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October 11, 1991 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-10-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

COMMENT

The Baseball Season's Ending
And Something Else Is Taken

PHIL JACOBS

Managing Editor

F

or those of us who find
that the smells and
sounds of a baseball
diamond have a way of
soothing life's travails, what
happened at Baltimore's
Memorial Stadium on Sun-
day was something
Detroiters should pay
careful attention to. Espe-
cially with rumors of a
possible local move taking
shape.
After 38 years at
Baltimore's Memorial
Stadium, the Orioles will
move next year four miles
south to the Orioles Park at
Camden Yards Stadium. But
we baseball fans knew that
by now. The move was caus-
ed by Edward Bennett
Williams, the former owner
now deceased, who hinted at
a possible move if a stadium
that could generate more
money wasn't built. With
wounds still healing from
the 1984 Colts defection to
Indianapolis, the state
legislature basically rolled
over per instructions from
Gov. William Donald
Schaefer.
Memorial Stadium is a
place with poles and some
obstructed-view seats. It is a
stadium where your car is
almost always blocked in on
all sides in the lots. The out-
field and infield grass is
green and natural. During
night games especially, you
felt you were at a special
place, a safe place. The
neighborhood, in some cases
yuppie and gentrified row
houses, drew part of its
character there. Neighbors
would sit on their porches, or
their stoops (steps), and
listen to Chuck Thompson
on the radio, the bright
lights of the stadium casting
shadows over their leafy
trees. The din of crowd noise
meant something good was
happening.
All of us had something in
common with this stadium.
My sister student taught
English at Eastern High
School across the street. I
was there, among other
games, to see the great
Brooks Robinson almost sin-
glehandedly defeat Sparky
Anderson's Big Red Machine
in game five of the 1970
World Series. There was
John Denver singing the
team's seventh inning stret-
ch song, "Country Boy,"

during game one of the 1983
World Series.
Just some reflections from
a former Baltimorean who
was "raised" in Memorial
Stadium, beginning with an
Orioles 2-1 extra inning win
over the Chicago White Sox
in 1959. I remember my dad
taking me and sitting with
me behind a yellow railing
in the general admission
section. Jack Fisher pitched
for the Orioles. Diamond
Jim Gentile was at first
base. I had their baseball
cards. Thirty years later, I
took my daughter, Diana, to
her first Orioles game. We sat
near where her grandfather
and I had sat. I showed her
those seats as if I was reveal-
ing some great family secret.
When my mom was alive,
she'd call the Orioles her
boys. As a family we mea-
sured our year by the days
when pitchers and catchers

"They'll watch the
game. It will be as if
they dipped
themselves in
magic waters."

from Field Of Dreams

had to report in February,
Opening Day in April, the
All Star Game in July, and
post-season play. The third
game of the 1966 Series was
important to me for two
reasons. That Saturday was
my bar mitzvah day. The
Orioles won that game, 1-0,
behind Wally Bunker. Don't
ask me the order of impor-
tance here.
But this was the way it
was for all of us. The Orioles
have a short but colorful his-
tory with heroes such as
Brooks Robinson, Frank
Robinson, Jim Palmer and
other greats. But the great
thing about the Orioles was
that it was the Andy Warhol
theory personified. Game
after game, guys with names
like Sakata and Ayala came
through. Earl Weaver kick-
ed the dirt on Ron Luciano's
shoes, grew tomatoes in foul
territory, and a cab driver
named Wild Bill Hagy led
the cheering from section 34.
On Sunday, the O's lost
their season finale to the
Detroit Tigers, 7-1. The
game meant little or
nothing. It was a shame that
the Detroit newspapers
missed out on what was real-
ly happening that day when
they reported the news in

Monday's papers. This was a
game that moved the Tigers
into a second-place tie with
the Red Sox. By spring train-
ing, next to no one will re-
member or care. The sports
writers did not seem to catch
the same game, and maybe
that's what is missing as the
Tigers seem to be bulldozing
their way out of the corner of
Michigan and Trumbull.
So with total subjectivity,
let me tell you what I saw on
Sunday from two views, 10
rows from the field on the
third base side in section 8,
and 10 rows from the top of
the stadium in left field.
From the beginning, this
was a special event. Just
after batting practice, coach
Cal Ripken Sr., taking his
perch at homeplate to hit
"fungo" or practice ground
balls to his infielders, did
something unusual. Without
a ball in his hand, he swung
and "hit" an imaginary ball
to third baseman Leo
Gomez. Gomez "fielded" the
ball and "threw" it to first.
Glenn Davis, the first
baseman, "caught" it and
then threw it back to the
catcher. Pretty soon, the
Orioles were turning double
plays, fielding bunts and
even over-throwing the
imaginary ball to first. They
were diving, backhanding
and leaping with such spirit
that the entire stadium ap-
plauded every "play." Even
the Tigers were clapping and
laughing at the Birds.
Baltimore Colts Hall-Of-
Famer John Unitas threw
out a football and Orioles
Hall-Of-Famer Brooks
Robinson threw out a
baseball to start the game.
On the large centerfield
television screen were
highlights of the moments
that many Baltimoreans
will never forget: the many
times Rick Dempsey threw
runners out attempting to
steal bases; the time Tippy
Martinez picked off three
Toronto Blue Jays. There
are countless stories.
During the actual game,
fans were discouraged from
removing pieces of the
stadium or chairs. One man
in our upper deck section
brandished a screwdriver to
remove bolts from a chair-
back. A platoon of Baltimore
City policemen told him that
if they caught him with the
screwdriver in his hands
again, they'd put him in jail.
The same platoon was
back upstairs escorting a

The scene from Memorial Stadium's opening day in 1954.

man out of the stadium
without the Cleveland In-
dians flag he had lowered
from the stadium wall and
removed from its ropes. The
police restrung it and
hoisted it, only it was upside
down. Section 29 started
cheering in unison, "upside
down, upside down." Not ex-
actly the wave, but still in-
teresting.
A small plane circled the
field with a trailing mes-
sage: "Saontz and Kirk (a
law firm) still says (Colts'
owner) Bob Irsay is a jerk."
Another plane pulled a mar-
riage proposal from Tom to
Kathleen. The Diamond Vi-
sion scoreboard showed us
the couple kissing in the
lower deck. She accepted.
Meanwhile, a game was
going on. Tigers pitcher
Frank Tanana was throwing
a masterful four-hitter.
Where I sat, not much atten-
tion was being paid. Instead,
an awful lot of looking
around and remembering
was going on.
In the top of the ninth with
one out, Orioles manager
John Oates brought in Mike
Flanagan to finish the game.
The Orioles veteran, the only
O's pitcher who was part of a
pitching staff from more glo-
rious times, struck out the
two batters he faced. On the
last pitch of the inning, the
stadium rose to its feet as if
Jim Palmer were getting
ready to throw a final strike
by Reggie Jackson. Catcher
Bob Melvin gave Flanagan
the ball. Flanagan waved his
hat to the fans.
And perhaps the most fit-
ting ending that could have
ever happened did happen in
the bottom of the ninth when
MVP candidate Cal Ripken
Jr. recorded the last out in a
5-4-3 double play. The
Orioles' greatest player of
all time closed it out for all of
us.
Then something magical

happened, a series of events
that I will remember for the
rest of my life. For those of
you who know what this
feels like, I guess I'm really
writing for you. For those
who can't really relate to
this mushy stuff, thanks for
coming this far.
First, Frank Robinson, in
his uniform, came out and
from third base "scored" the
final run in Memorial
Stadium. Again the noise
was ear splitting. He was
followed by a white stretch
limousine and motorcycle
police escort with lights
flashing to home plate.
There, a team of grounds
crewmen in white tuxedos
came out of the car and, with
pickaxes, removed the plate
from the ground. The fans
erupted as the limousine left
to take home plate to the
new stadium.
But here's the part that
got us sentimentalists once
and for all. Two days later,
while writing this column,
I'm forcing back the tears as
I think back to Sunday
afternoon as Memorial
Stadium got relatively quiet.
Then, as if God were talking
from the heavens, the voice
of actor James Earl Jones
and the haunting sound of
the music from the movie
Field of Dreams turned the
ball yard into a solemn
monument.
Jones' voice intoned:
"They'll watch the game. It
will be as if they dipped
themselves in magic waters.
The one constant through all
the years has been baseball.
America has been ruled by it
like an army of steamrollers.
It's like a blackboard rebuilt
and erased again. But
baseball has marked the
time. This field, this game is
a part of our past. It's a part
of all that once was good and
could be again."

Continued on Page 10

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

7

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