Nothing is ever official until a little bubbly is spilled, so one might say Oriole Park at Camden Yards had its official launching Saturday night.
It seemed as if there were a lot more than the estimated 2,200 people traipsing through nine innings of Orioles' history and sipping champagne. The Base Ball, chaired by Lainy LeBow, the governor's director of scheduling and public relations, celebrated 100 years of the game with a once-in-a-lifetime grand opening gala which left those who attended feeling a little of the Orioles' magic.
The gala was held on the luxurious club level, where guests attired in black tie or baseball attire enjoyed delicious food when they could get near the tables, good music -- and best of all checked out the corporate club boxes for the first, and perhaps only, time. The private boxes were also good news for basketball fans because they could get away from the crowd and watch Duke beat Indiana. Go ACC!
Speaking of boxes, I saw a beaming Mayor Kurt Schmoke, dressed in an Oriole warm up jacket and tennis shoes, who quipped, "Someone asked me why the city has one of the big club boxes and I said, 'it might be Schaefer's Stadium, but it's Schmoke's Traffic and both are working well.' " He told me to check out his new Fila tennis shoes, which he thinks everyone should wear now that Fila has opened a new distribution plant in Baltimore.
The ninth-inning festivities took place at 9ish, of course, with the voice of the Orioles Rex Barney, inviting guests to wrap themselves in milar blankets and go to the outside box seats for a spectacular show.
The Morgan State University Choir, led by Nathan Carter, sang "Roll out the Barrel" and a beautiful rendition of "Once in a Lifetime" before James Earl Jones welcomed guests with a special dedication of the Orioles "Field of Dreams." Then Frank Robinson went to the plate to hit an imaginary ball, which signaled the beginning of a small, but effective fireworks show.
The most popular guests with autograph seekers were Boog Powell, Paul Blair (who spotted Janet Jeunette wearing his 1970 Orioles jersey that she had bought at an auction, so he autographed his shirt for her), Dick Hall, who was wearing his old uniform, and Earl Weaver, who held forth in front of his tomato patch, giving out tomato seeds, until he somehow twisted his ankle. Patrick Pannella, who works for the governor, offered to drive him to his hotel and Earl accepted the offer and agreed to sign Pannella's home plate that he just happened to have with him.
Others enjoying the food, music and people watching were Lynn and Randy Evans, the former Secretary of Economic and Employment Development, who will be missed when they relocate to Jacksonville, Fla. with CSX; Orioles president Larry Lucchino and Susan Bacon; Harvey and Ann Clapp; Jean Cagle and Vince Bagli; Fredye Murphy and Adam Gross; Lt. Gov. Mickey Steinberg and his wife, Anita; Paul Wolman; Rep. Helen Delich Bentley; Rep. Tom McMillen; Carrie LeBow; Carol and Ed Szympruch; Carolyn Burridge and Bill Fogle; Sally and Butch Michel, Joan and Pete McGill; Don Hutchinson; Carl and Anne Julio; Joanna Meyers; Charles Benton; Rita Scheff; Daisy Hinton; Nancy and Lou Grasmick; Mike Gibbons; Peggy and George Acton; Cathy Julio and Jim Dagger; Secretary of State Winfield Kelly; Mary Sue McCarthy and Bill Hopkinson; Joan and Dennis Rasmussen; and Craig Snoops.
Dr. Stanley Brown looked smashing in his 1961 New York Yankees uniform, while his wife, Edie, who worked on the gala, wore a sequined Jim Palmer baseball shirt. Merry-Go-Round employees at the party were inspired by their savvy leaders, CEO Michael Sullivan and treasurer Isaac Kaufman, who wore neat looking baseball uniforms.
I always like seeing Ted Venetoulis and Lynn Morrison, he's the owner of the Orioles Gazette, who invited me to a fund-raising party they are throwing for Paul Tsongas later this month; Laurie and Al Copp, who said their Wood Hall Winery in Sparks will produce 1,500 cases of good wine this year; and Frank and Angela Campitelli, he's the owner of Baltimore Masonry who did all the brickwork on the stadium exterior. Hmm, I wonder if he supplied all the commemorative bricks that guests took home as mementos.
I was told that Governor Schaefer didn't attend the gala, which was chaired by one of his favorite employees, because his longtime companion and Maryland's official hostess, Hilda Mae Snoops, was not feeling well and he stayed home with her.
But he will be at the game today.
Proceeds from the evening will go to the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation and Orioles Children's Charities.