of all time, are Maryland-born and bred.
Ruth actually played in the neighborhood where the current Oriole Park at Camden Yards was constructed. And he lived in a house at 408 West Conway St., which is right beyond the shortstop position where Ripken plays.
Ruth was the first Marylander to enter the Hall of Fame and Ripken will, no doubt, be the eighth to do so, joining such others as Jimmie Foxx of Sudlersville, Frank "Home Run" Baker of Trappe, Judy Johnson of Snow Hill, Lefty Grove of Lonaconing, Al Kaline of Baltimore and Vic Willis of Iron Hill.
the park name is changed, it will have to be done by Angelos. As the Orioles' majority owner, he can do what he wants. His power is far-reaching, even to making the infield dirt a lighter shade or taking the name Baltimore off the road uniform without answering to anyone.
It's Angelos' desire to erect a statue to Ripken after he surpasses Lou Gehrig's record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games. That means Ripken would join Ruth in having a monumental presence at the north entrance to the park, near Camden Station, also named for the Earl of Camden, as is Camden Street. The folly of it all is that a Brit has been given such a royal presence, when, actually, he never even visited this colony or any other.
Naming the place Oriole Park at Camden Yards was the combined work of William Donald Schaefer, then the governor, who fought against building any kind of a baseball park for the team until threatened with loss of the franchise, and Eli Jacobs, the former owner of the club. Schaefer wanted Camden Yards, Jacobs preferred Oriole Park so they made a deal and combined both names.
Mayor Kurt Schmoke lectured at the Babe Ruth Symposium at Hofstra College and received a standing ovation after his remarks. He obviously admires The Babe's achievements. Gov. Parris Glendening spoke at Ruth's 100th birthday party at the Babe Ruth Museum, so both would be receptive to any suggestion Angelos advances.
Having statues of Ruth and Ripken at a park named after them would be most appropriate. When an earlier move was made to name the park for Ruth, such well-known baseball authorities as Jon Miller, Ernie Harwell, Dave Anderson, Jim Palmer, Roland Hemond, David Kindred, Tom Callahan, George Vecsey, Phil Wood and editors of the "Baseball Bible", the Sporting News, were vocal in supporting the effort.
They, quite appropriately, would endorse the Ruth-Ripken connection. It would be tying in the best of Baltimore's past, while serving to remind future generations how it was the Orioles' discovery of Ruth that actually allowed him to enter professional baseball and the more contemporary achievements of Ripken.
The night before the Ruth statue was unveiled this spring, Angelos and one of his Oriole ownership partners, Steve Geppi, were talking about the accomplishments of the most celebrated sports figure of this century.
"I think he was off the scale," said Geppi.
"I agree," answered Angelos.
They were saying Ruth was beyond compare, which is difficult to argue with when the records are assessed. In respect to Ripken, when it comes to endurance, and all-around play at shortstop, plus ability swinging the bat, he is in class by himself.
Ripken-Ruth Park or Ripken-Ruth Field would give Baltimore a special prestige that no amount of promotional money could buy, plus providing a link between two of the game's important figures. Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a generic name. Trite and lackluster, it lacks even a trace of imagination. It doesn't stand for anything and signifies nothing.
Use of the double name of Ripken and Ruth on a park where the Orioles play would be a fitting testimonial to perpetuating the romance of Baltimore baseball.