Monday, May 21, 2012

The Hidden Messages of M&T

Unitas Plaza on the north side of the stadium is a swarm of fans on game day.  Many rub the shoe of ol' High Tops for luck before entering, giving his toe that extra gleam. 

But even before this tribute to Johnny U was dedicated in 2001, there was a more subtle reminder of the heroics of Baltimore's prolific passer at the same site.  You may have walked over it a hundred times without noticing.  In fact, it takes a raven's eye view (and some Madden expertise) to recognize it.

Under Johnny is a mosaic line of scrimmage. 

Outlined between the hash marks, in x's and o's, is a classic passing play.  The quarterback stands behind a six man offensive line.  There are four receivers running patterns downfield (note white lines with arrows) as possible targets while the fullback (white line with "t") blocks.

Of course, it looks a lot different once movement starts.  Maybe this picture explains it a little better.

Just imagine that "o" on the near side as Raymond Berry, heading for the end zone.

This mosaic doesn't represent any particular play or memorable moment.  But it is one of the hidden messages that gives our complex a sense of place.

There's another one, perhaps even more obscure, that pays tribute to Baltimore's industrial past and the manufacturing district that relied on Camden Yards for transporting their products.

The south side of the stadium is quiet now, and if you're a Ravens regular you may think it looks odd without the big purple tent that has anchored the corner for many years. 

Other than that, there isn't anything worth noting, is there?   (No, those stripes do not represent beer tallies.)

Now look again -- with raven-vision -- from about 50 feet up, and see what the corner really represents. 
The sidewalk design is actually a keyboard, with the turf shaped like a grand piano.  At one time (I'm told) this area was planted into a lovely garden.

However, the beds were eventually pulled and replaced with a tree buffer and astroturf surface --more conducive to the Backyard Bash and revelers who now occupy the area on game days.

But why a grand piano?  There doesn't seem to be much of a connection between classical music and NFL football (although our superb Marching Ravens may disagree!)

This picture shows the Knabe Piano headquarters, which occupied almost a city block at the corner of Eutaw and West Streets.  This five story factory was built by German immigrant William Knabe just before the outbreak of the Civil War.

Knabes were the official piano of Carnegie Hall, and the favorite of singers who valued the dulcet tones produced by the superior craftsmanship.

The building stood on  this site for more than a century, changing hands many times through the years. It eventually produced Sweetheart Cups and Maryland Paper Products. 

Today, of course, the site is occupied by M&T Bank Stadium.  The building's cupola, where old Mr. Knabe would watch ships bringing his imported mahogony and rosewood into the harbor, was transported to the Baltimore Museum of Industry.  It is now a gazebo gracing the waterside garden.

You can still find Knabe pianos, with their exquisite workmanship, in concert halls as well as private homes.  There used to be one on the club level of the stadium (although we can't find anyone who knows where it went.)

But the memory of this particular part of Baltimore's proud heritage lives on in the sidewalk design.  Be sure to check it out the next time you visit.

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