Just to be able to say they were there . . .
To be able to say they were in that big old pile of bricks on 33rd Street when the last out was made; that they heard the last "Thank you . . ." from Rex Barney float over the public-address system; that they cheered from the stands on Oct. 6, 1991, as major league baseball took the field for the last time at Memorial Stadium.
That's why all those people were lined up outside of the ballpark allday yesterday -- through the night and into this morning, waiting for tickets to the last Oriole game at Memorial Stadium to go on sale at 9 a.m. today.
"I want to say goodbye to this thing," said Chris Koehler, pointing to the stadium dedicated in 1954 to America's dead from the two world wars -- a stadium to be replaced next year by a new one in Camden Yards.
"When I have kids I'm going to tell them I saw the last game at Memorial Stadium," said Clair McCabe, 13, planning for the future with a bunch of friends and a bag full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. "And when I have grandkids I'm going to tell them I saw the last game at Memorial Stadium."
Simply, said Neil Johnson, 24, of Hamilton, because "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
The Orioles will put 7,000 upper and lower reserved tickets to the Oct. 6 game vs. the Detroit Tigers on sale to the public this morning, allowing each customer to buy four tickets.
When they do, siblings Jenny McGann and Matt Diehl of Timonium will be the first to get them, since they have been in line since 10:30 a.m. yesterday. "We just had to go to the last game," said Ms. McGann. "We've grown up going to games."
As the day wore on, the line began to stretch from the ticket office on the west side of the stadium near Ellerslie Avenue out to the sidewalk and halfway down 33rd Street. It was growing by the minute. As of 11:15 p.m. it was 700 strong.
They played "Trivial Pursuit" and laughed when no one knew the capital of Mongolia; they drank beer and soda and ate bags of junk food; tossed disks and footballs and wisecracks; listened to rock-and-roll from the back of a pickup truck; read "To Kill a Mockingbird"; watched their thighs turn red from a long afternoon in the sun; and waited for the dawn to come.
"It's amazing," said Ken Nigro, director of special projects for the team as he surveyed the growing line. "We keep asking ourselves: 'Why do they come?' "
Because, said Anthony White, who has spent all his 30 years living in the shadow of Memorial Stadium in Waverly: "I hate to see it go.
"I worked here for seven years as a guard at the ice rink and then they took the rink out of the stadium and it broke my heart. That was bad enough and then the Colts went, and that broke my heart.
"I've been in Waverly all my life and this is the last hurrah for me. That's why I'm sitting here all night."
Not far behind him in line was Ella Walker, a 60-year-old grandmother from Salisbury who drove 250 miles to get in line for tickets to the last game. She owns 52,000 baseball cards, has balls autographed by Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and Stan Musial, and first saw major league baseball when she took a train from Salisbury to Philadelphia as a teen-ager to see Connie Mack's Athletics. "After my family and God," she said, "next comes baseball."