The old ballyard on Thirty-third Street was turned into a field of dreams late yesterday afternoon as the Orioles played their final game at Memorial Stadium before moving downtown next season. The greats of yesteryear did not come out of Iowa cornfields but from the Orioles dugout -- dozens of them, some graying, some expanding waistward, some household names, some but flickering memories from old scorecards.
Brooks Robinson was the first one out, and as he pawed third base in a luminous white uniform while shadows lengthened toward right field, a nostalgic, lump-in-the-throat sentiment engulfed 50,700 fans. Rick Dempsey was the last, prancing as an O-R-I-O-L-E-S cheerleader and --ing around the bases before landing splat on the dug-up area that had been home plate. The only thing missing was a rain delay and a slippery tarp.
Memorial Stadium was crammed unto its obstructed-view seats with 50,700 fans who boosted the season's attendance to a record 2,552,771. They demonstrated anew that Baltimore is one of the greatest sports towns of them all. Even though the Birds finished in sixth place, losing the final game to Frank Tanana's Detroit Tigers in a 7-1 blowout, the rooters were there to the end, in overwhelming numbers, showing their love for a part of their lives and their city and their own identity.