Illuminated front-row(house) residents on 36th Street fear darkness to follow MEMORIAL STADIUM: THE NEIGHBORHOOD

LOSING A NEIGHBOR

September 29, 1991|By TOM KEYSER

Alan Kefauver lighted the charcoal about the time the national anthem crackled at Memorial Stadium. The Orioles would feast on Kansas City this night; the Kefauvers steaks.

Anne and Alan Kefauver live in one of those attractive rowhouses East 36th Street behind Memorial Stadium. Aglow at night, it looms off their front porches like a picture on a giant drive-in movie screen.

The Kefauvers and their neighbors in those neat, short blocks can read at night by the stadium's light. They can hear the thunderous noises at least as well as if they were seated in the bleachers -- Rex Barney announcing, the crowd roaring, the Beatles singing "Twist and Shout."

Like several of their neighbors, the Kefauvers have a grill on their front porch. They cook out as thousands of people congregate beyond their front yard.

"When we first moved here, I felt like the whole world was looking in my window," Anne Kefauver said.

That was 12 years ago. She barely notices the commotion anymore.

"Sometimes I have to look out the window to see if there's a game," she said.

The Kefauvers seem to typify their neighbors on this stretch of 36th Street: They have learned to live with the traffic, noise and crowds, and even come to look forward to them in the spring.

Some neighbors will miss the stadium more than others, but they all are concerned about the future of the 55-acre site that houses the stadium and the old Eastern High School. Plans call for tearing down the stadium, building homes and offices and leaving a generous portion of open space.

K.C. Docie, president of the Waverly Improvement Association, said that suits most people who live near the stadium -- as long as the monolith doesn't stand vacant for years and fall into disrepair. She said neighbors are also worried the city won't maintain the area as well after the Orioles move into the stadium downtown.

That concerns the Kefauvers, too. Anne is assistant director of public relations at the Peabody Institute. Alan is director of recording arts and sciences at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

They fell in love with the neighborhood after visiting a friend there. The stadium was not a factor, they said.

"I've never been a baseball fan," Alan Kefauver said.

Has living next to the stadium made him more of a fan, or less? "Neither," he said. "I've been to maybe three games in 12 years."

His wife has been to a few more. They sometimes sit on the front porch and listen to the game on the radio.

"It's fun to hear the crowd and listen to the radio at the same time," Alan said. "And the firework displays are a lot of fun."

Doesn't the noise bother them? "Early on we put in serious storm windows, and we put in air conditioning," he said.

The Colts' band warming up about breakfast time Sundays was a little disconcerting. "Teaching at Peabody," Alan said, "I sometimes noticed their music wasn't of the highest quality."

In 12 years they've had only three or four problems with unruly fans trying to park in their driveway or urinate on their lawn. They said Colts fans were no better or worse than Orioles fans.

"The worst fans for any games are Yankees fans," Alan said. "I don't actually know if they're Yankees fans or Orioles fans, but the fans at Yankees games are the rowdiest."

When no one's playing at the stadium, neighbors consider it a park. Children play in the parking lot. People walk dogs on the grassy slope along 36th Street.

The stadium also acts as a partition.

"It's like a big gate between us and the rest of the city," Anne Kefauver said.

One of the Kefauvers' neighbors will miss the stadium as much as anyone -- City Council member Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd. He has attended baseball and football games there all his life.

He grew up in Northwood, moved less than a block from the stadium in 1977, and now lives right behind it on 36th Street. He often works at a desk next to his front window, overlooking the stadium.

He said he loves the festive, carnival-like atmosphere of the games.

"I'm going to miss it, too," he said.

He fought to keep the Orioles across the street. He lost that fight, but now his children have taken up the cause.

His 8-year-old daughter, Erin, thinks the city should hold rock concerts at the new stadium downtown and keep the Orioles at Memorial Stadium. His 5-year-old son, Patrick, has a more drastic idea: Knock down the stadium at Camden Yards and use the bricks to build a walkway around the harbor.

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