Saturday, April 21, 2012

Still Flying High . . . .

I can see I'm going to be spending most of the summer at Dempsey's, reliving my youth and memories of Memorial Stadium.  Of course, many of those memories came with us to Camden Yards, and here on Dempsey's wall is one of them.

I was actually looking for Gus Triandos when I found him.  Surely Hoyt Wilhelm could not be walled without Gus Triandos (and The Thing, although I couldn't find any pictures of it.  Note to Rick -- find The Thing.)

But seeing Boog suddenly transported me to Junior High (that's what they called it in those days.)  It was early 60's, Kennedy administration, probably Boog's first or second year with the team.  See, he's still wearing #16 and playing in the outfield.  He didn't become #26 the first baseman until Jim Gentile departed.  And most announcers were still calling him "John."

Boog spent his whole career with the Birds and was a real fan favorite.  Although he was known for his love of deep sea fishing, among his hidden talents was outdoor grilling.  So when Oriole Park in Camden Yards opened, it was a stroke of genius to plop Boog and his signature Open Pit Barbeque on the Grand Promenade that was once Eutaw Street.

Boog provided more than great food and a distinctive concept (which was quickly emulated in other ballparks, as many of the landmark elements of Oriole Park were.)  His smoking grill provided the most reliable weather vane for batters trying to analyze the tricky currents blowing down Eutaw.  Despite having the two impressive Birds on top of the scoreboard that were supposed to perform that function, it seemed that the two couldn't agree which way the wind was blowing.  Smart hitters throughout the league quickly figured that Boog's smoke signals were far more trustworthy.

Of course, the biggest part of the appeal was not the heavenly aroma permeating the park or even the yummy fare, but Boog himself.  From day one, he was a fixture at the tent, where you can still find him perched, ready to talk to fans and pose for pictures. 

Boog is our resident link between the days at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards.  He loves the game.  He loves to talk about the Birds, and he truly enjoys his gig on Eutaw Street.

Occasionally you'll catch him into other things here, like helping to coach in "field days" that some of the O's corporate sponsors for their employees.  For the folks who get to come to Oriole Park for the day, play on the field, and work on their skills with some of the O's legends, it is a real treat. 

Boog seems to enjoy it just as much as they do.  In fact, he seems to enjoy just about everything that has to do with baseball and his beloved O's.

For those of us several stories above Eutaw Street, there is no better harbinger of spring than when he fires up the grill for the season.  The fragrance wafts through an open window and suddenly you realize it is time to play ball again.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Baseball and the Banner

Kudos to our friends and teammates, the Orioles, who are producing a video spot about "The Star-Spangled Banner" to educate fans about the celebrations surrounding the War of 1812 Bicentennial.

Not only does Baltimore have a special relationship with the song we revere as our National Anthem, but so does baseball. It is as much a Major League ritual as exchanging line-ups at home plate.

So how did that come about?
A little online digging produced several anecdotes about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and ball games, some going all the way back to the earliest days, when brass bands serenaded fans with popular melodies.

However, there is one particular incident, recounted in the September 6, 1918 New York Times, that describes an episode that may mark the beginning of the treasured tradition.

1918 was a particularly dark time for the United States, which entered World War I the year before. Casualties were devastating, the deadly Spanish Flu was sweeping the nation, and there was social unrest on the home front.

With many players on active duty, the 1918 season was abbreviated, ending on Labor Day. The World Series between the Cubs and Red Sox was the only time the fall classic would be played entirely in September. It opened in Chicago, just one day after a bomb exploded in a federal courthouse – supposedly set by labor activists, anarchists, or a combination thereof.

So it was against this tumultuous background the Series opened September 5th on the South Side of Chicago, where the larger Comiskey Park was leased to accommodate more fans.

However, by the seventh inning stretch, a modest and somewhat indifferent crowd of about 19,000 had been sitting through an unexciting 1-0 pitchers duel.

The restless fans were still shuffling on their feet when the brass band struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Now remember, "The Star-Spangled Banner" was not the National Anthem at the time. It was one of many patriotic melodies performed at public gatherings.

It wasn’t as stately as "Hail Columbia," as singable as "America," or catchy as "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean."  But it had devotees in high places.

In 1889, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy (seen here with a band aboard the USS "Dolphin") ordered "The Star-Spangled Banner" played at all Navy flag-raising ceremonies.  

In 1916, as war loomed, President Woodrow Wilson, also a fan of the inspiring lyrics, decreed that it be played at military and other appropriate occasions.  Perhaps that prompted what happened next.

The Red Sox were taking the field when the melody began. Third baseman Fred Thomas, an active-duty serviceman on leave from the Navy, immediately stopped. He doffed his cap and turned towards the flagpole in right field, standing at military attention.

The gesture was not lost on his teammates, who likewise faced the flag, hands over hearts. Even the starting pitcher, warming up on the sidelines, stopped tossing as the song played.

The reaction of the crowd is best described in The New York Times:

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

In the stands was Harry Frazee, the Broadway producer who purchased the Red Sox a few years earlier with money from his theatrical successes. He knew a show-stopping hit when he heard one. He also realized it would work far better as an opening number than buried somewhere in the second act.

So when the Series moved to Fenway Park, Harry did the Cubs one better. He invited World War I veterans as guests, and had the "Star-Spangled Banner" played before the game as a tribute to them. As the impresario predicted, it got things off to a rousing start.

So he repeated it for the remaining games in Boston, to more ovations.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"Another delegation of wounded soldiers and sailors invalided home saw the game, and their entrance on crutches supported by their comrades evoked louder cheers than anything the athletes did on the diamond."
The Sox eventually won the Series in six games. The talented southpaw who completed the first game would pitch another shutout in Game 4, establishing a record of 29 scoreless innings in World Series play that stood until Whitey Ford topped it in the 60's.

It was the last time the Sox would win a World Series until 2004.

In 1919, Harry Frazee wanted to produce a promising musical. Cash-strapped because of poor box office receipts during the war, he needed to liquidate assets to finance the show. So he sold his pitcher, who was also his best hitter (but a bit of a problem child) to the New York Yankees for the unheard of sum of $125,000.

Eventually, "No, No Nanette" would be a smash on Broadway. But the Babe from Baltimore would be an even bigger hit in the Bronx, where they built a palace in his honor a few years later.

Still, Harry Frazee can take some credit for producing an overture with an even greater legacy than anything he ever did on the Great White Way.

The "Star-Spangled Banner" became the official National Anthem by an Act of Congress in 1931.

When the country was again at war in 1942, the National Pastime embraced its message of hope, pride, and resilience by playing it at the beginning of every game. The tradition became a treasured part of American, as well as baseball, culture.

Today, of course, you hear the National Anthem at sports events of every kind -- often accompanied by flyovers, fireworks, lasers, and other special effects.  But to those of us who grew up in post-war Maryland, the last two words of the "Star-Spangled Banner" will always be —

"PLAY BALL !!!!!"

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Community Partners

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake stopped by the Warehouse this week.  She was joined by Councilman Brandon Scott School CEO Dr. Andres Alonso as guests of the Baltimore Orioles.

The Mayor was delighted to announce the O's were partnering with the Baltimore City Schools to have their baseball championship game held at Oriole Park for the next two years.

As the Mayor observed, giving high school student athletes the opportunity to play the biggest game of their lives at the greatest baseball stadium in the country is priceless.  The inaugural game will take place May 5th at 2:00pm.  Admission is free, and Councilman Scott will be working with the recreation department to bring little league teams from throughout the city to enjoy the fun.

Speaking for the O's, Doug Duennes, Vice President of Business Operations, said “Hosting Baltimore City’s baseball championship will be a highlight for the ball club, and we welcome the opportunity to utilize our ballpark for this important community event."

This isn't the first time Camden Yards has hosted a scholastic event.  Just last fall, Baltimore City Schools held their School Choice Fair on the Club Level of Oriole Park.  Nearly 15, 000 students flocked to the ballpark to consider their school options.  That was more than three times the number who attended the year before.   As Dr. Alonso observed "The excitement and the turnout were such that students and families were wrapped around the building waiting to get in."

One of the gratifying aspects of having such a landmark facility as Camden Yards, with so many features and so conveniently located, is that it becomes a major part of city life. 

We at the Stadium Authority take great pride in efforts made by our teammates to make these facilities available for activities that support the community and events that more Marylanders can enjoy.

We're looking forward to that tournament final on May 5th, and also to welcoming Dr. Alonso and the School Choice Fair back next November.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

So Gallantly Streaming . . .

Camden Yards is, among many other things, a showcase.  It is upon our stage that many people see Maryland, perhaps for the first time. 

While the airport might get more visitors a year than any other state property, you can't top us when it comes to eyeballs.  The presence of Major League and NFL teams guarantees that more people tune in to our campus than anywhere else in the state.

So when we have the opportunity to wave the flag (literally and figuratively) for our state and its proud heritage, we are happy to do so.  And we have since January 1st this year.

2012 is the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, a struggle that nearly cost American its hard-won freedom from British domination.  Here, it is remembered for the gallantry of the citizens of Baltimore as they joined with the militia and small army to defend their home from invasion by forces that had just burned Washington.

It was during the battle at Fort McHenry that a young lawyer from Frederick, watching the relentless shelling that rained on the fortress all night, was inspired to write his thoughts as he saw the American flag still flying.
The 1812 Bicentennial will bring two years of celebration, educational opportunities, and activities to Maryland.  So Governor O'Malley asked state agencies to fly the replica flag in commemoration.

For us, that meant raising the flag over the Veterans Memorial (above) starting in January.  The success of the Ravens, bringing a nationally televised playoff game to Baltimore a few weeks later, gave us yet another opportunity (left) at M&T Bank Stadium (which the network generously mentioned during the broadcast.)

Our teammates, the Orioles, also provided recognition on Opening Day with the colors being presented by reenactors from Fort McHenry, and a brilliant display of the 15 star-15 striped flag behind the singer of the National Anthem. 

The Orioles have also very generously produced a video presentation about the commemoration, which will be presented later in the season.

Replica flags are available to the public here:     For more information about the War of 1812 and the events taking place in Maryland, visit their website at:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Are you a soccer fan? Or supporter?

Tickets went on sale this week for the July 28th match between English Premier League powerhouses Liverpool and Tottenham at M&T Bank Stadium.

This highly anticipated event was the subject of much speculation on both sides of the pond for months before the official announcement.  These teams have devoted followings.   For those who only get to see them on cable, this summer "friendly" presents a rare opportunity.

It's fun to check the fansites to see who is making plans to come to Baltimore for the match. Surprisingly (to me, anyway) much of the chatter is about where everyone was going to sit. 

This is where I learned there is a real difference between a fan and a supporter.

Attending a soccer match has its own priorities, I've learned.  Whereas most event spectators value the closest seat with the best view of the action throughout the game, soccer aficionados often prefer the company they keep over their proximity to the action.  That seems to be a decided difference between a "fan" and a "supporter."

When the game was first announced, the chatter on the boards (both here and in England) was about the supporters section.  Was there one?  Where would it be?  How do you acquire tickets for it?  Interesting thing was that many of those inquiring in cyberspace had never MET those with whom they wanted to share seats.  But they wanted to sit with them.

It didn't take long for someone to acquire presale information from a PLS owner and spread the word about the supporters section.  (He also figured a way for his fellow travelers to get tickets early, but I won't give that away here.)

The point is -- if you are going to the match and you want to enjoy the spirit of the game (i.e. a fan,) you probably want to get regular tickets.  (And do it fast -- they are selling briskly.)  If you want to stand the entire game, beat a drum, sing songs, chant, and wave large banners or team scarves, see if there are any tickets left in the supporters section.

These folks (behind opposite goals, for obvious reasons) raise such a racket it is pretty hard to see or hear anything if you happen to be behind them (even without the dreaded vuvuzelas, which are not permitted in M&T.)

One thing we're pretty sure of -- it's going to be an exciting weekend here in Baltimore.  Soccer is wildly popular throughout Maryland, as is indicated by all the youth leagues and top tournaments held here.  Previous events at M&T have demonstrated the enthusiasm for bringing top European teams here.

Whether you're a supporter or a fan, get your tickets soon.  They are available from the Baltimore Ravens and can be purchased online here:

Ode to "The Lady in Red"

It's hard to say what I enjoyed most on Opening Day, but exploring Dempsey's Brewpub was near the top of the list.  Newly opened in the Warehouse fronting Eutaw Street, the beautifully appointed sports bar/lounge/restaurant is a nostalgic indulgence for even the most casual fan (or folks of A Certain Age.)

Much of the decor represents the personal memorabilia of the eponymous Rick, particularly this tribute.  This paean to a cherished friend was composed by by Rick himself (and yes, I did ask.  He could even recite it.)

The "Lady in Red" is, of course, Memorial Stadium.  The original Orioles nest still holds a special place in the hearts of Baltimoreans, and this wall art brings back many memories.  (As did the vintage baseball cards from years past.

Of course, Dempsey's is not the only place Memorial Stadium lives on in Camden Yards.

Among the many enhancements made to the complex in the years since Oriole Park opened is the solemn Veterans Memorial, in Maryland Square between the stadium and Lee Street.

The curved marble facade displays the original letters from Memorial Stadium, dedicating it to those Marylanders who gave their lives in military service.  The urn with soil from foreign cemeteries, originally housed in the stadium, is on the left side.

Some of us here at the Warehouse keep our own memories of 33rd Street closer to us.  Despite being surrounded by bricks, we found a place for one more. It always brings a smile to visitors' faces when they see the distinctive font that was created for one architectural purpose. 

The Lady in Red.  Forever in our hearts, too, Rick.

Note -- While Dempsey's Brewpub is currently a game day operation, it will eventually be open year round as a sports bar, restaurant, and general hangout for those who love sports, Baltimore, or just enjoying the ambiance of Camden Yards.

You should come see the baseball memorabilia.  And share your own memories of The Lady in Red.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's a Brand New Ballgame !!!

It's Opening Day at Camden Yards. 

Exactly twenty years since the "Ballpark that Forever Changed Baseball" welcomed fans to enjoy the national pastime in what used to be an old railyard. 

There were skeptics who doubted the wisdom of building a stadium downtown, in a onetime gritty neighborhood.  There were doubts about squeezing in next to a warehouse, which loomed over right field.

Those reservations evaportated sometime before the first pitch.

As proof that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Oriole Park at Camden Yards set not only a standard of design quickly emulated in many of the parks built since, but it inspired reinvestment in urban centers, with access to public transportation and within walking distance of other activities and accommodations that had been lacking in major sports venues.

The critical and commercial success of Oriole Park made something else possible, too.  The internationally recognized sports complex known as Camden Yards occupies 85 acres of prime downtown real estate.  The one-time railyard anchors a transportation hub for commuters as well as fans.  Oriole Park was joined by M&T Bank Stadium in 1998.  Historic Camden Station, constructed prior to the Civil War, was renovated and now houses two museums. 

And then there's the Warehouse.  When Oriole Park was constructed, many of those critics wanted it torn down.  Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and the 1905 brick structure was restored and converted into offices, facility support, banquet space, restaurants, and retail operations.

Our Warehouse is every bit as iconic as the Green Monster in Boston or the ivy in Wrigley Field.  And to prove it is just as functional as it is recognizable, it holds up the right field lights and a field of telecommunications equipment.

Camden Yards is vibrantly alive throughout the year.  And nowhere is the pulse any stronger than here in the Warehouse.  From our windows we see beyond the light rail to the Inner Harbor on the east, M&T Bank Stadium to the south, Oriole Park to the West, and Camden Station to our north. 

We'll be giving you that view from our Warehouse Window throughout the year, as the change of seasons brings different activities to our complex.  But today, let's celebrate the 20 years we've been here, and what a difference we have made.