Monday, April 20, 2009

Baseball Place No. 48: Ripken Center; Alternative Place No. 48A: Memorial Stadium

My brother played catch with Cal Ripken Sr. Really.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Josh Pahigian takes us to the Ripken Center in Aberdeen, Md. as spot No. 48 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

It sounds like a pretty glorious place. The legendary baseball family has a compound hosting a minor-league team, four scaled-down replicas of major-league parks, camps, clinics and a museum.

Never been there, but I did spend a wonderful evening at a park with the Ripkens.

Alternative place No. 48A) Memorial Stadium
Baltimore was a stop on our epic 1991 ballpark tour for a Journal story about stadiums. We toured an under-construction Camden Yards and arrived at Memorial Stadium for a July 23 game against the California Angels.
Will, John and my brother John toured Camden Yards then enjoyed a game at Memorial.

Memorial Stadium, where the Mets played their first two World Series games, was in its final year.

The Orioles were incredibly accommodating, granting credentials to all four members of our party.

Naturally, we enjoyed this to the fullest, getting down to the field for batting practice. And as we know, I take photos of everything moving and not moving.

Memorial Stadium was in its final season.

Dwight Evans

Wally Joyner and Lance Parrish

Wally Joyner in the cage.

So does my brother, who actually looked like a photojournalist in his khaki vest.

Cal Sr. was hitting fungos, with players tossing the balls back to him so he could again toss them up and smack another fly.

As John was shooting, he felt something bounce off his foot. A throw had gotten away from Cal Sr. and rolled to John.

“Son, can you throw that over here?” Cal Sr. said, ever the gentleman.

John picked it up and tossed it back. Eighteen years later I remain insanely jealous.

Cal Jr.

After shooting everyone and everything we moved up to the press box area for some snacks. The dining room was pretty small and very crowded. A staff member was standing behind a counter.

“Are those crab cakes?” Of course they were. We were in Baltimore. They seemed like the frozen variety, but I did not complain.

Memorial Stadium was such a realxed place that event the grounds crew was having fun and playing catch.

I moved into the press box for the game, which was great because Jim Abbott, a Flint native, was on the hill for the Angels. Seeing Abbott effortlessly transfer his glove from his hand to the end of his arm was simply amazing.

Press boxes aren’t always fun places. Basically there are a lot of openly surly people up there. I got a sense that the athletes don’t treat a lot of these guys all that well, and when you spend all that time in such an environment you tend to pass it on to whomever you come in contact with.

You need to know that there are semi-assigned seats. Some of the little desks bear the name of the news outlet, and others are just kind of claimed because the same people sit in them every game. Visiting media usually sit in the last couple rows.

So I had my seat in the last row and was enjoying my crab cakes -- seemed like the frozen kind, but they were free -- and about two innings into the game the staff ushered in a dad and his elementary school-aged son.

I think there were contest winners or something, and both were dressed in Orioles gear. The staffer scanned the box, saw a couple open seats in the first row and placed them there. Both seemed thrilled.

It wasn’t too much later when a late-arriving writer -- I didn’t catch who it was or who he worked for -- saw these two in his seat and went nuts. I don’t mean some grumbling, this guy was yelling.

The Orioles media relations guy told him to calm down and pointed him to a spot in the last row, next to me. The guy walked up and slammed -- and I mean slammed! -- his stuff down on the desk."Do you believe this?" he said, as if I would share in his outrage. Since he was all worked up and all, I was going to ask him if I could eat his crab cakes, but I thought better of it.

The Orioles media folks are first-rate, and handed me all kinds of information about the under-construction stadium.

But after a while I picked up my folders and headed out to explore the rest of the stadium and catch up with Will, John Munson and my bother. We settled down in the upper deck behind home plate. It seemed odd that the seats were metal bleachers.

Abbott pitched brilliantly, throwing seven shutout innings, striking out seven with five hits – one of them to Cal Jr. – and just one walk while his teammates scored five.

The Angels pen darn near wasted his effort, giving up a grand slam to Randy “Moose” Milligan, who started his career with three games with the 1987 Mets, before traded to the Pirates for Mackey Sasser.

It was a beautiful park on a beautiful night, looking out into the residential neighborhood beyond the field.

1 comment:

John Murray said...

I remember that... I did not know who he was until you told me later... Nice Guy, I'd play catch with him again...