Major League Baseball Returns With Yankees-Orioles Exhibition Series – Crescent City Sports


The main impetus for the construction of the Louisiana Superdome in the early 1970s was a new home for the New Orleans Saints. Superdome “father” Dave Dixon also envisioned the facility as home to the NBA and MLB franchises. He had the foresight to ensure that the stadium design included configurations to host baseball and basketball games, in addition to football. After numerous attempts to lure a major league team to New Orleans, city and state officials attempted to lure a major league team. That’s not to say the Superdome hasn’t hosted baseball games. From 1976 to 2003, major league exhibition games, one minor league team’s regular season games, and college games were played in the domed facility. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of those memorable baseball games.

March 15-16, 1980: New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles

The Superdome held its first series of major league exhibitions in 1976 to showcase the shiny new stadium to future owners and MLB officials, in hopes that New Orleans might attract a franchise. Four years later, the city was still offering its famous domed stadium to potential owners. On March 15-16, 1980, major league baseball returned to the Superdome which hosted a two-game series between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. It would be the first of four consecutive years that New York would come to the city.

The Yankees had a history with New Orleans. The club used the city as a spring training site from 1922 to 1924. The Yankees came to New Orleans in 1948 to face the Pelicans in a two-game exhibition series. The New Orleans Pelicans were a minor league Double-A affiliate of the Yankees in 1957 and 1958. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had an affinity for Louisiana through his relationship with legendary Grambling football coach , Eddie Robinson. Steinbrenner donated a portion of his team’s proceeds from the Superdome Exhibit Series to the university.

Baltimore, under Earl Weaver, came off an American League pennant in 1979, while the Yankees finished with a disappointing fourth place in the American League East after winning the World Series the previous year. . When the Yankees decided not to bring back Billy Martin for the 1980 season, Dick Howser was named the new skipper.

A crowd of 45,152 attended the series opener. At the time, it was a record for a baseball game in New Orleans. As the crowd shouted “Reg-gie, Reg-gie,” Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson provided the highlight of the game when he hit a line homerun off Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer in the second inning. .

The Orioles were first on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning, when Al Bumbry hit a field hit that scored Gary Roenicke. Jackson hit his solo home run in the bottom half of the frame and the Yankees took a 2-1 lead when Oscar Gamble, who had doubled, scored on an Orioles error on a fly ball hit by Eric Soderholm.

All of the rest of the scoring for both teams happened in the fourth inning.

In the top of the fourth with Mike Griffin pitching for the Yankees, Billy Smith scored a single, followed by walks to Rick Dempsey and Mark Belanger. Ken Singleton hit a two-run single to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead.

Late in the fourth, Jackson nearly got the better of Palmer again, sending outfielder Roenicke to deep left center on a long drive that didn’t go over the fence. After Gamble got airborne, Palmer hit Jim Spencer, followed by Soderholm who reached base a second time on an Orioles error. Palmer loaded the bases with a walk. Brad Gulden doubled to score two runs to restore the Yankees lead. Bobby Brown hit a field single that scored Gulden. With the bases loaded, Bobby Murcer cleared them with a brace. Jim Spencer added a solo home run for good measure. The final score was 9-3.

Jackson remarked after the game, “I don’t think the ball carries that well. If the ball was carried well, I would have had two. However, he was impressed with the crowd, adding: “I thought the crowd was very grateful. They liked to see baseball and they liked to see the Yankees.

In Game 2 of the series the next day, popular Louisiana native Ron Guidry was the Yankees’ starting pitcher. But he didn’t do well for the hometown crowd as he was chased with four runs in the first inning. The Orioles went on to defeat the Yankees 7-1 in front of 43,399 fans.

After the first game, Steinbrenner was supportive of what he saw in the Superdome. On New Orleans’ prospects of acquiring a major league franchise, he said, “You look and see 45,000 people coming to an exhibition game, and not just walking out, but the attitude of people, talking baseball, wearing caps… baseball is making a big mistake if they don’t put a franchise here.

In response to a report to major league owners several years earlier that the Superdome was unsuitable for baseball, Steinbrenner added, “Last night was the first time I saw a baseball game in inside, and I couldn’t believe I was inside. I don’t know how anyone could dislike the idea of ​​putting a team in New Orleans.

But Steinbrenner’s feelings didn’t trickle down to other potential New Orleans team owners. The city continued to host major league exhibition games until 1999, but were unsuccessful in securing a commitment. Ultimately, the Superdome wasn’t the main reason for not attracting a team. There was never a local backer for the team who could take a stake, and there were concerns about the region’s insufficient economic purchasing power to sustain a team on a 162-game schedule.


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