There were mixed drinks, mixed emotions and a crowd that was a colossal mix of Baltimore and Washington, sports and politics, pinstriped suits and baseball jackets at Orioles owner Eli S. Jacobs' last pre-game party at Memorial Stadium yesterday.
Hundreds of invited guests -- including Vice President Dan Quayle and White House chief of staff John H. Sununu and their families, all of whom shared Jacobs' private box for the finale -- packed the team's executive offices for champagne, hot dogs, crab cakes and lots of bittersweet sports talk.
"I'm delighted about the new stadium, but there's still a tinge of nostalgia," said Quayle. "This place goes back a long way."
Just to pay his respects to the stadium, the vice president said he was rooting for the home team against the Detroit Tigers yesterday. "But don't report that in Detroit," he said.
Even Sununu, who's been a regular at Memorial Stadium for only three years, said he had a "funny feeling" about yesterday's closing chapter. "I still feel this is a great ballpark," he said. "At least they had the good sense to put real grass in the new stadium, too."
With a group that included members of Congress and the Bush administration, as well as local notables such as novelist Tom Clancy, the ballplayers weren't the only heavy hitters at the stadium yesterday. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, in a satin Orioles jacket, signed a baseball for a stadium usher while the nephew of Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski requested an autograph from columnist George Will.
"If I were you, I'd hold out for a real ballplayer," Will told his young fan.
Clancy, too, fielded compliments and autograph requests left and right. For his part, the author was impressed by the swank executive offices that doubled as party rooms yesterday. "I've never been in this part of the stadium," said the Baltimore native and Calvert County resident, who heads one of three groups seeking an NFL expansion team for Baltimore. "I'm usually the guy in the stands with a hot dog and Coke."
While Clancy was spiffed up for the occasion in suit and tie, Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, with NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell by his side, was in his relaxed weekend mode. "I'm incognito so I can scream and yell," said Greenspan, sporting a tweed jacket over a polo shirt and tennis sweater.
And acting CIA director Richard Kerr said he welcomed the chance to relax and kick back at a ballgame.
"It's a real diversion from the circus of last week," he said, referring to the Senate confirmation hearings of CIA director nominee Robert Gates. "It's been a week to forget."
But yesterday was a day to remember, and party guests were swapping stadium memories like old baseball cards.
Will's fondest memory was Opening Day 1989 against the Boston Red Sox.
"The best day I ever had at a ballpark," he recalled, biting into a hot dog. "We beat them on a pulled-in outfield. It was a perfect day."
For Clancy? The Colts defeating the Miami Dolphins, 14-3, in '71. "[Johnny] Unitas controlled the game completely for the first half, and Miami never recovered."
Deputy Secretary of Defense Richard Haver said he still had the program from the first Orioles game he attended in May 1954. He was accompanied to the game by his grandfather, who had been a clubhouse boy for the 1897 Orioles of the National League. With the exception of his years in Vietnam, he'd seen the Orioles every season.
"My wife has the Kleenex," he said, anticipating an emotional day.
An equally sentimental Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg said even the forces of nature were bidding a tearful farewell to the stadium.
"With this damp, cloudy day, it seems like the environment is weeping a few tears. Any ending is sad," he said, sipping water from a commemorative Orioles cup.
Sen. Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., a Tigers fan since he attended prep school in Detroit, said even he was switching allegiances, at least temporarily. "Today, I'll be for the Orioles, no question. The last day in the ballpark. I'm totally aboard."
Totally aboard and totally prepared was Mikulski, equipped with a purse full of tissues.
"This is what I call a three-Kleenex affair. Saying goodbye to Memorial Stadium is like moving out of the old neighborhood," Mikulski said. "You like the new condo, but you miss the old neighborhood."
And a number of fans, especially those from outside Baltimore, said they couldn't wait to move into that new condo, recently named Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"We're going to have season tickets to Camden Yards," said political pundit Robert Novak. "It's easier to get there from Washington."
"I'm sorry the days of Memorial Stadium are over," said Orioles part-owner R. Sargent Shriver, at the party with his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. "But -- and it's a big 'but' -- I've been to the new stadium, and that place is the best."
Representative Tom McMillen, Md.-D-4th, said he liked the name for the new downtown stadium, even though it's a mouthful. "It's a good name," he said. "It encompasses a lot."
But clearly, the focus yesterday was on Memorial Stadium.
"Everyone is asking me, 'What are we going to do with Memorial Stadium?' " said Schmoke.
His answer? "It will be the home for our new football team, of course."