Schaefer, Jacobs finally hash out a compromise

ORIOLE PARK . . . . AT CAMDEN YARDS

October 04, 1991|By Mark Hyman Michael Ollove of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

For three years, it has been the downtown ballpark or the unnamed ballpark at Camden Yards or, as the controversy bloomed in recent months, the ballpark that might never have a name.

Now, there is only one name for the future home field of the Baltimore Orioles, though it comes in two parts -- Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Four months after he began talks about the name with Orioles principal owner Eli S. Jacobs, Gov. William Donald Schaefer finally revealed their choice during his weekly radio program on WBAL yesterday afternoon. Mr. Schaefer said he and Mr. Jacobs agreed on the name during a meeting over the weekend.

The name did not come as quickly as Mr. Schaefer had forecast -- during a visit to Memorial Stadium July 2, he predicted a final decision in two weeks. And, apparently, it did not end with the name the governor liked most -- Camden Yards.

But Mr. Schaefer did not complain about the outcome yesterday. Mostly, he seemed relieved the talks are over.

"We're finished now. That's it. It's that simple," he said on the radio program.

Asked why the negotiations dragged on, Mr. Schaefer suggested that aspect of the talks had been exaggerated by reporters.

"Every sportswriter has to write something," he said. "They kept playing this game, that game.

"I sat down with him [Mr. Jacobs] over the weekend. I went to breakfast with him, or lunch, whatever it is. He said to me and I said to him, 'It's getting to be ridiculous. Let's get this over with.' We named it Oriole Park at Camden Yards. That's it."

Orioles president Larry Lucchino also disputed the idea that the talks moved more slowly than expected.

"I guess I challenge the notion that it took so long," he said. "[The name] is an important symbol. It deserved some consideration. I always said it was an amicable process, and it really was."

Mr. Jacobs, who reportedly favored Oriole Park, hasn't discussed the naming issue publicly. He did not return a phone call to his New York office yesterday, but, through a spokesman, said of the decision: "It's a fitting name for the most exciting new ballpark in baseball."

Officials of the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority have been thinking about ways to name the $105.4 million, state-financed ballpark for several years. In the 15-year ballpark lease signed on May 2, 1988, they agreed that the name should be picked jointly by the team and the stadium authority, whose boss is Mr. Schaefer. But they delayed talking about what the name should be to concentrate on otherballpark issues until this summer.

When there was no agreement in July, stadium authority officials questioned whether the sign carrying the name could be designed, manufactured and hoisted into place in time for the ballpark's projected opening on April 6, 1992.

But, yesterday, Stadium Authority Chairman Herbert J. Belgrad discounted that concern, saying: "We should have no difficulty completing the graphics in advance of the opening of the new ballpark."

While Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Jacobs picked a name, thousands of baseball fans were doing the same. The suggested names for the ballpark ranged from the serious to the seriously absurd. Among the finalists apparently were Memorial Stadium, a favorite of war veterans and fans of the current Orioles ballpark, and Babe Ruth Park, which was supported by those seeking to honor the Baltimore-born baseball slugger.

The final name is rooted in baseball and Baltimore history. The park will be Baltimore's second Oriole Park. Before major-league baseball came to Baltimore in 1954, the Orioles of the International League played in a ballpark of the same name until 1944, when the ballpark -- located at Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street -- was destroyed by fire.

For most of their talks, Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Schaefer apparently discussed only those two names and were unwilling to give in to the other. Yesterday, both declined to comment on how the deadlock was broken or to talk in detail about their final meeting.

But Mr. Lucchino, who attended the meeting, said it occurred Saturday at "a Baltimore restaurant." Referring to the talks that day, Mr. Lucchino said, "Everyone was very pleased with this name."

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