The Baltimore Orioles might have gone out with a whimper this season in the American League East standings, but they hope to end their 38-year run at Memorial Stadium with a bang. Maybe even a few bangs.
A Friday night fireworks show, a Saturday afternoon give-everything-but-the-batting-cage-away promotion and the transporting of a piece from the old ballpark to the new one in Camden Yards after Sunday's game will highlight the Orioles' final weekend on 33rd Street.
"It's going to be an emotional ending," said Marty Conway, the team's vice president for marketing.
Six months in the planning, Conway said that he and others who organized the activities and promotions throughout this season -- "The Season To Remember" it wasn't -- began with the last three days and worked their way backward.
It was a sometimes tedious process, especially in getting through the red tape and administrative boondoggles involved in removing parts of city-owned Memorial Stadium -- including bat racks and bases -- for the purpose of giving them to fans.
The festivities will begin before Friday night's game against the Detroit Tigers with the introduction of Orioles from the team's International League days (including Bob Latshaw, Elmer Burkhart and Gordon Mueller, for those old enough to remember), as well as some former play-by-play announcers.
Among those who were there at the beginning, and now will be there for the end, is the legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who did the first inning of the first Orioles game in 1954. Harwell, who is being forced to retire by the Tigers after this season, has been mentioned for a possible return to Baltimore next season.
After the game, Zambelli International will put on what Conway called "the largest fireworks show in the history of Memorial Stadium.
Saturday is Fan Appreciation Day, where the all-time Orioles team, sponsored by The Baltimore Sun, will be introduced before the 1:35 p.m. game, and 200 items, including chairs from the Orioles clubhouse, players' jerseys and the "Here" flag in left field commemorating where Frank Robinson's home run cleared the park on May 8, 1966, will be given away. Also being given away to all fans attending Saturday's and Sunday's games are a 15-month Orioles calendar and a guide to the new ballpark.
Now here's where things get tricky.
Friday's and Saturday's activities have been made public, but only some of Sunday's plans will be announced. "We can't tell you the nature of some of the things planned for Sunday," said Conway. "We'd like to keep some things a surprise."
This is what he can tell you:
There will be 30 minutes of pre- and post-game ceremonies. "The largest number of Orioles players ever assembled," said
Conway. According to Conway, between 50 and 75 ex-Orioles will be introduced, running from Don Aase to George Zuverink. Also, a piece of Memorial Stadium will be carried after the game down to Camden Yards.
The entire final-day activities will be broadcast on Channel 2.
"It will be pretty dramatic," said Conway.
How about drama? Why don't Orioles owner Eli Jacobs and Gov. William Donald Schaefer keep their little "Name That Stadium" tiff going a little longer, say to the final day of the season? Then they can reveal it after the game, as the piece of Memorial Stadium is being carried to the new ballpark.
Conway liked the idea, but said he believes that the stadium already will have been named. "It would be a perfect way to do it," said Conway. "But I'm not sure it won't be named by then. That would be a neat way to end the weekend."
And a neat way to begin a new era of Orioles baseball.