Memorial Stadium Love Affair

David Stinson, a friend, and author of the novel Deadball, recently took me on a trip to Baltimore to visit some interesting and little known baseball sites. We visited the spot where once stood Union Park, home of the National League Champion Orioles. This was the team of John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson whose graves in New Cathedral Cemetery we also visited. The final stop on our tour was a gravesite of Imageanother kind; one I had visited before and was not anxious to visit again. Our final stop was the site of old Memorial Stadium.

Back in the spring of 2009, I had ridden down 33rd Street, and seeing those white houses out beyond where center field had been caused a surreal kind of confusion. The houses were there, but where was the stadium? For a dumfounding second, I waited for it to come into focus, but what became clear was the reality of its demise. I felt half sick. I knew that it was gone, but actually seeing it gone was akin to talking about love in the abstract as opposed to actually being in love.

I felt as if I was about to revisit a very painful breakup.

Much to my delight, however, as David and I pulled into the site that now contains town houses and a YMCA, there also came into view a Little League-sized baseball diamond. “Memorial Field at the Y” proclaimed a plaque which had been placed at the base of the screen. Below the name appeared the following:

Memorial Stadium formerly stood on this spot and was named in memory of those who did not return from World War I and II. In November, 2010 it is rededicated to serve youth in Baltimore City. Memorial Stadium opened in 1950 and was demolished in 2001. It served as the home field for both the Orioles (1954-1991) and the Colts (1953-1983) where they featured several championship teams. The Orioles won the World Series in 1966, 1970, and 1983. The Colts won the NFL Championship in 1958 and 1959 and Super Bowl V in 1971. This is the very site where so many Baltimore legends once played and represented our city with pride. In 2010, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation dedicates this field creating a safe, clean place for kids to play, learn and grow.

The very site . . . I can see those Baltimore legends now, even as I can see the flags fluttering atop Memorial Stadium, just as I can hear and even feel the buzz of the crowd as it makes its way inside . . .

David pointed out to me that when Memorial was razed, the masonry was simply pulverized on the spot, then spread over the area and covered with dirt. After a couple years of rain and wind, chunks of concrete and brick can be found throughout the grassy areas. I picked up a fist-sized piece of concrete and half a brick. Not very rational, perhaps, but reason has little application in affairs of the heart.

I could have stayed and stared at Memorial Field until a disappearing sun made it impossible to see, but it was soon time to head for home. Replacing Memorial Stadium may have felt like a bad break up at the time, but looking back, it was necessary. And now with the passage of time—and the construction of that little ballpark—the universe feels more properly aligned. Yeah, it may not be Brooks and Frank and Johnny U., but somebody is playing baseball and football where Memorial Stadium once stood and that’s as it should be.

Those white houses are still there, beyond center field.

This post originally appeared on Seamheads.com on November 16th.

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About Austin Gisriel

You know the guy that records a baseball game from the West Coast in July and doesn't watch it until January just to see baseball in the winter? That's me. I'm a writer always in search of a good story, baseball or otherwise.
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16 Responses to Memorial Stadium Love Affair

  1. Don Hoover says:

    Talk about a trip down Memory Lane! I can still hear Rex saying “Give that fan a contract” I also see the flag that said “Here” where Frank took Luis tiant out of the Stadium. I am not sure if most fans know this, but Curt Blefary’s ashes were spread over Memorial Stadium. Thanks for sharing this, and believe me my emotions reflect yours. Give my thanks to David as well.

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  2. Don Hoover says:

    That we did my friend! Remember it like it was yesterday!

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  3. Jerry Lane says:

    I have to admit that I was never an Orioles fan growing up but I did appreciate the abilities of many of their players, Frank / Brooks / Jim et al. I bled Dodger Blue! I was never close enuf to Flatbush to actually walk the hallowed grounds of Ebbets Field but I can well imagine the ghosts of Jackie, Duke, Pee Wee, Don, Campy and Carl patrolling the halls of Jackie Robinson Apartments. Thanks for refreshing the memories, Austin.

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    • My pleasure, Jerry. It’s remarkable to me how ballparks become sacred spaces. They are places where we spent our childhood and children are full of hope, which is the most precious commodity that there is. Being at the ballpark, or even where the ballpark used to be renews our hope. (Amen, end of sermon!)

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  4. Don Hoover says:

    Jerry,
    If you bled Dodger Blue, I guess the 1966 World Series was a big dissapointment!

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    • Three cheers for Wally Bunker!

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    • Jerry Lane says:

      To be honest, moving the Bums to LA ruined it all for me. I found myself leaning more and more towards their arch enemies, Da Yanks. By 1966 I was just as happy to see the Orioles win as not. Growing up in St.Pete where the Yanks had spring camp and where players such as Jerry Coleman, Whitey Ford and Scooter RIzzuto came around to our Little League teams and gave pointers it is a wonder that I grew so attached to the Dodgers in the first place. Speaking of baseball places that are no more, I will always remember playing my Jr.High BBall on the same field that the Yanks used for their spring training, Miller Huggins field at Crescent Lake park. I can remember striking out The Mick as I faced the opposing teams cleanup batter.

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      • How we dreamed in those days, Jerry! When I was 10, a friend of mine’s dad was our coach; therefore, he had the catcher’s gear. We would go out in his yard and pitch an entire imaginary game to each other AND do the play-by-play at the same time. Talk about pitch counts–we probably threw 400 in a day if you count throwing the ball back as the catcher.

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  5. Don Hoover says:

    Miller Huggins was Babe Ruth’s Manager, Austin, all your Blog’s are great, but this one has certainly stirred up some great memories! Keep them coming, and thanks Jerry for sharing yours!

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  6. Don Hoover says:

    I know the weather is getting colder as the days go by, but do you see the next installment of Off The Beaten Basepaths coming in the near future? I know it has awhile since you have done any, but I always look forward to them.

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    • I actually have two in mind and haven’t been close to doing either one. This year has flown by so fast that I fully expect New Year’s Eve to arrive sometime this afternoon. I’ll see what I can do Don and thanks for asking!
      P. S. Now that it’s cold, you may want to go back and just watch OFTBB #2, the one from Spring Training!!

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  7. Union Park (1891-99 National League Orioles), American League Park (1901-02 American League Orioles, 1903-1914 Eastern League/International League Orioles (home park for Babe Ruth)), Terrapin Park (1914-15 Federal League Baltimore Terrapins, 1916-44 International League Orioles, 1938-44 Baltimore Elite Giants) – all just a mile or so west of the old Memorial Stadium/Municipal Stadium/Venable Stadium site. Talk about off the beaten base path!

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  8. Don Hoover says:

    Austin,
    I thought it would be appropriate to remember # 4 on this particular blog. Earl was certainly a big part of the ” Memorial Stadium Love Affair ” Many players & umpires as well, may not have always agreed on his method of doing things, but no one can deny the intensity in the way he managed. I am sure you will have more to say about him in a future blog, so I will stop right here.

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