Friday, October 14, 2011

Last Game at Memorial Stadium



Last Pitch at Memorial Stadium, October 6, 1991
 
Twenty years ago last week an era in Baltimore’s sports history ended.  It was October 6, 1991.  The debate about the need for a new ballpark was over.   The hearings were concluded.  The votes had been cast.  Now all that was left was for the players to take the field.  It would be the last time the Orioles would call Memorial Stadium home.

It is hard to believe it has been twenty years since the Orioles played at 33rd Street. The game that day against the Detroit Tigers was not particularly exciting.  The Orioles weren’t fighting for a playoff spot.  In fact, after going 67-95 they were the second worst team in the American League.  But for everyone there that game was still special. 

The pre-game ceremonies honored Elrod Hendricks for spending more time in an Orioles uniform that anyone else in club history.  The first pitch honors were shared between Brooks Robinson and Johnny Unitas (no one foresaw the Browns moving to town) as everyone expected this to be the last professional baseball or football game to be played at the stadium.

Starting pitcher Bob Milacki had a horrible game, giving up eight hits and five runs in the first 2 2/3 innings.  The bullpen settled down but by the ninth inning when Mike Flanagan came on to get the last out the Orioles trailed 1-7.  But it did not matter.  The crowd was electric.  “To me, it was like the seventh game of the World Series,” Flanagan said.

Immediately following the game the real show began.  Clad in white tuxedoes, the grounds crew dug up home plate and transferred it by limousine to Camden Yards.  Then with the sounds of “Field of Dreams” music echoing throughout the concrete bowl that was Baltimore’s House of Magic, players from every generation, starting with Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Boog Powell and Jim Palmer began to take their positions.  When all was complete, a giant ring of Orioles, 119 from all four decades circled the field.  The ceremonies closed with Auld Lang Syne and the words “Goodbye Old Friend” on the Diamond Vision.  Long-time stadium PA announcer Rex Barney offered his famous “THANK YOU” from his hospital bed one last time.

It is hard to believe that magical moment in Orioles history occurred 20 years ago.  Rex Barney, Elrod Hendricks, Johnny Oates, Mike Flanagan and many more are gone, but time will not diminish the glory of their deeds…or that day.

Shawn Herne is the Chief Curator for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment