The Baltimore Orioles gave away Memorial Stadium yesterday. Or at least those parts that could be removed without a screwdriver or wrecking ball.
To Diane and Ira Sheckells of Baltimore, they presented the orange chair that Gregg Olson sat in while pulling up his socks.
To Elaine and Carl Zartman of Lancaster, Pa., they gave the pitching rubber that sat on top of the mound from March to July.
Leslie Kelly got luckier. When Kelly, his wife, Shari, and 1-year-old son walked into the Orioles executive offices yesterday morning, team officials handed them a true artifact of Orioles history -- the "Here" flag that marked the spot where Frank Robinson socked the only home run ever to leave Memorial Stadium.
It got better. As the Kelly clan stood in the Orioles lobby contemplating their good fortune, Robinson appeared, shook hands with the winners and autographed their orange-and-black pennant.
A delighted and slightly dazed Shari Kelly only could say, "My biggest regret is there's no film in our camera."
The Kellys, Zartmans and Sheckellses were but a few of the fans who left Memorial Stadium yesterday with baseball keepsakes ranging from plastic chairs to orange player shirts. In all, more than 100 showed up to collect prizes they won simply for sitting in lucky seats on Fan Appreciation Day, the next-to-last game at the old ballpark. The baseball garage sale had several functions. The Orioles gave back to fans who gave support to the team during a lousy season. Also, it helped the team clean out its closets of old and unwanted items before the move later this off-season to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
In any case, the Sheckellses, who live in the Hamilton section of Baltimore, were happy to be on the receiving end. Shortly after 10 o'clock,they stood in the Orioles' lobby staring at a well-worn chair with huge orange cushions and, on the seat, an autograph from Olson, the Orioles' top reliever.
They hadn't expected this reward when they attended all three games of the Orioles' final series at Memorial Stadium with their daughter, son-in-law and two young grandchildren, Diane Sheckells said. But what a bonus.
"We'll have to do our club basement over," she said. "This will give us incentive."
The Kellys were unlikely winners in some ways. Leslie Kelly is a Marine who served four months in the Persian Gulf and is stationed at Quantico in Virginia. He is from Kalamazoo, Mich., and is an ardent Detroit Tigers fan. When other fans were saying sad so-longs to Memorial Stadium earlier this month, Kelly mostly was hoping for a look at Sparky Anderson.
He is not a student of Orioles history, either.
"We saw the flag from our seats, but I am a little embarrassed to say we didn't know the significance," Kelly said.
He does now. Since winning the flag, he has been approached by several potential buyers, including one man who claimed to have been in the ballpark in 1966 the day Robinson hit his historic home run and who offered to buy the flag for $400.
Kelly has turned down that offer, but he might accept some advice he received regarding the flag. "Somebody told me to put it in a safe-deposit box and forget about it for a while," he said.
Of the 187 fans holding winning tickets, 42 have not come forward yet, Orioles officials said yesterday. Those winners have until the end of the month to claim their prizes. If they don't, their items will be sold at the team's annual Christmas sale and proceeds will go to Orioles charities.