Ballpark: Camden Yards and the Building of an American Dream is the story of the building of the Baltimore Orioles’ baseball stadium. I guess it’s best described as the biography of a building – the first “retro” baseball stadium — and the men and women who conceived and built it: the politicians, the architects, the team officials, the sod farmers, the bricklayers. (If you know where to look, you can see a half-dozen bricks in its façade that aren’t quite in line; I laid them, in a manner of speaking.)
Ultimately, this book is the story of the ballplayers, and their fascinating team, and their very proud city. But in the end, strangely enough, the stadium I came to fall in love with was the ballpark that Camden Yards replaced: functional, sparse, entirely loveable Memorial Stadium. Camden Yards is a beautiful edifice, and a great place to watch baseball, but it did not need to be built in a city whose libraries were closing. No other civilization has ever been as quick to abandon – and continue to abandon — its grand stadia as quickly and thoughtlessly as ours does. But then, no other culture has allowed sports to assume such a skewed position in its society.
On the other hand, it’s a hell of a place to watch baseball. And the research allowed me to spend a whole lot of time with Cal Ripken – my idea of an athlete, pure and simple.