Thursday, September 29, 2016

Baltimore Memorial Stadium

I have written a lot of about the stadiums and arenas in Cleveland here at the blog and despite being a diehard fan of Cleveland and Ohio teams,I still lived in Maryland.

With that in mind,I thought I would write about the stadium that I went to most as a child-Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.
We didn't have a presence in Washington,so the Orioles were all we had as a local baseball fan-even if I wasn't an Orioles fan.

I didn't mind the Orioles for most of the seventies,although I didn't root for them.
I even liked a few Orioles like junkballing Mike Cuellar,smooth fielding Paul Blair and my favorite Oriole Ken Singleton,so despite being a Rangers and then an Indians fan,I didn't have a real hatred for the Orioles at all.
They happened to be the team on TV and the team that I got to go to see once or twice a year.most notably this night in 1978.
That began to change during the 1979 World Series,but really didn't seem to kick in until 1982.
The Orioles made a late season charge that fell just short of catching the Milwaukee Brewers for the AL East title,but that season saw the arrival of a rookie named Cal Ripken Jr and the following years would see me become a passionate rooter for whoever played Baltimore and their local hero that I always felt was way overrated.

However,I always liked Memorial Stadium and my visits there,despite the less than dazzling neighborhood it was placed in.
I remember vividly on one of my first trips watching my dad give some kids some money to "watch" our car.
I asked why he'd do that and he said "I would rather not have to change tires before I drive home".
The big marquee on the stadium itself with the dedication to the men that lost their lives in war always loomed large as one walked up to the stadium.

I always liked being able to get things of my favorite teams that you could rarely get anywhere else.
I vividly remember saving money for a trip to an Orioles game and bought bobbleheads of the Indians and Pirates (I still have both-minus the original boxes),and stopped in the end of the game rush to use the rest of my money on a Texas Ranger bobble,only to be grabbed and chastised by my dad (He was right) for not staying with him as we left.
I never did get my Ranger bobble (I kind of remember him looking like the photo shown),although I still wouldn't mind having him at the right price...

I always liked the scoreboard in left center and the various Baltimore area sponsors like National Bohemian beer and Esskay hot dogs.
One of my favorite stories from my childhood came from Esskay hot dogs and I still smile thinking of it.
This guy that went hunting with my dad and grandfather stopped by our cabin (we went there a lot) and he used to ramble on and on about the only hot dog that he would eat was Esskay.
So,one day on a visit,my grandfather took some Briggs hot dogs and put them in an Esskay package and made sure he saw them come out of the wrapper.
I watched this guy continue to rave about the quality of Esskay as he happily wolfed down Briggs!!

I also liked the open centerfield area where you could see these planted "wooded areas" right in front of row houses!
It was a different look,but one that I enjoyed despite an aversion to the Orioles.
I seem to remember Brad Komminsk of the Indians jumping at the center field wall and tumbling over in a late 1980's game.(it was 1989) into the bullpens.
Listen to the Youtube below for the only good thing about Orioles games for me-a great announcing crew of Mel Proctor and John Lowenstein...

A great part of Memorial was the PA announcer,Rex Barney,who was a former Brooklyn Dodger pitcher renowned for throwing hard and just as much for his lack of control!
Barney used two catch phrases still used today by fans my age and older-"Give that fan a contract!" when a fan would make a nice snag of a foul ball or his "Thank Youuuu" when he signed off with announcements over the sound system.
To this day,when I play Strat O Matic with teams of that era,I'll think of Rex Barney announcing them over the PA....

Another thing that I always connected with Memorial Stadium,despite few games on the network was this really annoying commercial for WMAR,who showed so many Orioles away games with Home Team Sports showing the home games.
"Hey Orioles" continues to be a song used and parodied by Oriole haters of the day even now!

Memorial Stadium wasn't a beautiful park and it certainly was not a park that was designed to be a 100 year field like Wrigley or Fenway.
It hosted three football teams-the Colts,the late CFL Colts,who are the only non-Canadian team to win the Grey Cup and I still wish I would have seen a CFL game there and the hated Ravens while their stadium was being built.
But despite the teams that played there usually being rooted against by me,I still have fond memories of the old gal on 33rd street and even though Oriole Park being a more beautiful facility than Memorial,I still think of the Orioles being at Memorial Stadium first...

I may not have the hatred for the Orioles that I did in the past,I once made the statement "Nothing good ever comes out of Baltimore except Mary Beth Marsden" speaking of the Baltimore anchorwoman that I was a fan of,but I look back at those teams and their stadium fondly as the first big league stadium that I ever visited along with the team I loved to hate....

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