Veterans call for stadium memorial

September 06, 1991|By Rafael Alvarez

The last time Edward Hanrahan and his World War II buddies wanted to get a stadium named, it was a pretty easy deal.

In a matter of 30 seconds, 10 war vets convinced former Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro Jr. in 1949 that the stadium then under construction on 33rd Street should honor Americans who perished in the world wars, and Memorial Stadium was christened.

"Thirty seconds," Mr. Hanrahan said. "That was it."

Six of those 10 veterans are still living, and yesterday, as Baltimore's new stadium moved another day toward completion in Camden Yards, the old soldiers came together once again to say that the war dead should not be forgotten at the site of the new ballpark.

Their idea is that all the land surrounding the new stadium off the corner of Russell and Camden streets on the south edge of town should be named "Memorial Park."

And all patriotic artifacts associated with Memorial Stadium, particularly the dedication written in stainless steel letters on the great stone face of the ballpark, should be moved to the new site.

Standing in front of Memorial Stadium with his old friends, Mr. Hanrahan pointed up to the dedication that ends with the words: "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

Like many Baltimoreans, they fear that once the Orioles leave 33rd Street for Camden Yards next year, it won't be long before the city decides to raze the old stadium, making a mockery of the dedication.

"That's a promise," Mr. Hanrahan said. "We're not kidding. We think it should be done and its reasonable to think so."

To that end they hand-delivered letters yesterday to the offices of Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. The letters take no side in the current quarrel between the governor and Orioles' principal owner Eli Jacobs as to what the stadium itself should be named, only urging that the land it sits on should honor "the men we left behind in World War II," said Daniel B. Brewster, a former U.S. senator from Maryland and one of the original men who helped name the old stadium.

The group is now waiting for a response.

In the old days, things were a lot easier.

In late 1949, word was going around that the new ballpark under construction on 33rd Street would be named for George Herman "Babe" Ruth, distinguished hitter of long balls and local native son long lost to the glory of New York.

The war vets had a better idea and took it directly to the most powerful man in Baltimore at the time, Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro Jr.

"We went to City Hall and told Tommy we wanted it to be named for the men we left behind in World War II, and on the spot this stadium was named Memorial Stadium," Mr. Brewster said. "Babe Ruth had a head start on us. They even had his name hanging from the stadium on a piece of canvas for a little while, but we passed him straight away."

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