FANS WHO are dreading the end of baseball on 33rd Street should take heart: They don't have to leave Memorial Stadium behind at the end of this season after all. They can keep a part of it with them forever.
For only $8.95.
That's the cost of a jar of authentic Memorial Stadium dirt that is being marketed to sentimental souvenir seekers by a local container manufacturer. The dirt, or "playing field surface" as it is labeled, goes on sale today. It comes in a 2-ounce bottle and on the front is the official Orioles logo, along with "1954-1991" and "A Season to Remember."
On the back is a diagram of the stadium, so that you'll always remember where the famed Section 34 was. The jar comes with a certificate of authenticity, guaranteeing that this dirt is the real thing.
"I was out at the stadium one day and I just thought, 'We should package up the infield,' " says Alan N. Terner, general manager of Kols Containers. "It's really the only piece of the stadium being sold."
The bottled soil consists of leftovers accumulated by the stadium grounds crew as it cleans and resurfaces the infield after every home game. "It can be pitcher's mound clay or batter's box clay or any other infield clay," says Terner.
In fact, some lucky soil savers might find little bits of genuine Orioles grass or foul line chalk in their dirt, "because they rake the grass at the edge of infield and sometimes it gets mixed in."
Paul Zwaska, head groundskeeper for the Orioles, says the souvenir dirt given to Kols Containers probably amounts to no more than 400 pounds a day. "Ordinarily, we'd just throw it out and the city would come and haul it away to the landfill."
But now, Kols comes instead and hauls it away to the Baltimore Association for Retarded Citizens. There, employees are paid to pack it into the little 2-ounce bottles and put a safety seal on them.
"I've tried to make it a vehicle to give something back to the community," says Terner. Ten percent of the profit from sales goes to Orioles-sponsored charities, including the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and the city's Baltimore Reads campaign.
The project also carries the Major League Baseball stamp of approval.
Those collectors with a little more cash to spare might like to look into the "limited edition" of dirt, says Terner. For $34.95 you get the same amount of dirt, but your certificate of authenticity has been personally autographed by both Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer.
Order forms for the stadium soil are available by calling (800) 322-KOLS. Terner said the forms also will also be published in most game programs.