Memorial Stadium still exists throughout Maryland

Baltimore - It was 1985 and all Rose Blair wanted was an autograph.

The Middle River resident didn’t have any paper, just an old popcorn box with the Baltimore Orioles logo on it.

With her husband’s pen, she waited in the parking lot for the players to come out.

First was Cal Ripken Jr. then Lee Lacy and Scott McGregor. An hour later, she had nearly a dozen signatures on the box.

Twenty years later she still has the container, though it has aged a bit.

It’s one of the few possessions she has from Memorial Stadium before it was torn down in 2001.

“I don’t think anyone has anything similar,” she said. “It’s definitely one of a kind.”

Like Blair's collection, parts of the former Oriole stadium can be found all over the state, years after the structure was torn down.

“The stuff went far, it went fast,” said John Ziemann who was in charge of selling off the stadium’s things. “You notice that even though it’s gone, you don’t’ find much of it for sale.”

Most of the collectables, including Brooks Robinson’s locker, are either kept on display at the Sports Legends Museum or in a storage facility in Baltimore City.

The museum also took two marble benches and incorporated them into their facility.

Other things, like the stadium’s turf were transplanted to M&T Bank Stadium and was used until filmmakers of the Keanu Reeve’s  “The Replacements” destroyed it.

Ziemann said it was then replaced.

Much of the lettering on the center of the stadium was donated to Baltimore City.

The yellow foul poles were taken to Camden Yards.

“Those were the only items that made it to Camden Yards,” said Jan Hardesty of the Maryland Stadium Authority. “They weren’t the prettiest things, but they are still used.”

Howard County Public Schools bought $100,000 worth of seats and bleachers, which they installed within their school district.

Ziemann said there’s a hunch that some of the stadium’s lighting even made it to the 1996 Olympic Games in Greece.

The original flagpoles in center field were taken out to Ripken stadium in Aberdeen, while the Ring of Honor was reworked into the YMCA that was built on the property on 33rd street where the stadium once stood.

Memorial Stadium was used for 52 years. The Baltimore Ravens used it for two seasons before it came down in 1998.

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Before it was demolished, the Maryland Stadium Authority was tasked with going through the building and sectioning off what was salvageable.

“Red stickers meant it was for sale,” Ziemann said. “A yellow sticker meant we were saving it.”

During the three-day sale, Ziemann spent the night at the stadium because people were coming at all hours for a chance to buy memorabilia.

“They took everything- signs to bathroom fixtures,” he said. “People just wanted a piece of history.”

Keith Eggener, Professor of Architectural History at the University of Oregon, looked at the life of Memorial Stadium once it was torn down.

“ I wanted to look at those intersections between architecture and mortality,” he said. “After a building comes down, it’s interesting to see where the memories go.”

Eggener said Baltimore was one of those cities that had a dedicated fanbase that resembled the working class of the 1950s and 1960s.

“It was a dedicated fanbase that put a lot of emotion into making memories into a building,” he said. “That was Baltimore until the 1990s, until the big contracts came in, upping ticket prices.”

Rob Feigley, a longtime Oriole fan, said going to the stadium was always a family affair.

“I remember the day before a game, I took a note to my teacher,” he said. “She was pretty excited I was skipping school to see the Orioles.”

With the new stadium, Feigley said it’s a great place, but it’s missing that little “charm” Memorial Stadium presented.
 

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