BALTIMORE - For their first home playoff game since 1997, the Orioles last night hoped to have the stands at Camden Yards filled with something they don’t usually see a lot of when the Yankees visit:
For as long as the Yankees have been good and the Orioles have been bad, Yankees fans have often taken over Camden Yards, to the point where the 20-year-old gem of a ballpark has been dubbed “Yankee Stadium South.”
The Orioles’ surprising season and the quirky playoff schedule has Baltimore hosting the first two games of this ALDS. Tickets sold out within an hour after they were put on sale on Sept. 24.
Based on the Yankees-loathing, Orioles-loving orange towel waving crowd at last night’s rain-delayed series opener, it did not appear as if Yankees fans snapped up too many of those tickets on the secondary market.
“It’s nice when you don’t hear the ‘Let’s go Yankees!’ chant,” Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. “When you’re able to hear the Orioles fans voice their opinions and voice their noise, it can carry you through some tough times.”
Wieters has been an Oriole since 2009, so he knows about tough times. He also got to see what his home ballpark is like when Yankees fans stay home, when the Orioles honored Cal Ripken Jr. on Sept. 6. The stands were a sea of orange even though the Yankees were in town.
“We were able to see it at the end of the year, how many Orioles fans can pack this house,” Wieters said. “Even when we were playing the Yankees earlier in the year, we definitely had the majority in the stadium, which would be big. I think we may even have a few more coming out [for this series]. It’s always nice when you can have all the orange in the stands.”
The Yankees have been coming to Baltimore since the franchise moved from St. Louis, where they were the sad-sack Browns, in 1954. But New York fans didn’t follow in droves until Camden Yards opened and spurred development of the popular Inner Harbor area, which gets filled to the gills with pinstripe-wearing visitors in the summer.
Ken Singleton, the YES announcer who played for the Orioles from 1975-’84 and lives in the Baltimore area, said he didn’t see many Yankees fans making the trek in his day.
“I remember [George] Steinbrenner coming down a couple of times,” he said. “Memorial Stadium wasn’t quite the venue that Camden Yards is.”
Singleton didn’t have to face what this generation of Orioles players did: to have your own ballpark sound like somebody else’s.
“I don’t think that would be comfortable for anybody to see such support for your rivals in your home ballpark,” he said. “I think with the culmination of this season, it might change. It might be harder for Yankees fans to get those tickets because Orioles fans now want to see these games.
“They’ve got a team this year to be proud of.”