Those who see stadium's charm forget they can't see the game

On baseball

April 12, 1991|By Jim Henneman

It's amazing how much Memorial Stadium has "improved" as it's gotten older. We should all age so gracefully.

Ever since the Colts left (when did those vans pull out?) it seems that the 33rd Street ball yard has developed this reputation as a quaint and ideal place for baseball. Don't believe it.

Those who make such claims have never sat in the last 10 rows of the lower or upper deck -- or the last three or four of the mezzanine.

The fact that Memorial Stadium is the sixth oldest stadium in use by a major-league team is the real reason it has developed a sudden "charm." The brutal truth of the matter is that Memorial Stadium, as important as it has been to Baltimore's sports heritage, is a lousy place to watch a game. And there certainly aren't enough amenities (necessities?) to hide that fact.

Show me a horseshoe-shaped stadium that is a good baseball park and I'll show you oceanfront property in West Virginia. What other "ideal" park has 14 percent of its lower deck at least partially obstructed?

When you count the locations where you can't keep your eyes on either: A) a fly ball; B) the leftfielder; or C) the rightfielder, it

probably runs closer to 50 percent.

There are some who say the O's will be going from a Grade A to an A-Plus facility when they move to Camden Yards. They should have graded some of my report cards.

The "charm" of Memorial Stadium is, and always has been, its setting in a residential area that has survived despite having to endure hundreds of thousands of visitors 80 to 100 times a year.

In this year of sentimentality for Memorial Stadium, cherish the many memories and be thankful that it was good enough to lure big-league sports to Baltimore. But don't be deluded into thinking this is a great place to watch a game.

Because it isn't.

* ABOUT THE MEN IN BLUE: One of the reasons baseball couldn't get its umpires to most of the Opening Day games was evidently part of the negotiating tactics. The lockout didn't end until hours before some of the openers, but more umpires might have made the scene had they known their assignments.

"Nobody has a schedule or knows which crew he'll be working with," one American League umpire said at the end of the exhibition season in Florida. "Usually we get the crew assignments and our schedule for the first three or four weeks by March 1. I guess that's part of the strategy."

So while Richie Phillips, their hard-line negotiator, tried to extract the last ounce of turnip juice, the umpires either headed home or remained at their spring training sites. They did not get their assignments until after the settlement Monday morning, making it virtually impossible for them to work the first day.

* ROGER THE DODGER: Speaking of Opening Day assignments, it was a tough day all around for the American League office. Roger Clemens, who was suspended five days for his run-in with umpire Terry Cooney in the playoffs six months ago, pitched on Opening Day while Cooney was forced to sit out.

You would think, with that much time to resolve the issue, that AL president Dr. Bobby Brown would have handed down his sentence in enough time for it to take effect. But Clemens was able to work on not one, but two appeals (one currently in the hands of the commissioner) and still pitch on Opening Day.

The $10,000 fine is tip money for Clemens, but that is the only part of the punishment that can be lessened without the Red Sox ace beating the rap. The five-day suspension was levied in order to make sure Clemens missed one start. It would have been most effective had he not been able to face Toronto on Opening Day.

It will be interesting to see which team Clemens misses when the suspension finally is upheld.

Better yet, after Fay Vincent sides with Dr. Brown, why not set up another appeal? Let the case be decided by Phillips and Don Fehr, the head honcho of the players association. They could sell TV rights to that hearing.

* THE WHIFF KIDS: The Tigers definitely will have a distinctive air about them this year. With Pete Incaviglia (146 strikeouts last year) joining Cecil Fielder (182), Rob Deer (147) and Mickey Tettleton (160), it will be HR feasts or K rations in Detroit this summer.

Tiger Stadium could become the first air-conditioned outdoor park.

* IMPERTINENT QUESTIONS: How much longer will it take for the Orioles to announce their plans for the final weekend of the season? Will the new stadium be named before tickets for those games go on sale? Suppose (horrors) it rains on the last day and the game doesn't mean anything?

How many starts will Bob Milacki have to make at Hagerstown to prove he belongs in the Orioles' rotation? Where, and for whom, will Ben McDonald pitch his first game this year?

If the Orioles' top farm club in Rochester is in financial trouble isn't that a natural for Peter Kirk's group, which already owns Single A Frederick, Double A Hagerstown and is looking for a Triple A franchise for the Annapolis area?

All things considered, has there been anything more fitting for the final year at Memorial Stadium than the return of Mike Flanagan?

Just how many home runs does Sam Horn have to hit in order to keep his job as the Orioles' designated thumper?

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