Stadium highs too many to mention


October 04, 1991|By Jim Henneman

Where to start?

In assessing a list of the "Top 10" memories from Memorial Stadium, you must start with the first game, and the last, both of which must rate high. But you can't put a limit on memories. After 38 years there can be no restrictions.

How many times did Brooks dazzle you with his glove? Frank with his bat? Jim with his fastball?

How many Miracles on 33rd Street before the term "House Of Magic" was coined? How many Hall of Fame performances? How many emotional farewells?

Where to start? Where to end?

Everyone has his or her own personal highlight film. This is mine, observations of a stadium's lifetime through a wide range of perspectives -- from those of a young fan to those of a grizzled (old?) sportswriter.

After watching, by conservative estimate, about two-thirds of the 3,034 games that have been played at Memorial Stadium, I couldn't settle on a personal "Top 10," so what follows is a recollection of memories and feelings.

There is no particular order, but what better place to start than the beginning? The stars of the "Welcome Orioles" parade were Bob Turley, Don Larsen and Bill Hunter -- all of whom would depart after the season to the hated Yankees in the same trade.

Turley won the Opening Game on home runs by Vern Stephens and Clint Courtney -- and took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before losing 2-1 to Cleveland in the first night game.

One of the very best baseball games I ever saw was the first American League playoff game ever played, in 1969. Home runs by Frank Robinson, Mark Belanger (off the leftfield foul pole) and Boog Powell (to tie the game in the ninth inning) and Paul Blair's two-out bunt single to beat Minnesota 4-3. The next day wasn't far behind. Baltimorean Dave Boswell pitched heroically into the 10th inning only to lose to Dave McNally 1-0 on Curt Motton's pinch-single off Ron Perranoski.

I was there in 1966 when Frank Robinson hit the ball that caused the Orioles to raise the "Here" flag. It remains the only one to leave the premises in fair territory.

Tippy Martinez inherited one runner and put two others on base -- and picked them all off in a game Lenn Sakata, the emergency catcher, won with a 10th-inning home run in 1983. That was the same year six straight hits with two outs in the ninth inning produced a win over the White Sox.

Was there ever a more exciting scene than watching Brooks Robinson leap into McNally's arms after the Orioles beat the Dodgers four in a row in 1966? Or the standing ovation accorded Brooks after he

struck out in his last at-bat after an incredible performance in the 1970 World Series?

How about Frank's -- from first to third on a single, and home on a short sacrifice fly forcing a seventh game of the 1971 World Series? Or the all-around brilliance of Roberto Clemente in that same Series?

The first time I ever laid eyes on Herb Score, he was warming up in front of what was then the visitor's dugout on the third base side. Jim Hegan wore a complete set of catching gear -- the first time I'd ever seen that for a pitcher merely warming up. Score was so impressive I remember telling my dad I had seen a lefthander who would be unhittable against lefthanded batters. Three days later Ted Williams hit a ball off the back wall of the centerfield bleachers in Fenway Park -- off Score.

To this day Sandy Koufax is the closest to Score that I've ever seen. And watching Ted Williams swing any time, even at the end of his career, was a treat not to be missed.

There was the combined (losing) no-hitter by Steve Barber and Stu Miller -- the only Orioles' no-hitter I saw until four pitchers combined this year in Oakland -- the only O's no-no not thrown at Memorial Stadium.

Where does the home run around the foul pole by Mike Devereaux in 1989 fit into this picture? Or Fantastic Fans night in 1988 after the 21-game season-opening losing streak?

In 1961 Roger Maris reached the 154-game deadline imposed by commissioner Ford Frick in Memorial Stadium. My assignment was to shadow him throughout the four-game series as he sought baseball's most cherished record in Babe Ruth's hometown. Maris hit No. 59 (off Milt Pappas) in the 154th game -- and then hit a ball to the warning track two at-bats later against Dick Hall. The Yankees clinched the pennant that day and nobody noticed.

In 1974 I was the official scorer for the game in which Al Kaline, against whom I played in high school, would get his 3,000th hit. There was a sense of relief that the double off the rightfield wall (off McNally) did not require a decision.

There are vivid memories of two flagrant violations of professional decorum -- giving bottles of champagne to Mike Flanagan when he got his first major-league victory (1976) and to Tom Shopay (1977) when he accrued the necessary four years to be vested in the pension plan. Sometimes you don't always go by the book.

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