Ushers, police on the ball to stop attempted steals THE FAREWELL: SECURITY

October 07, 1991|By Jay Merwin

In the last innings of the last game, usher Ralph Williams kept an eye on anyone who might try to take home memories of Memorial Stadium in the form of an unbolted seat or sign, or the orange hat off his head.

Since September, fans had been offering him as much as $500 for the hat and $100 for his orange blazer.

"I got to watch for everything," Williams said yesterday.

Just before the game, Cecil Maczka, another usher, seated fans in their lower reserved seats as always with a smile -- but also with a warning about making off with unauthorized souvenirs.

"Don't even think about it," he told them. "We've beefed up the police force."

As it turned out, ushers and police stopped only a few people yesterday to relieve them of back rests torn from the seats and of bunting stripped from the mezzanine.

It was a quiet day, with only 11 arrests, said Gerard Heid, a police officer at the stadium command post. One fan was arrested for --ing onto the field after the game to take pictures, and 10 others were caught scalping tickets, Heid said.

Stadium authorities had planned security for this last game since the season began.

The normal force of 40 police was beefed up to "an abundance," police said, without giving a specific figure. And the normal contingent of 150 ushers was increased to about 190, said Roy A. Sommerhof, the director of stadium services.

Obvious targets for nostalgic plunderers were put into safekeeping.

As a precaution, replica lockers of past great players were removed during the weekend from the lobby and the Hit and Run Club. And during the game yesterday, six off-duty police officers guarded the wall-hangings and other potential memorabilia in the Orioles business offices, Sommerhof said.

The Orioles had been upgrading security gradually throughout the year, he said, because souvenir hunters wouldn't necessarily wait for the last game to begin their plunder.

This season, his staff began a security sweep patrol of the stands after each game.

In recent weeks, the city police have stationed an officer in the stands to watch all night. That posting has netted six trespassers, Sommerhof said. "One person was trying to take home plate. He was apprehended before he had a chance to dig a hole."

But yesterday's crowd was respectful of the occasion.

In the post-game ceremonies, one fan briefly broke through the semicircle that ushers and police formed to prevent anyone from seizing clods of the field as mementos.

A few fans caught with seat backs under their arms were escorted out of the stadium, but they were not arrested, said Lawrence Berry, a supervisor of ushers.

His crew had to prod many other fans who just wanted to sit, long after the music died, to see the ballpark one last time.

"We just tried to coax them out," Berry said. "We didn't throw them out."

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