Orioles ushers: Orange look is history New uniforms show old style, panache

February 16, 1992|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

Begin with the charcoal slacks. Pleated. Loose fitting. Deep pockets. Perfect for storing your seat-wiping mitt.

Add a striped dress shirt, polyester blend for that no-iron look.

And an orange bow tie, orange suspenders and a dark cardigan sweater, decorated with the ball team's "new" turn-of-the-century logo.

What have you got?

Something never before seen at a Baltimore Orioles baseball game -- a suavely dressed usher.

The folks who escorted Orioles fans to their seats at Memorial Stadium for a couple of decades were loyal, hard-working and fountains of ballpark information. Through no fault of their own, they also closely resembled Florida navel oranges.

They wore bright-orange hats and bright-orange sports coats, a combination that drew plenty of attention but few awards from Gentlemen's Quarterly.

The Orioles sensed they could do better. The clothing ensembles planned for Oriole Park at Camden Yards -- Brooks Brothers goes to the ballgame -- prove they were right.

Roy Sommerhof, Orioles director of stadium services, said the team had a goal -- to create a uniform in keeping with the traditional design of the ballpark.

Not that the old uniforms didn't carry their own tradition.

The major-league Orioles returned to Baltimore in 1954. The last time the ushers uniforms were tinkered with was 1954.

"There was plenty of tradition there," Sommerhof said. "We just decided we wanted to do something a little different."

In the end, the team assembled an ushers uniform committee to review and research the matter. The members -- Sommerhof, Orioles vice president Janet Marie Smith and Baltimore graphic designer David Ashton -- came up with an outfit that seems to be more versatile and definitely is less orange, though the eye-catching, police-officer style hat has been retained.

In their new uniforms, ushers should be prepared for any weather conditions, short of a tidal wave.

In April, they can bundle up under the cardigan sweater, smartly embroidered with the "Baltimore Baseball" insignia that will dot the new ballpark. When the weather turns hotter and muggier, the uniform adapts nicely. Sommerhof said ushers -- men and women -- will be invited to roll up their sleeves and remove their bow ties.

All 183 Orioles ushers will be receiving clothing instructions soon. After they have specified various measurements, each will receive four shirts to go with their bow ties, suspenders and the like. As was the case at Memorial Stadium, ushers will pay the team a small deposit on the clothing, which is refunded if the outfits are returned in good shape at the end of the year.

What happens to the old, extremely orange uniforms?

Soon, Sommerhof said, the Orioles will offer ushers a chance to ** buy pieces of their retired clothes at a nominal price. When their shopping is done, the Orioles expect to hold a public sale, with proceeds to go to charity.

Ushers won't be the only fashion plates. Ticket takers will get new outfits. So will Paul Zwaska and his Oriole Park at Camden Yards grounds crew. The white-on-white uniforms worn by the field caretakers are a thing of the past. The new look: forest

green pants and white shirts with orange trim.

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