What a truly wonderful place Memorial Stadium was. It was the ultimate duality -- a huge, grey concrete edifice into which you walked to be confronted by that smell (ah, that smell, sometimes I walk through somebody's cloud of cigar smoke and I yearn for a hotdog) -- and then up the ramp to your seats, waiting to get just over 3/4's of the way up when you caught your first glimpse of the field, a big slash of green with the players warming up.
What a duality. Concrete and stale air meets Spring Eternal and lazy summer nights.
I went to Yankee Stadium recently (just after 9/11, actually). I was looking forward to Yankee Stadium, I had heard all of my life what a great place it was. When I finally got there and walked in, it reminded me a little bit of the Memorial Stadium bathrooms. I finally got to my seat and looked out on the field and had to keep telling myself that this was the field that Ruth and Gehrig played upon, but that did no good. It was, to me, a pale imitation of my beloved Memorial Stadium (although, I have to admit, the angle the seats are at was pretty damn cool. I was waiting for drunk guys to tumble from the upperdecks straight onto the field.)
I love Camden Yards, too, don't get me wrong, but Camden Yards will miss something that Memorial Stadium had. Me. As a little boy, watching Eddie Murray and Al Bumbry, going there with the Boy Scouts or my mother (and on one hilarious ocassion, my dad, who hates all organized sports with a passion, but bless him, he took us kids anyway).
A few random Memorial Stadium memories:
1 The 1983 World Series. The AFS club at our school (of which I was not a member, mind you) did fundraising of some kind by working a concession stand and I guess they got some of the proceeds. My sister had been in AFS and I was brought along on a few outings and I got really good at doing the inventory before and after the game, so it got to the point that I was brought to do the inventory, and I could watch the game. Got a free World Series game out of it in '83. Turned out we were the concession stand next to where the broadcasters were. Saw Howard Cosell. Snuck up to the mezzanine and sat on the upper step of one of the radio booths, and one of the announcers (man, I wish I could remember who it was. Gowdy? Did he do any of the games?) kept turning around and giving me the evil eye.
2 At a game with my mom, and there were two German students sitting behind us. During an Eddie Murray at bat, one of them said, "Und itz a home run vor Eddie Murray!" and as if on cue, Murray drove one out.
3 An Orioles-Red Sox game, with my entire section of general admission chanting down at Jim Rice, "Your mom wears combat boots!".
4 The 1979 Season. I made it to a lot of games that year, it seems. The atmosphere was just electric.
5 Parking out on Frisby Street. Was it Frisby Street? Something like that. Walking past the old rowhomes in the warm summer night, expectations rising.
6 Of course, wonderful, wonderful Waverly. Polock Johnnie's.
Oh well, that's just a few musings about the old place.