Ballpark place to be for commissioner, for dogs and for infield pantomime THE FAREWELL: CHATTER FROM THE STADIUM Mark Hyman and Kent Baker of The Sun and Ken Rosenthal and Melody Simmons of The Evening Sun contributed to this article.

October 07, 1991

Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent was among the VIPs who attended the final game. He sat in a field box beside the Orioles dugout, and he spoke affectionately of the ballpark he visited often during the 1970s, when he worked in Washington.

"I am sure it's bittersweet. Everyone has a memory of this ballpark. It's like saying goodbye to an old friend," Vincent said.

"On the other hand, they've been by the new ballpark. They know there is excitement about that. It is a passing, a moving from generation to generation. It is a part of baseball."

Vincent is baseball commissioner, but apparently some Orioles fans think he is commissioner of all pro sports.

As Vincent spoke to reporters before the game, a fan yelled: "Hey, commissioner, after the World Series, how about working on getting us a football team?"

Vincent smiled and said, "It's a minor sport."

Last should have firsts

Sunday's game was a finale, but it also was a game of firsts.

It was the first time in any fan's memory that infield drills were conducted without benefit of a ball. In an elaborate and exquisitely choreographed pantomime, the Orioles dived for imaginary grounders hit off an invisible fungo bat wielded by third base coach Cal Ripken Sr.

The phantom drills were executed so convincingly -- and with such style -- that many fans did not detect the ruse until Ripken the Elder had whipped completely around the infield. He saved his most challenging phantom fungo for son Cal at short.

Later, the Orioles provided Memorial Stadium's first eighth-inning stretch when that blast from the past, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," brought the fans to their feet. (During the traditional seventh-inning stretch, they played the sanitized Disney version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." It was roundly booed.)

Film-fan man

Tim Mellendick was hard to miss in the parking lot outside the stadium. He was the guy holding the video camera with the orange and black sign posted above the lens. It read: "Tell me your favorite Memorial memory."

Mellendick, 34, lives in Gardenville and works for a sign company, which explained the professional lettering on the small sign.

But why the blanket invitation to chat about the stadium?

Mellendick says he'd like to make a film about the final weekend.

"Maybe I'd show it to people, maybe I'd just see it," he said. "I

don't know what I could do with it, whether there would be [copyright] complications."

Yesterday, Mellendick stood alone in front of the Orioles executive office. No line formed.

Business apparently was better Friday and Saturday.

"I've got 20 interviews at home on tape," he said.

Dog day afternoon

Faith Lilley attended yesterday's game, as did the Lilley family's toy poodles -- Hoops, Nets, Swish and Dunk.

Unofficially, they were the best-dressed dogs on the parking lot. Each wore a tiny Orioles uniform and a still tinier Orioles helmet.

Lilley said she only was doing what any concerned parent or pet owner would do.

"We consider them our children," she said of the dogs. "We like to get them involved with anything we do."

Where do you locate canine-sized major-league clothes?

The pooch helmets are converted ice cream sundae cups, said Lilley, who lives in Randallstown.

And the shirts?

"Infants' wear at K mart," she said.

Let Rick do it

Orioles manager John Oates was besieged with requests for the final Orioles lineup card from Memorial Stadium.

"The Hall of Fame, the Babe Ruth Museum, the Baltimore Orioles and my wife have asked, in that order," he said.

Oates apparently will not choose the card's final resting place.

"I'm giving it to [Orioles public relations director] Rick Vaughn," the manager said.

Sparky speaks

The drama of the Memorial Stadium closing was not lost on Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, a lifelong baseball man who has seen virtually everything.

"This was the greatest PR job I've ever seen," he said. "I can remember coming to Baltimore when they couldn't sell out a World Series, and now this.

"You'd expect them to sell out Sunday, but to get them out Friday and Saturday, too. Whoever their PR man is, he's vicious. He's the best."

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