Memorial Stadium (Baltimore)
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2008)|
|"The Old Grey Lady of 33rd Street"
"The World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum"
|Location||900 East 33rd Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218
|Broke ground||1921 (first version)
1949 (second version)
|Opened||December 2, 1922 (first version)
April 20, 1950 (second version)
|Closed||December 14, 1997|
|Demolished||February 15, 2002|
|Owner||City of Baltimore|
|Operator||Maryland Stadium Authority|
Artificial turf (current youth stadium on site, 2010-)
|Construction cost||$6.5 million
($63.7 million in 2014 dollars)
|Architect||L.P. Kooken Company|
|General contractor||DeLucca-Davis/Joseph F. Hughes|
|Field dimensions||Left Field – 309 ft
Left-Center – 446 ft (1954), 378 ft (1990)
Center Field – 445 ft (1954), 405 ft (1980)
Right-Center – 446 ft (1954), 378 ft (1990)
Right Field – 309 ft
|Baltimore Orioles (minor league) (IL)
Baltimore Colts (AAFC / NFL) (1947–1950)
Baltimore Colts (NFL) (1953–1983)
Baltimore Orioles (MLB) (1954–1991)
Baltimore Bays (NASL) (1967–1968)
Bowie Baysox (Eastern League) (1993)
Baltimore Stallions (CFL) (1994–1995)
Baltimore Ravens (NFL) (1996–1997)
"Memorial Stadium" was a sports stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, that formerly stood on 33rd Street (aka 33rd Street Boulevard or renamed "Babe Ruth Plaza") on an oversized block (officially designated as Venable Park, a former city park from the 1920's) also bounded by Ellerslie Avenue (west), 36th Street (north), and Ednor Road (east). Two different stadiums were located here, a 1922 version known as "Baltimore Stadium", or "Municipal Stadium', or sometimes 'Venable Stadium' and the rebuilt multi-sport stadium that, when completed in 1950, would become known as "Memorial Stadium", and, for a time, "Babe Ruth Stadium" in reference to the then-recently deceased Baltimore native. The stadium was also known as "The Old Gray Lady of 33rd Street", and also (for Colts games) as "The World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum."
- 1 Teams hosted
- 2 History
- 3 Layout
- 4 Tenants
- 5 Seating capacity
- 6 Photo gallery: Abandonment
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
This pair of structures hosted the following teams:
- Baltimore Orioles (minor league), International League, mid-season 1944–1953
- Baltimore Orioles, American League, 1954–1991
- United States Congressional Baseball Game, 1973–1976
- Bowie Baysox, Eastern League (Orioles farm club), 1993
- Baltimore Colts, AAFC 1947–1949, NFL 1950
- Baltimore Colts, National Football League, 1953–1983
- Baltimore Stallions/Baltimore F.C., Canadian Football League, 1994–1995
- Baltimore Ravens, National Football League, 1996–1997
- Baltimore City College vs Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Thanksgiving Day 1954–1999, known as "City vs. Poly".
- Calvert Hall College vs Loyola Blakefield Thanksgiving Day 1957–1999, known as " Calvert Hall vs. Loyola", the Turkey Bowl".
- "Army vs Navy" United States Military Academy, (at West Point) vs. United States Naval Academy, (at Annapolis)
Baltimore Stadium/Municipal Stadium/Venable Park Stadium
Memorial Stadium started out in life as Baltimore Stadium, also known as Municipal Stadium, and as Venable Stadium. Designed by Pleasants Pennington and Albert W. Lewis, it was built in 1922, in a previously undeveloped area in the northeastern wedge of the City. Constructed in the former Venable Park, established in the early 20th Century, the Stadium was operated by the Board of Park Commissioners on behalf of the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks. It was primarily an football stadium, a large horseshoe with an earthen-mound exterior and its open end with a large stone gateway of Greek/Roman columns and porticoes facing south towards 33rd Street Boulevard.
In its early years it hosted various public and private high school and college-level games, including the annual "City - Poly Game" on the regular Thanksgiving Day "double-header where the Collegians and the Black Knights of Baltimore City College opposed its rival Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Engineers (since 1889), along with the Roman Catholic high schools' "Calvert Hall - Loyola" Game pitting the Cardinals of Calvert Hall College against Loyola High School at Blakefield's Dons before crowds of school students, parents, alumni and the city's sports fans numbering 30,000. Also occasional home games for the University of Maryland at College Park's Terrapins football and the United States Naval Academy (at Annapolis) Midshipmen and several Army-Navy Games, attracting a National audience and media coverage.
In mid-summer 1944 it was pressed into service as a baseball park by the Baltimore Orioles of the International League, when their previous long-time home, "Oriole Park" on the northwest corner at Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street in the Waverly neighborhood, to the southwest, was destroyed by fire in July 1944.
The minor league Orioles rose from the ashes, in heroic fashion, going on to win the International League championship that year, and also the Junior World Series over Louisville of the American Association. The large post-season crowds at Municipal Stadium, which would not have been possible at Oriole Park, and which easily surpassed the attendance at major league baseball's own World Series that year, caught the attention of the Major Leagues and their team owners, and Baltimore suddenly became a viable option for teams looking to move.
Spurred by the Orioles' success, and also by the presence of professional football, the city chose to rebuild the stadium as a facility of major league caliber, which they renamed Memorial Stadium in honor of the thousands of the City's dead of World War I and World War II. It was also known for a time as "Babe Ruth Stadium", after the then-recently deceased Hall of Famer and Baltimore native. The reconstruction began in 1949 and was done in stages, slowly obliterating the old Municipal Stadium stands, even as the Orioles continued playing on their makeshift diamond.
New Memorial Stadium was completed in 1950 at a cost of $6.5 million. Seating 31,000 at the time, the new stadium consisted of a single, horseshoe-shaped deck, with the open end facing north, and was designed to host football as well as baseball. A roofless upper deck was added later in 1953-1954 when the St. Louis Browns of the American League moved to Baltimore and became the major league version of the Baltimore Orioles, beginning play in April 1954.
On April 15, 1954, thousands of Baltimoreans jammed city streets as the new Orioles paraded from downtown to their new home at Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street. During the 90-minute parade, the new "Birds" signed autographs, handed out pictures and threw styrofoam balls to crowd as the throng marched down East 33rd Street. Inside, more than 46,000 watched the Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox, 3–1, to win their home opener and move into first place in the American League.
Both the Orioles and the Colts had some great successes over the next few decades, winning several championships. Among the Orioles who played here were pitcher Jim Palmer, first baseman John (Boog) Powell and Eddie Murray, shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., third baseman Brooks Robinson and outfielder Frank Robinson. Among the Colts' greats were quarterback John Unitas, wide receiver Raymond Berry, and running backs Alan Ameche and Lenny Moore as well as tight end John Mackey. The 1959 NFL championship game, which the Colts won, was played at the stadium. It was the enthusiasm of Colts fans in particular that led to the stadium being dubbed "The World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum" by Cooper Rollow, the Chicago Tribune's head NFL writer at the time.
Fatal escalator accident
On May 2, 1964, a freak accident involving a stadium escalator caused the death of a teenaged girl and injuries to 46 other children. That day, the Orioles held "Safety Patrol Day" to honor schoolchildren who served in their schools' safety patrols, in which they helped their fellow students travel to and from school safely. For the event, 20,000 schoolchildren from around the state of Maryland were given free admission to the Orioles' game against the Cleveland Indians.
While the national anthem was playing before the start of the game, hundreds of children began getting onto an escalator that traveled from the lower deck to the upper deck on the stadium's third base side. Unfortunately, while three or four children at a time were getting on the escalator at the bottom, the top of the escalator was partially blocked by a narrow metal gate that allowed only one person to pass through. The mass of children was thus blocked at the top, and children began falling back on top of one another in a crush of bodies as other children continued to get on at the bottom and as the jagged metal steps of the escalator continued to move beneath all of them. The moving steps cut and mutilated the children until a stadium usher, who had to climb over fallen and twisted bodies, finally reached the escalator's emergency shut-off switch and turned off the escalator. Previously, the shut-off switch had been moved to a wall across from the escalator in order to prevent pranksters from turning it off while people were on it.
A 14 year old girl, Annette S. Costantini, was killed in the accident. Forty-six other children were injured, some seriously.
The gate at the top of the escalator — called a "people channeler" — had apparently been left there after a previous event, when the escalator's direction had been switched to move people downward. The gate's purpose was to control the flow of people getting onto the escalator. Shortly before the tragedy, Orioles management had decided to open the stadium's upper deck to Safety Patrol members who were still arriving by game time, after early-arriving children had filled the bleachers. Children heading for the upper deck then got onto the escalator.
A highly unusual incident was the crash of an airplane on the stadium premises. This occurred on December 19, 1976, just minutes after the conclusion of an NFL playoff game with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A small private plane, a Piper Cherokee, buzzed the stadium, and then crashed into the upper deck overlooking the south end zone. Fortunately for the spectators in that area, the Steelers had won the game handily (40–14), and most of the fans had already exited the stadium by the time the game ended. There were no serious injuries, and the pilot was arrested for violating air safety regulations.
Hard times for the ballpark began when the Colts were purchased by Robert Irsay, (1923-1997), of Chicago in an unusual bargain when long-time popular Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom, (1907-1979), swapped the Colts in 1972 for the Los Angeles Rams which Irsay had briefly acquired. A few years later, tragedy struck as Rosenbloom drowned in a tragic accident while swimming in the Pacific Ocean With a so-called "house-cleaning" of old Colts veterans and with a new controversial general manager Joe Thomas, (1921-1983), and unrewarding trades and acquisitions of players, the Colts' fortunes sagged and wins began to be scarce by the early 1980's. The wild antics and rude comments of Irsay and his growing unpopularity with the fans and the sports media covering the team became testy and strained. After totally alienating the Baltimore supporters by openly visiting other cities seeking to woo the team, finally an airport conference was held with Mayor William Donald Schaefer, (1921-2011), which resulted in a total embarrassment. Soon, secret negotiations were held with Indiana officials and in Indianapolis with Mayor William H.Hudnut, III, and they stunned the sports world by transferring to Indianapolis, with Mayflower Moving Company moving vans trucking the club's equipment to Indiana in the middle of the night on March 29, 1984. This event dramatically shifted the political establishment's view on how best to address the stadium upgrade needs of the Orioles, the only remaining tenant.
Until that time, then Mayor William Donald Schaefer supported only renovation of the venerable ballpark. After the Colts moved—and despite the public's continued opposition to new construction—the Mayor reversed his position and supported establishment of a new stadium for the Orioles. Like many other teams of the time, the Orioles never had to "demand" a new stadium. Economic considerations aside, this did result in the Orioles obtaining the first of the 1990s retro-ballparks, Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles' final season at Memorial Stadium was in 1991.
When the decision to abandon Memorial Stadium (in favor of the new downtown ballpark) became imminent, various citizen groups began to organize opposition to the decision. In particular, the neighborhoods surrounding Memorial Stadium became anxious about the impact on their area of an abandoned "white elephant": there simply wasn't any other use that would generate the funds to properly maintain the site. And there were no funds for demolition and redevelopment. While the stadium events may have created periodic disruptions to local life, it did provide easy access to major league sports and special attention from the city for maintenance of the area. No one in the local community was optimistic about the future of the neighborhoods.
The mayor and other power brokers, of course, knew of strong general public opposition to subsidizing a new ballpark. City-wide, as well as local, community leaders also knew of this potential, but there was also a shortage of leaders willing to take on this task (although this was never stated, and may not have been known by the Mayor Schaefer). During this pivotal period, local community leaders decided to "bargain away the petition drive" for certain considerations. To do this, area groups formed the Stadium Neighborhoods Coalition (SNC) and negotiated the following: (1) Establishment of an official Memorial Redevelopment Stadium Task Force with public meetings and minutes; and, (2) a written pledge by then Mayor Schaefer to provide upfront funding for any demolition and redevelopment resulting from this community process.
For the next decade, while the community input process lumbered on, Memorial Stadium hosted two new football teams. The first were the Baltimore CFL Colts, later the Baltimore Stallions, who played during the Canadian Football League's expansion to the United States. Owner Jim Speros took over the facility, exchanging tickets to contractors for renovations to help bring the dilapidated stadium to workable condition.  Memorial Stadium was unique in accommodating a full size Canadian football field. Averaging more than 30,000 spectators a game for two years, the Stallions would eventually become the only American team to win the Grey Cup.
Later, Memorial Stadium hosted the Baltimore Ravens, who were brought to town by former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, used the Stadium until the end of the 1997 NFL regular season. It was bid farewell in style by both the Orioles (in a field-encircling ceremony staged by many former Oriole players and hosted by Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell, who began his announcing career here) and the Ravens (who had many former Colts assemble for a final play, run by Unitas).
Through all of this, the official Redevelopment Task Force met off and on, depending on prospects for long-term use. The community remained quite sensitized about any inappropriate use of this center-of-the-neighborhood structure. When word leaked that the stadium was being considered for "rock concerts" a group of neighbors organized "People Against Concerts at Memorial Stadum" (PACAMS). As Baltimore was deciding to confirm or deny this story—with no immediate answer—a large public opposition developed. With the resulting outpouring of anger, the City publicly confirmed its decision not to lease the site for rock concerts.
In resolving the "rock concert" problem, that process had actually ignited a new spirit of proactive advocacy in the community. In fact, there had been developing a division within established neighborhood groups about the best tactics in securing a good future for the stadium. Should the groups make further use of the direct action tactics of PACAMS, or use quiet lobbying by established groups?
That division was never resolved, as individuals continued to work in different paths. In fact, PACAMS (after the anti-"rock concerts" success), reconstituted itself as "People Advocating a Community Agenda for Memorial Stadium"—continuing with the successful PACAMS acronym. With PACAMS' public advocacy, and the established groups' holding fast to more traditional lines of community, there ultimately resulted in a large, and well attended, public meeting where several redevelopment proposals were presented. The resulting community preference for a mixed used development led to the successful development now on site.
Demolition and redevelopment
The City of Baltimore solicited proposals for development of the site. Most proposals preserved some or all of the stadium, including the memorial to World War II veterans and words on the facade, one proposal even had a school occupying the former offices of Memorial Stadium and the field used as a recreational facility for the school. Mayor Martin J. O'Malley, however, favored the proposal that resulted in the total razing of the stadium, an act that many fought and protested. Former mayor and governor William Donald Schaefer protested that the stadium was razed for political reasons. The venerable and historic stadium was demolished over a ten-month period beginning in April 2001. Approximately 10,000 cubic yards of concrete rubble from it was used to build an artificial reef over a 6-acre site in the Chesapeake Bay three miles west of Tolchester Beach, Maryland in 2002.
As of 2005, the former site of Memorial Stadium housed Maryland's largest YMCA facility and the developing vision of "Stadium Place", a mixed income community for seniors in Baltimore City. Currently there are four senior apartment complexes up and running on site. All of this, the political wranglings, the sports history and the city's attachment to a doomed landmark was captured in a documentary, "The Last Season, The Life and Demolition of Memorial Stadium."
In 2010, work started on developing a new recreational baseball/football field on the site (Cal Ripken Senior Youth Development Field), with home plate being in the same exact location as it was when Memorial Stadium existed. The field was completed in December 2010. A ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 7 was attended by Billy and Cal Ripken, and Governor Martin O'Malley.
The general layout of Memorial Stadium resembled a somewhat scaled-down version of Cleveland Stadium (then home of the MLB Indians and NFL Browns). Due to the need to fit a football field on the premises, the playing area was initially quite large, especially in center field and foul territory. The construction of inner fences after 1958, however, reduced the size of the outfield. The addition of several rows of box seats also reduced the foul ground, ultimately making the stadium much more of a hitters' park than it was originally. It did host the Major League Baseball All-Star Game that year. Memorial Stadium was one of the nation's few venues to host a World Series, an MLB All-Star Game, and an NFL Championship game.
The only home run ball ever hit completely out of Memorial Stadium was slugged by Frank Robinson on Mother's Day in 1966, off Cleveland Indians pitcher Luis Tiant. It cleared the left field single-deck portion of the grandstand. A flag was later erected near the spot the ball cleared the back wall, with simply the word "HERE" upon it. The flag is now in the Baltimore Orioles museum.
The exterior wall of the stadium behind home plate was dominated by the following text, spanning most of the stadium's height facing 33rd Street, as a memorial to those killed in the two world wars:
A miniature recreation of the stadium wall now sits outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Orioles' current stadium.
Memorial Stadium also hosted several University of Maryland home football games against such opponents as Clemson and Penn State. In 1988, the stadium served as Navy's "home" venue for their annual football game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The ballpark also served as the home venue for Baltimore's two North American Soccer League teams, the Bays (1967–1968) and the Comets (1974). Unlike the football gridiron which was situated from home plate to center field, the soccer pitch was laid out with the right field foul line doubling as an end line, the other one in deep left field and the pitching mound out of bounds.
The seating capacity went over the years as followed for baseball:
- 31,000 (1950–1952)
- 47,855 (1953–1957)
- 47,778 (1958–1960)
- 49,375 (1961–1963)
- 49,373 (1964)
- 52,184 (1965–1967)
- 52,185 (1968)
- 52,137 (1969)
- 53,208 (1970–1978)
- 52,862 (1979–1981)
- 53,208 (1982)
- 52,860 (1983–1984)
- 53,198 (1985)
- 54,076 (1986)
- 54,002 (1987)
- 54,017 (1988–1990)
- 53,371 (1991–1997)
The seating capacity went over the years as followed for football:
- 31,000 (1950–1952)
- 52,060 (1953–1957)
- 57,557 (1958–1959)
- 57,808 (1960)
- 57,641 (1961)
- 57,966 (1962)
- 60,065 (1963)
- 60,213 (1964)
- 60,238 (1965–1969)
- 60,240 (1970–1975)
- 60,020 (1976–1995)
- 65,000 (1996–1997)
Photo gallery: Abandonment
- "Maryland Stadium Authority - Origin & Functions". Msa.md.gov. Retrieved 2012-04-30.
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
- "Memorial Stadium". Ballparks.com. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- Cooper Rollow, Chicago Tribune, 1959
- APRIL, 1954 | BaseballLibrary.com
- Alvarez, Rafael (July 28, 1991). "In fans' memories, tragedies echo among the cheers". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
- "46 hurt; 1 dead in escalator jam Saturday". The Gettysburg Times. Associated Press. May 4, 1964. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
- Check-Six.com – The Piper Crash in Baltmore's Memorial Stadium
- Baltimore's Forgotten Champions: An Oral History
- Meany, Eric (28 December 2013). "Placement of reef balls on Memorial Stadium rubble to continue for at least five more years". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- "Stadium Place YMCA". ripkendesign.com. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- "Joy of sports coming back to the Old Memorial Stadium". Abc2news.com. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- Sharrow, Ryan (December 7, 2010). "Ripken Sr. Foundation completes Memorial Stadium youth field".
- "St. Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial". Visitor Brochures. American Battle Monuments Commission. p. 1. Retrieved 27 October 2013. "The Commission works to fulfill the vision of its first chairman, General of the Armies John J. Pershing. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, promised that 'time will not dim the glory of their deeds.'"
- "Memorial Stadium". Stadiums of Pro Football.
- James C. Elliot (November 11, 1957). "N.F.L. Sets Crowd Mark". Baltimore Sun.
- George Bowen (December 27, 1959). "Explosive Teams Meet For Pro Football Title". Times Daily.
- "Colts Defeat Rams, 31 to 17". Chicago Tribune. October 17, 1960. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- Rollow, Cooper (November 6, 1961). "Packers Lose, Bears "Boot" Chance". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- Rollow, Cooper (October 29, 1962). "Green Bay Wins; Giants Stop Redskins". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- "Pro Football Headed for a Banner Season". The Telegraph. August 18, 1963. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- "Colts-Vikings Game Sold Out". New York Times. November 7, 1964. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- Snyder, Cameron C. (November 17, 1968). "Colts Favored By 14 Over Cardinals Here Today". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- "Facts of AFC Game". New York Times. January 3, 1971. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
- "National Football League (NFL) - Indianapolis Colts". National Football League. Rauzulu's Street.
- "The Ravens Nest". Reocities.com. 1997-03-15. Retrieved 2012-03-01.
- House of Magic, by the Baltimore Orioles
- The Home Team, by James H. Bready
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Memorial Stadium (Baltimore).|
- Aerial photo from USGS via Microsoft Research Maps
- Google Maps image of the site
- Memorial Stadium Demolition
- Baltimore Memorial Stadium, 1000 East Thirty-third Street, Baltimore, Independent City, MD at the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)
|Events and tenants|
|Home of the Baltimore Orioles (minor league)
July 4, 1944–1953
|Home of the Baltimore Colts
|Home of the Baltimore Orioles
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
|Host of the All-Star Game
|Home of the
United States Congressional Baseball Game
Langley High School
|Home of the Bowie Baysox
Prince George's Stadium
|Home of the Baltimore Stallions
|Home of the Baltimore Ravens
Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards
|Host of AFC Championship Game
Miami Orange Bowl