A stadium name that will please almost everyone

MIKE LITTWIN

July 07, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

We could call it Skybox Stadium, because that's why they're building it.

Or Closer-to-Washington Stadium, the other reason they're building it.

Or Taxpayer Stadium, after the people paying for it.

One way or the other, it's coming. The name, that is. We don't get the new baseball stadium until next spring, but we get the name much sooner. In fact, the governor -- who has judiciously ruled out William Donald Schaefer Stadium -- revealed a few days ago that we'd get the name within two weeks.

I'm on pins and needles. And, I'll let you in on a little secret -- it smarts.

The surprising thing, or maybe it isn't, is how some people get so exercised over naming a building. People will get exercised over anything, of course, including the relative lightness of lite beer. But this is serious. Fistfights are going to break out.

So, I've come up with a compromise name that should please everyone: Orioles Park at Camden Yards Near the Birthplace of Babe Ruth in a State Governed by William Donald Schaefer You've Got the Right One Baby, Uh-huh, Stadium.

Yes, it's a little bulky, and there might be a little cost overrun on the sign. Usually, you'd want a snappier name, say, Bud Stadium. But consensus building does not always allow for snappiness, and, anyway, the longer name would provide good practice for residents of the city that reads.

The problem is that each of the names we're hearing as likely has its own problems.

Oriole Park. It sounds like someplace the Audubon Society would meet. Instead of a baseball game, you arrive expecting to see thin men with walking sticks, saying things like, "Have you spied any yellow-bellied sapsuckers?"

Babe Ruth Stadium. I want to break this to people slowly, because we're dealing with a highly emotional issue, but Babe Ruth played for the Yankees. Seriously. Yankee Stadium is the House That Ruth Built. This stadium would only be the Stadium Where Babe's Dad Drank. Not exactly the same thing. Naming the stadium after the Babe would be like naming Yankee Stadium after Sandy Koufax, a New York native. Robinsons Stadium would be more appropriate, except they just fired Frank and dropped Brooks from about half the TV games. I hear the idea of Jim Palmer Stadium is making a comeback.

Camden Yards. That's my favorite, because it sounds like a baseball field. Players call any baseball field the yard, and it has the old-timey feel they're trying to suggest. But I can see the difficulty, in that the name also brings to mind the image of a railroad junction in New Jersey.

The easy answer is that it doesn't much matter what you call the stadium. What percentage of people do you think have any idea what RFK stands for in RFK Stadium? I'm guessing most people think Memorial Stadium is named after the holiday. What I'm sure that nobody going to the game gives much thought to brave soldiers lost in the defense of freedom. Most people just want to know the location of the beer.

My real problem is with who's doing the naming. It's supposed to be a joint decision by the Maryland Stadium Authority (meaning the governor) and the Orioles (meaning Eli Jacobs). The governor has a history of good relations with team owners, which can be seen in the transcript I was able to uncover of a recent conversation between Jacobs and Schaefer:

Jacobs: Jump.

Schaefer: With or without a hoop?

That means Jacobs, possibly the soon-to-be-ex-owner and not so long ago the not-yet-owner, will do the naming. It is something we can remember him by and maybe even fondly. (By the way, I'm betting on Oriole Park.)

Here's the important thing: It's going to be a great stadium. From what I've seen, it's going to be the best new stadium built at least since Dodger Stadium. The idea to make it an urban stadium, with a Fenway-type feel, and even making the dimensions idiosyncratic was inspired. Moving there from Memorial Stadium, no matter your fondness for the old place, is ** the best trade the Orioles will have made in years.

Maybe the state was blackmailed into building the stadium by the late Edward Bennett Williams, but most of the world's great buildings were constructed in pretty much the same way. All the wonderful cathedrals of Europe were built literally on the backs of ordinary citizens who had no say in the matter. Not only were they taxed -- and not through a lottery, either -- but they also had to do the actual laying of stone upon stone. We can think of the stadium as our pyramids, although with fewer coffins.

In any case, the suspense will soon be over. In the meantime, we can still play the na-a-a-me game. All together: Camden, camden, bo, bamden; banana, bana, fo, famden; fe, fi, mo, mamden; Camden. Let's try Babe. . . .

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