Butch Ergott of the Reisterstown group wore two ski caps -- a worn Colts version, circa 1966, over his purple Ravens issue. Other fans hauled old Colts sweatshirts out of their closets. More than a few No. 19 Johnny Unitas jerseys were spotted among the revelers.
That brought back memories for former Colts players like Jim Parker, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle who played in Baltimore from 1957-67.
"We learned how to be a family," said Parker, noting the special relationship between players and fans. "That was our tradition."
"The players in those days made you feel like you were a part of the game," added Bailey.
Not everybody, however, was sorry to see the final game at Memorial Stadium.
"This place cost us a football team and almost cost us the Orioles," said John MacKenzie, 31. "Just because it's old and historical doesn't mean it's necessarily a good place. It's time to change."
May 6, 1999
Stadium site to be rest home
BALTIMORE (Associated Press) -- Baltimore has settled on a plan to demolish Memorial Stadium next year to make way for a 446-unit senior housing development and a recreation center.
City Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III announced the decision on Wednesday, ending some three years of debate about the fate of the abandoned, 46-year-old stadium and its 30 acres of prime real estate.
Completed in 1953, the northeast Baltimore stadium has been vacant since Dec. 14, 1997, when the Baltimore Ravens played their last football game there. The team moved across town to a $223 million stadium south of the baseball park at Camden Yards.
Memorial Stadium was once the heart of Baltimore's sports universe. John Unitas threw his final touchdown pass for the Baltimore Colts there. It's where the Orioles clinched their second World Series championship, and Frank Robinson ripped a home run
completely out of the ballpark -- the only player to do so.
"I remember the first time I went to watch a football game at Memorial Stadium, when I was 12 or 13 years old," Henson told The (Baltimore) Sun. "But all of us recognize that this is a building that is going to fall down on us at some point, and we need to let
The plans for the senior citizens' housing project, which Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke talked about during his weekly news conference Thursday, represent a victory for community groups that lobbied for the recreation center and housing.
Residents opposed two alternative developments -- a high-tech center and a retail complex -- fearing they would bring traffic. The nonprofit Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. (GEDCO) will have until Nov. 8 to obtain financing for the $43 million project and conduct a study to convince the city that there is enough demand among senior citizens for housing, officials said.
No city money will be used for the project.
If the developer clears these hurdles, the city will sell some of the land to the developer and demolish the stadium in early 2000. The state has committed $10 million to help tear down the structure.
State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer said Thursday the decision should have been put on hold.
"It is not fair for the current administration to saddle the state or the next mayor with decisions as important as these," he said.
Ballpark Awaits Final Score
Baltimore at Odds Over Fate of Old Memorial Stadium
By Mary Otto
BALTIMORE -- The wooden seats, the lockers, the no-parking signs, even the goalposts were sold off last fall to Colts and Orioles fans in love with their memories of Memorial Stadium: first dates, fireworks, Johnny Unitas throwing for touchdowns, Frank Robinson drilling that home run.
And the old place, dignified in a staunch 1950s kind of way, with its vast facade of marching steel letters honoring World War vets -- "TIME WILL NOT DIM THE GLORY OF THEIR DEEDS" -- was left to await the wrecking ball.
Baltimore was moving into the future. A $43 million retirement community and a recreation center were scheduled to rise in the stadium's place.
Then, late last year, something odd happened at the State Board of Public Works. Just days before the long-planned razing work was expected to begin, two of the three board members, Maryland Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, balked at signing off on the $2.6 million demolition contract. The Maryland Stadium Authority was forced to take the contract off the agenda. And since that day in November, the stadium has waited in limbo.
This morning, the board meets again. Many people will be watching with bated breath.
There are the stadium neighbors and supporters of a prominent church-based North Baltimore nonprofit who want the old stadium leveled so the organization can build Stadium Place, an affordable-housing and assisted-living project for 500 seniors.
"What we will have is a living tribute to the veterans," said Julia Pierson, executive director of the organization, Govans Ecumenical Development Corp.
And then there are the neighbors, veterans, preservationists and officials who believe that the brick-and-concrete stadium on 33rd Street is not a white elephant at all, but a temple of sorts to a vanishing time.
Those defenders of Memorial Stadium are waging an eleventh-hour campaign to save it, and many have placed their hopes in the revival of a Johns Hopkins University plan to develop a research park on the site, using the old stadium as its centerpiece.
Johns Hopkins respects the process by which the city selected the Govans project for the site, said university spokesman Dennis O'Shea. But, he added, "if, at the end of the day, the GEDCO project doesn't go through, we'd take another look."
Such a commercial use could provide a new economic engine for the center city neighborhood, much as the stadium did in its heyday, advocates say.
There is also a prevailing sentiment among them that ever since 1949, when the ballpark was first conceived as Memorial Stadium by the city's Gold Star Mothers; that ever since 1953, when the letters of its 80-foot stainless steel eulogy were fabricated; that ever since opening night, April 15, 1954, when Clint Courtney of the Orioles hit the first home run, Memorial Stadium has been more than a stadium.
"Reason number one the preservation folks are interested: You don't tear down war memorials," said Jamie Hunt, development and communications director for Preservation Maryland, a Baltimore-based organization dedicated to saving historic sites.
"You don't tear down monuments," echoed Jim Clifford, a World War II veteran and past commander of the neighborhood American Legion Post.
Under the demolition plan, some of the steel letters and the urn of soil gathered from all the veterans cemeteries of the world would be salvaged and taken to a new veterans memorial at Camden Yards, where the Orioles moved in 1991.
It wouldn't be the same, insisted Clifford. "They are not interested in a memorial like we have on 33rd Street."
Among the pro-demolition, pro-senior-housing forces, the thinking is different: Govans is made up of church people. They understand sacred objects. And they understand the spirit as movable, manifesting itself in God's people, God's work.
"When a church closes down, you take your holiest objects and you move them to the new one," Pierson said. Maybe an entire memorial wall can't be kept, she said, "but the essence of it can be moved elsewhere."
John C. Nuttle, a Govans board member and a veteran, agrees. In recent weeks, he has heard a lot about the memories of the good old days, "the old Colts, the old Orioles days."
"The people who remember that can live there," he said.
Nuttle, a retired Rouse Co. administrator who is active in an Episcopal church, points to the work Govans has already done housing the old, the poor, the frail and the mentally and physically disadvantaged in six projects across the city.
Govans has a $5.2 million commitment from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But the delay in tearing down the stadium is hurting the nonprofit's ability to raise additional funding, Nuttle said. "We don't have the land. The city has to turn over a cleared site."
City officials, including Mayor Martin O'Malley (D), who have supported the Govans project are now waiting for the State Board of Public Works to act.
"We're placing our fate in the hands of the Board of Public Works," said O'Malley spokesman Tony White. "
And late yesterday, given the tumult on the board, not even Edward Cline, deputy director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, knew whether the demolition would remain on the agenda for today's 10 a.m. meeting.
"I might not find out until 9:55," he said.
There are three votes there. One belongs to Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), a supporter of demolition and of Govans. One belongs to comptroller Schaefer (D), a former governor and Baltimore mayor, who has come out against the demolition and the Govans project.
"We're going to fight it all the way down to the wire," Schaefer pledged.
He is a veteran himself but says he favors the research park idea for financial reasons. He also likes Johns Hopkins's plans to incorporate the stadium with its memorial wall. "The veterans . . . they deserve that."
Then there is the swing vote, belonging to treasurer Dixon (D). At the November public works board meeting, he said he could not move forward with the demolition until he had more time to discuss concerns held by some members of the local legislative delegation.
Yesterday afternoon, he wouldn't say what he would do. "He's still discussing the matter," said his spokeswoman, Brenda Walter.
One delegate who has come out against the demolition is Kenneth C. Montague Jr. (D), a 26-year resident of the Waverly neighborhood, where the stadium is located. He is hoping for time, hoping "to work out a compromise."
Why can't there be some housing, a recreation centera research park, Montague asks.
"On a thirty-acre site, we could do it all and preserve the memorial and the lettering," he said.
For now, the stadium stands, square-shouldered, silent in the cold. The Ravens played there in 1996 and 1997, before they got their new stadium. Now they are in the Super Bowl, and everyone in Baltimore seems to be wearing purple. Anna Mae Becker, 68, a Johns Hopkins nurse who lives near the stadium and who has become involved in the effort to save it, hopes somehow the nostalgia and spirit will rub off on the old place.
"It would be so disrespectful to tear it down," she said. "They should be putting purple lights on it."
Built originally in 1949-1950 and immediately the subject of modification and expansion, in 1954 Memorial Stadium became the official home of the American League's Baltimore Orioles and the National Football League's Baltimore Colts. Since that time, Memorial Stadium has hosted the Canadian Football League's Stallions and the Baltimore Ravens. When the Ravens left in 1998 for their new home at Camden Yards, planning to determine the future of this grand old facility began in earnest. The City of Baltimore is currently negotiating with the Govan's Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO) for Stadium Place, a senior citizen housing development.
The Maryland Stadium Authority has responsibility for overseeing demolition of the Stadium. Environmental remediation and salvage operations have been performed.
Working closely with representatives of the Babe Ruth Museum, MSA began removal of seats and other memorabilia from the stadium in 2000. Items ranging from rest room signs and police call boxes to lockers and ceiling fans were unearthed. In October, 2000, a public sale and auction was held at Memorial Stadium affording lifelong Baltimore Sports fans an opportunity to obtain a special memento of the grand old stadium and generating revenues to offset demolition costs. Demolition of Memorial Stadium began in February, 2001.
September 23, 2000 Ray Knowles and Laine Malcotti wrote: I just returned from Memorial Stadium where today the sale of memorabilia and stadium kitsch took place. My husband and I waited in line for three hours along with many other people. The time flew by as we traded Baltimore Colts, Orioles, CFL Colts and Stallions and Ravens stories. As we wound our way around the stadium, the anticipation grew. Finally we could catch a glimpse through the center
field fence. I gasped. There weren't any seats. The grass was gone and weeds grew up everywhere. The pennant flags were gone and the scoreboard was silent. But when I looked harder, there was a crowd cheering as loud as they could at a Lydell Mitchell 20-yard run or a Cal Ripken blooper to right. There I was in the bleachers with my cooler full of drinks that we were allowed to bring in. Once inside I looked long and hard. I picked out the chair I wanted, got in another line, paid and left. Today brings home the meaning of
Memorial Stadium. It will be torn down in November. (The public can buy bricks for $25.) Thanks for the memories.