One of the hardest things for all of us to accept in adulthood is that the world will not remain preserved in amber exactly as what we all remember from childhood. In Birdland, we have been given a fresh chance to confront this lesson with the news from yesterday, first flagged by fellow Orioles blogger Eric Arditti, that the iconic “THE SUN” sign, with the H and E being used to signal a hit or an error, has been removed from its place at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
This was not a surprising development for those who’ve been devouring a lot of Orioles-related coverage. The Athletic’s Dan Connolly reported back in June that the sign would be on its way out soon. At the time, he said it might not even finish the 2022 season. Connolly wrote that the team had “not collected payment from the newspaper for years,” and added a source who believed that Peter Angelos had deemed the sign a park tradition independent of any ad revenue. Son John, now in charge, does not seem to share this attitude.
The Sun itself is a reminder that things won’t stay the same forever. It hasn’t even been called The Sun for most of this century. Once a paper mighty enough that it did not need its home city in its moniker to be recognized nationwide, assorted out-of-town corporate management has spent decades shrinking the paper to its current state; only the name of the paper has expanded, to The Baltimore Sun. In that sense, the sign has been inaccurate for years.
The sign is such a small thing, yet if you’ve spent enough time at the stadium over the years, this small thing has been a fun little visible tradition that just feels like a natural part of going to the stadium. I get it. It’s sad to see it go.
Never mind that its function has long since been superfluous. The scoreboard apparatus below it now provides the official scorer’s ruling on every questionable play, and even without this, anyone who really cares can pull out their phone and check. And besides, the days where significant numbers of people are sitting there keeping score on their own are long gone, too. Still, they couldn’t have just kept the sign as a tradition like Peter believed it had become? Apparently not.
This is hardly the first time we have had to confront the changing of the times with regard to Oriole Park. The skyline visible from most of its seats was altered in a big way with the construction of the hotel next door, blocking the view of another old Baltimore institution whose business affiliation has long since stopped paying up for advertising, the Bromo-Seltzer Tower. Some people are still chafing about that one, and that’s much bigger than this sign.
When Camden Yards first opened up and for a long time after, it received praise for being this fantastic blend of old and new. The thing about something that’s new is that eventually it becomes old. The stadium is over 30 years old now. The only new thing about it any more is the dimensions of the left field wall. I didn’t mind the addition of the hotel to the skyline for this reason. That’s something that brought in an infusion of new feeling. I don’t think that’s faded even now that the hotel is itself not brand new.
The Bromo-Seltzer is still cool too. You just have to look down the Eutaw Street walkway to see it these days, instead of gaze from behind home plate.
If you’ve been regularly visiting lately, you’ve probably got a list of stuff you hope can be updated with the $600 million in state funding that will become available once the Orioles sign a long-term lease. The sound system might be at the top of the list for me. Having visited some other stadiums around the league in recent years, the video board arrangement at Camden Yards is another thing that feels old, and not in a good way.
Giant screens as are now commonplace in pro sports venues were not in the imagination in the late 80s when the stadium was being designed. The traditionalist will surely argue that the stadium does not need one, which is true enough, but I think we should expect part of that new funding will be used on a giant video board anyway. The upper deck left field seats that they barely if ever have opened up any more seems like the obvious location to me.
For me, when you get down to it, the big anchor of the classic, old feeling at Camden Yards is the B&O Warehouse and the iconic sensation that comes along with that. No other baseball stadium has anything that remotely compares and few of the stadiums that have come along since Camden Yards was built have even bothered to try to approximate it. The only thing that needs to be done with the Warehouse is nothing and there will always be that old feeling at the stadium.
Unless John Angelos, relevant decisionmakers at the Maryland Stadium Authority, and whatever architects are hired to plot out what to renovate with all of that money are collectively among the greatest idiots to ever be born into this world, they can fiddle around here and there and their ideas will not disturb the Warehouse.
Just about the only way they could is if someone gets the idea to put the probably inevitable giant video board on the facade of the Warehouse. If you’re nervous that I’ve even put that idea out into the universe, I’m sorry. I get it. That would be horrible.
Angelos has not provided much evidence lately, between his Martin Luther King Day blundering and subsequent spring training media session, to believe in his ability to avoid stupidly obvious errors. I still think there’s a big gap between saying some dumb stuff and ruining the one thing that’s most imbued the stadium with a sense of history.
Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain. The beloved baseball stadium of our favorite baseball team is no exception. The old THE SUN sign wasn’t the first thing and it surely won’t be the last little thing to change from your memory of the stadium’s earlier days. We’ll all just have to get over it. Maybe they’ll even do us a solid favor and find a new sponsor whose name also has an H and E prominently in the name. A guy can dream.