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.
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, Mayor Kurt Schmoke, dressed in an Oriole warm-up jacket and tennis shoes, quipped, "Someone asked me HTC 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.
Others enjoying the food, music and people-watching were Lynn and Randy Evans, the former Secretary of Economic and Employment Development. 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.
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.