For final few, turning out lights isn't easy THE FAREWELL: WHAT A CROWD Last stragglers sit, savor 'their' field

October 07, 1991|By Rafael Alvarez

Dozens of Baltimore Orioles fans lingered all over Memorial Stadium after the tears and hoopla died down last evening; loyal fans savoring old memories and a ballpark the Orioles decided they didn't need any more.

As ushers asked, ordered, and pleaded with fans to go home, sisters Jackie Gordon and Janine Sheeler and their niece Elizabeth Johnson sat in seats behind home plate waiting for the lights to go out.

Sheeler had one picture left in her camera and she wanted to get one of the lights going out for the last time. As the trio waited for the place to go dark, Sheeler went hunting for souvenirs.

"I went up to get some bunting, but there were four ushers up there and they wouldn't even let me down in the mezzanine," said Sheeler. "And then I wanted to take a banner and a policeman told me it was city property."

"Five times I've asked you now to leave, five times," said an exasperated usher as they sat waiting.

Finally, after being told that the lights wouldn't go out until after clean-up crews were finished picking up trash, the women settled for having their picture taken together before walking out.

On the way, they brushed by Donna Beth Joy Shapiro, a local art deco expert who attended scores of ballgames with her mother and father while growing up in Baltimore.

"They just kicked us out of the upper deck," said Shapiro, who was dressed in black from head to toe and was wearing Victorian mourning jewelry to show her sadness at the passing of the stadium.

Her grief grew when she noticed that the stadium's memorial urn -- a metal vase filled with a teaspoon of soil from every American military cemetery around the world -- was missing from its perch behind glass inside the front of the stadium.

"The dead fly is still behind the glass, but where's the urn?" Shapiro asked.

At the end of a corridor outside of the players' clubhouse, fans stood around to get autographs from players. On the west side of the parking lot, Clarence "Clancy the Beer Man" Haskett and other vendors held a tail-gate party for their regular customers.

"A lot of people don't want to leave," said Haskett, who met his wife while selling beer at the stadium. "I felt a few tears, I don't want to leave."

At least one fan couldn't leave.

Shawn Catayas, 23, of Carney, didn't get out of the stadium until a little before 8 p.m., six hours after the game started.

Catayas couldn't have left if he wanted to -- his hands were cuffed behind him and he was locked behind iron bars in the police detention center at section 41 on the lower concourse, the last person to be arrested at an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium.

While 50,700 people cheered three generations of Orioles heroes, Catayas bolted from seat No. 21 of lower section 40 and ran through the outfield.

"It seemed like the thing to do at the time. I had two beers on the way to the game and four when I got here. I had a buzz, but I knew what I was doing," said Catayas, who streaked from right field to center and stood in the middle of the field taking pictures -- including several of the mounted police -- before being hustled away. "My buddy said, 'Come on, let's do it,' but then he didn't go. I got some good shots."

For the stunt, which occurred as Jim Palmer ran out to the pitching mound during a post-game tribute and tarnished an emotional moment for thousands of fans, Catayas was charged with trespassing.

He faces a $500 fine and/or three months in jail and may find his mug shot taped alongside a small bag of stadium infield dirt on the wall at the Northern District, a lasting tribute to all of the people arrested at Memorial Stadium before him since 1954.

"It was worth it," Catayas said. "It felt great."

Outside the stadium, Ed Stromberg was enjoying a different kind of satisfaction.

Standing beneath the towering stone face of the stadium, he stood with his neck craned up to the inscription on the front of the ballpark, words carved out of steel and dedicated to America's dead from the two world wars.

"I've read it before," said Stromberg, the father of three. "But it struck me today to see it one more time."

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