Stadium stalwarts Tyler, Murphy and Scrimger have drawn more than check MEMORIAL STADIUM: OTHERS IN UNIFORM


September 29, 1991|By JOSIE KARP

They used to serve ham sandwiches six inches thick at The Stadium Tavern on Greenmount Avenue. One night after a ballgame, Bob Murphy was there picking up something to eat after a night game, and in walked Brooks Robinson.

It is a moment Murphy has never forgotten, even though it happened more than 25 years ago. It was the first time Murphy, an usher at Memorial Stadium for the past 30 years, saw his idol up close.

"It'll never leave me," Murphy says of Memorial Stadium.

During a rain delay years ago, Ernie Tyler sat in the visiting team's dugout in Memorial Stadium listening to Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle talk. That night, the subject was movies, and the two sluggers were boasting of what fun it had been to actually be in one.

Tyler sat with the rest of the Bronx Bombers in rapt attention. Fraternizing with the players is one of the perks of Tyler's job. He is the umpires' attendant, and he prepares all of the balls that are used in the games.

To fans, though, Tyler is more recognizable in another capacity. He is the man who tracks down the foul balls behind home plate.

L "I'm going to miss everything about this place," Tyler says.

Al Scrimger, an electrician for the city, is assigned to Memorial Stadium. He was in the Orioles' dugout on Opening Day in 1954, setting up the microphone that national anthem singer Elwood Gary was to use. He remembers everything about that day, watching Gary take center stage, grab the microphone and sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" into a dead mike.

Gary had inadvertently switched the microphone off, and there was nothing Scrimger could do.

Murphy, Tyler and Scrimger are not the names that readily spring to mind when you think of people who go to work at Memorial Stadium. Robinson, Ripken and Powell, yes. Murphy, Tyler and Scrimger, no.

Yet each of these men has had a long-standing relationship with Memorial Stadium.

"I've already lost one ballpark, and now I'm going to lose another," Tyler says.

In 1944, when the old Oriole Park burned down, Tyler was in North Africa serving in the Air Force, where he fit in baseball games between flights. He had played baseball all his life and had worked at Oriole Park as a youngster.

"The Senators offered me a weeklong tryout on the Eastern Shore. If I made it, they were going to pay me $25 a week," Tyler recalls. "That wasn't enough money. My parents said 'no.' So I went into the Air Force."

He was by no means through with baseball, however. In 1960, somebody asked Tyler to go onto the field because the Orioles needed someone to corral the foul balls behind home plate until a permanent ballboy was found.

"I went down there and nobody bothered me. I just stayed there and that's the way it went," he says with a laugh. "And then all of the sudden it became a big deal, a long haul."

Tyler's consecutive-game streak surpasses that of Cal Ripken. The Orioles' last game at Memorial Stadium will be Tyler's 2,570th in a row. The streak has caused him to miss birthdays and graduations and anniversaries, common occurrences when you have 11 children.

"My family doesn't really complain much," Tyler says. Two of his sons have even followed in his footsteps. Jimmy Tyler works in the Orioles clubhouse; Freddy Tyler works in the visiting team's clubhouse.

"People tell me, though, that there really is a world out there in the summertime," says Ernie Tyler, who won't give his age, except to say he's older than 63.

When he was working his full-time job with the state of Maryland (he retired from that job in 1988), Tyler averaged about four hours of sleep each night when the Orioles were at home.

"But this is fun," Tyler says in defense of his devotion. "If I wasn't doing this, what would I be going? Cutting grass? Fishing?"

Murphy was 13 years old in 1944, when Oriole Park was destroyed. His dad operated the scoreboard there, and then at Memorial Stadium.

Murphy's baseball career lasted somewhat longer than Tyler's -- he made it all the way to Madisonville, Ky., where the Chicago White Sox had a farm club.

"Unfortunately my career didn't last more than six months," the former left-handed pitcher remembers. "The arthritic elbow, the same thing Sandy Koufax had, did me in."

Murphy and Tyler chose to work at Memorial Stadium to remain a part of baseball, the game they could no longer play.

"It's a labor of love," Murphy says of his part-time job as an usher. "I just plain love baseball."

Scrimger, 73, shares that love for baseball. He talks wistfully of the days when Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell and Jim Palmer graced the field.

"They were from a different time," he says.

The new ballpark at Camden Yards awaits Murphy and Tyler and Scrimger. All three hope to bring their skills downtown, and they certainly would bring their memories of Memorial Stadium with them.

"Once you get involved in the game, you just can't stay away from it," Tyler says. He might as well be speaking for all three when he says: "I guess at some point in your life you get fed up with it, but that hasn't happened yet."

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