When Oriole Park at Camden Yards holds its official unveiling Monday afternoon, it will mark the successful conclusion of an uphill, 12-year crusade by William Donald Schaefer to locate a sports edifice in downtown Baltimore. He is responsible, more than any other individual, for the ball park's creation, and for the rapturous kudos from across the nation that this trail-blazing baseball stadium has received.
It was back in 1980 that then Mayor Schaefer said a new stadium at Camden Yards would give Baltimore its "best shot" at keeping the Orioles in town and simultaneously boost the fortunes of downtown development. No one listened to him, though, until Robert Irsay pirated the Colts football team out of Baltimore in the middle of the night in 1984. The trauma of that loss triggered the steps that led to a Camden Yards sports complex.
Along the way, former Gov. Harry R. Hughes played a key role by first proposing and pushing for creation of the Maryland Sports Authority and then appointing a little-known Baltimore lawyer with scant interest in sports, Herbert J. Belgrad, to chair this panel. He would become the guiding force, along with his executive director, Bruce Hoffman, in winning the trust of legislators and keeping the project within budget limits -- and on schedule.