Orioles' super stadium send-off is talk of those at AL playoffs

On baseball

October 11, 1991|By Jim Henneman

TORONTO -- Ever since people started arriving in Minneapolis for the start of the American League Championship Series, one of the favorite topics of conversation has been the Orioles' farewell to Memorial Stadium.

Officials from the league and commissioner's offices, other team executives, former AL president and Orioles general manager Lee MacPhail, and scores of writers and broadcasters asked to be filled in on the ceremonies. There were already a lot of sketchy advance reports, but it seemed as though everyone wanted a first-hand briefing.

Former Orioles announcers Herb Carneal and John Gordon, now doing the radio broadcasts for the Twins, were especially anxious to hear details, as was MacPhail, whose son Andy is the general manager of the Western Division champions. "I would have loved to have been able to be there," said Carneal. "I understand it was something special."

Many of those traveling in the ALCS have been briefed by Detroit writers who were present for last Sunday's closing. Among those present was Joe Falls, veteran columnist for the Detroit News, who admitted he was moved to tears by the ceremonies.

"To see how those people interacted with the players, and the players with the fans, it was something," said Falls. "I admit that I cried. I don't cry often for things like that, but I cried watching that. I've already written that when they close down Tiger Stadium, Detroit should just copy what Baltimore did. It was beautiful."

L What follows are some leftover reflections and observations.

* Just about everybody who was at Memorial Stadium last Sunday came away impressed with what the Orioles had done. And it seemed as if each had his own favorite memory.

Jim Dwyer's mother-in-law taped the telecast of the post-game ceremonies. "I watched the tape four times before I left Baltimore," Dwyer said from his home in Chicago. "It was unbelievable.

"The thing that got me the most was when the current team came on the field. They were the third generation of players on that field, and you could sense they realized some of the history. Did you read what Randy Milligan said? He's been there three years and he said it was the first time he realized the Orioles' past. I think it was a very smart thing to include the present players in that ceremony. You had to be impressed.

"The Orioles are different from any other team I played for," said Dwyer. "The thing I remember making the biggest impression when I came from Boston was the fact that the biggest stars were the nicest guys -- that's how that club has always been."

* When Brooks Robinson was quoted as saying last Sunday was the most exciting moment of my career," it raised some $H skepticism. Coming from a Hall of Famer, it appeared to be a slight case of convenient exaggeration.

But later that night, at a party hosted by the club, Robinson explained himself. "I got through 'Thanks, Brooks' day without tears, and I got through Cooperstown without tears," said Robinson. "I didn't get through this day without tears."

* Perhaps the day's most poignant scene was witnessed by only a few people.

After all of the players had been assembled at their positions and acknowledged the crowd, they gathered in a circle around the pitcher's mound for what should be a spectacular picture. Then all but one player gathered near the third base line, just before Rick Dempsey did his Babe Ruth act.

"While we were standing there, I turned around and saw Dennis Martinez standing on the mound," said Orioles manager John Oates. "He was all by himself, standing there like he was taking a sign, and looking around. You could tell he was thinking 'I'd like to do this one more time.' "

Maybe in the new park?

* Terry Crowley, the Minnesota hitting coach, expressed the sentiments of many former teammates, and a lot of fans as well.

"I really missed [late trainer] Ralph Salvon when I was out there," said Crowley. "I've missed him for the last couple of years, but I found myself thinking about him a lot last Sunday."

* A couple of things should be noted about how last Sunday's ceremony was carried out. There had been some misgivings about having it after the game, instead of before.

But it wouldn't have worked any other way. The game would have been meaningless, an open invitation to potential disaster.

As it was the crowd could hardly have been more orderly. One man went onto the field early, was quietly escorted off, and there were no real disturbances.

After the initial introduction, and with the music from "Field Of Dreams" as a background, the entire post-game show was pulled off without a word being uttered over the public address system.

"The thing I liked best was no introductions -- and the people recognizing the players on their own," said Mark Belanger. "There were no stars, everybody was the same. It was great."


There is one more accolade to be bestowed.

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