Not all the slammers at Memorial ended in runs

October 06, 1991|By Rafael Alvarez

Today is your last opportunity to be arrested at a major league ballpark on 33rd Street.

And if it is your desire to take a little piece of Memorial Stadium with you as a keepsake of the Baltimore Orioles' last home game ever in Waverly, there will be 150 police officers -- three times the normal detail -- on hand to lock you up for theft.

The police expect a wisenheimer or two to try and get away with a chair or a brick or a slice of turf, and if they catch one, that person will experience the last big-league go-'round for an old, black prison cage known as "Farace's Condo."

That's Farace, as in Lt. Phil Farace of the Baltimore Police Department, the happy-faced man known around the ballpark as "Uncle Phil" and top officer at Memorial Stadium since 1975.

"In my 16 years here I've learned how to get along with people in large groups," Lieutenant Farace said. "I've learned how to deal with anything, from the man in the bleachers to the queen of England."

When the Orioles move to their new home in Orioles Park at Camden Yards for the 1992 baseball season, the police will move along with them, to new offices and a new detention area inside the stadium. Lieutenant Farace was asked for suggestions to make the new detention area better than the old one.

Now under construction at Camden Yards, just behind the main ticket windows facing southbound Russell Street are a pair of narrow rooms measuring 6 feet by 6 feet 8 inches and equipped with metal security doors.

This is where the police will hold the drunks who make trouble, the ticket-scalpers, the pickpockets, brawlers and bad guys who find themselves under arrest at the new ballpark.

Unlike most of the other offices at the new stadium, the walls of the twin holding cells will not be made of plasterboard; they are cinder block. "We don't want someone kicking their way out," said Stewart Ervie, an on-site architect at Camden Yards.

Lieutenant Farace, 63, said he will spend one more baseball season on the force, breaking in the new lock-up for a successor, before retiring.

"When I was promoted to lieutenant, the [police] commissioner gave me this job. I didn't ask for it," he said. "I didn't even know it existed."

Since then, Lieutenant Farace has met two presidents and Queen Elizabeth II, made close friends with some of the all-time heroes of America's national pastime -- from Earl Weaver to Reggie Jackson to Brooks Robinson -- and participated in scores of arrests.

He recalled: "I remember during a Colt game there was a real large gentleman using profanity like you wouldn't believe, so I decided to use some psychology on him. I said, 'Would you talk like that in front of your mother or your sister?' And he pointed to a woman on his right and said, 'I'd like you to meet my mother.'

"Needless to say, before half time they were both locked up."

People arrested at Memorial Stadium are held in the iron cage on the first concourse until a patrol wagon hauls them over to the Northern District in Hampden for formal booking. It is not lost on the officers at the station that their load will be a little lighter after today.

A little bag of dirt hangs on the wall behind the desk sergeant there and next to the dirt is this notice: "This bag contains authentic soil from the Memorial Stadium infield. It serves as a memorial to all the prisoners who have entered the portals of the Northern District cellblock after being arrested at Memorial Stadium over the years through the 1991 baseball season. We bid them and the stadium adieu."

"We're going to get the mug shot of the last guy arrested at the stadium," said one officer there, "and put it up on the wall next to the dirt."

The cause of most stadium disturbances, say the police and others, is alcohol.

"You see 'em getting carted out of the stands all the time," said Lou Beach, a novelty vendor at the stadium. "A lot 'em are drunk, just stone drunk. The cops gotta drag some of 'em because they won't walk. I don't think I've ever seen anybody other than a young male getting arrested, guys between 18 and 35. I've never seen them arrest a woman."

In the 37 years since Memorial Stadium was dedicated, a celebrity or two has have been arrested there, including R. Sargent Shriver III for scalping playoff tickets in 1983; Wild Bill Hagy for tossing a beer cooler onto the field; Donald N. Kroner for crashing a plane into the upper deck in 1976; and former Boston Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall, who went after a heckler in the stands Sept. 14, 1962, while playing for the Washington Senators.

Now retired, Baltimore police Sgt. Walter Mina arrested both Mr. Piersall, known for his eccentric behavior and the subject of the movie "Fear Strikes Out," and the unruly fan, a 66-year-old official of the roofers union named Joseph Martin.

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