Wins, losses and lasting ties Love and friendship flourished in stands

August 25, 1991|By Rafael Alvarez

Harry Veditz Sr. and his son had a good thing going at Memorial Stadium for many moons.

For 10 years during the 1960s and 1970s, Pop was supervisor of the Pinkerton guards working security at Colts games. And his namesake and only son, crazy about going to the stadium since he and the old man attended the Orioles' first Opening Day in 1954, used the opportunity to see some great games for free.

"He used to sneak me into all the Colt home games," said Harry "Chick" Veditz, who is a state safety inspector and owns a Pikesville record store.

"He'd get to the stadium and call me at home and let me know what gate he was working, and when I'd show up with a friend Dad would give me the high sign and I'd walk in with torn stubs from the week before, hand it to him and then go stand in the end zone. We did that for years, and I saw some great games, like the fog game against Miami when Toni Linhart kicked the winning field goal for the Colts."

The senior Veditz, 84, is a distant relative of the Vonderhorst family that owned the old National League Orioles in the 1890s. His 42-year-old son has been through the bowels of the stadium that the public doesn't get a chance to see.

They have attended hundreds of games together, not counting the Colts games on the sly, and are just two of countless thousands of Marylanders who have nurtured close relationships the ball yard on 33rd Street.

The Veditz father-and-son relationship, according to the elder Harry, has revolved around sports and ballgames at the stadium "more than just about anything."

But the Colts sneaked away to Indianapolis in 1984, and this baseball season ends 38 years of major-league sports at the old brick stadium when the Orioles move south to Camden Yards.

Fans who have enjoyed family outings, friendship and romance at Memorial Stadium will have to attend the annual City-Poly football game on Thanksgiving if they want to keep the memories alive.

Memories like Audrey Friedman's first date with the man she would marry, Sidney, former owner of the Chesapeake Restaurant and one of the all-time great Orioles fans.

"When I started going with Mr. Friedman, I knew nothing about the Orioles. Our first date was dinner and a ballgame in July of '57. He had front-row box seats and went to all the home games," Mrs. Friedman said. "And every day while I was working, I'd read the sports section just so I could communicate with him."

Memories like Edith Bittorf and her daughter Edie going to the park for all the home games in the early '60s when the Orioles had a roster loaded with youngsters such as Ron Hansen, Boog Powell and Dave McNally.

"Oh, we had a good team then; a lot of young rookies were coming up then," said Mrs. Bittorf, whose husband would buy season tickets and give them to his wife and teen-age daughter. "We went to most every game for four or five years. My favorite memory is that we never gave up. We'd stay to the very end -- even if they were losing we'd stay to the very end -- and quite often they'd have a rally and come through to win. I remember we made a lot of friends there at the park."

Kelly McCleaf Karwacki, who met her future husband, Dan Karwacki, at the stadium in 1982 when he sold her a soda, said, "It's sad that it's closing down. I hope Baltimore gets a Triple-A team that plays there so we can go back and watch baseball together."

Richard and T. G. Hauver of Hagerstown made friends with a woman who sat next to them for years at the park, a widow whom the Hauvers saw only at Memorial Stadium in a friendship confined to the box seats behind home plate.

"She was a Baltimore lady named Muriel McGauley, and our friendship lasted till the day she died," said Mrs. Hauver, who, like Mrs. Friedman, learned to enjoy baseball to be with the man she loves. "We wrote to each other once in a while, but our friendship was baseball."

Learning the 'fine points'

Danny Wanner has had the same season ticket seats -- Section 41, Row 17, Seats 4 and 5 -- since the Orioles' first Memorial Stadium season in 1954, and in those 38 seasons, a succession of friends have come out to the ballpark with him from Havre de Grace.

His current baseball buddy, a fellow retiree from Aberdeen Proving Ground, is Bob Muse.

"He's teaching me the fine points of baseball," said Mr. Muse, who sat with Mr. Wanner at a recent game. Mr. Wanner hopes his seats at Camden Yards will be as good as the ones he has enjoyed on 33rd Street since the Eisenhower era.

Over the years, watching the game and relating the fine points of baseball has made Mr. Wanner a better man.

"My attitude is better as I get older, because of baseball," he said, noting that he takes life easier than he did in his "speed demon" youth. "Two things keep me alive at the age of 74 -- my garden and baseball. Take baseball away from me and forget it. I'd just lay down and die."

"Clancy the Beer Man" doesn't do any lying down at the stadium.

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