Elite meet to eat -- and praise stadium The story was written and reported by reporters Susan Baer, Sylvia Badger and Jean Marbella.


April 07, 1992

The other game going on at Camden Yards yesterday was people-watching, in the exclusive club level suites, in the Orioles' executive offices and, for some lucky fans, right in the stands and on the concourses of the stadium.

If you happened to be standing in the right place at the right time -- or were invited to the right parties -- you might have seen: Washington fixtures from former White House chief-of-staff John Sununu to columnist George Will, author Tom Clancy and "Civil War" TV producer Ken Burns, media stars like everyone's favorite couple, Connie Chung and Maury Povich, and seemingly everyone ever elected to local office.

"I love the stadium and what's so typical of the small-town ambience of Baltimore [is] it's been years since I attended Blair High School in Silver Spring and the University of Maryland, but this morning I bumped into two people who'd attended those schools with me," Chung said over lunch before the game began.

Opening Day spectators all followed President Bush's lead yesterday and took at least half a day off from work to inaugurate -- and throw superlatives at -- the new ballpark.

"I worked hard this morning so I could take the afternoon off," said Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, signing baseballs and programs for fans outside. "I'm going to try to get here every chance I get."

Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson said he was so thrilled with the stadium. "I feel as if I'm 14 years old," he said. There were no votes in Congress today, he said, but even if there had been, "I would have been like a kid playing hooky."

Will, such a big fan that he proposed to his new wife last year at home plate here, said the finished product was as satisfying and exhilarating as "oxygen after a long run. They did everything right."

In agreement was Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski. "It feels like a combination of New Year's Eve and a presidential inauguration," she said.

Spotting Mikulski, Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke asked if she could use her congressional clout to pull some strings. "Would you try to get Rick Dempsey back?" Clarke joked about the former Orioles catcher who was the final cut from this year's team.

Maryland congressman Tom McMillen, along with just about everyone else, congratulated Gov. William Donald Schaefer on the stadium. "I've seen a lot of sports facilities in my time," McMillen said. "I'd put this at the top of any list."

Some rows behind home plate was a familiar domed head, Philadelphia 76ers star Charles Barkley, who signed a number of autographs for those who recognized him. Barkley, who was seated with teammate Jeff Ruland, said he got his tickets from a friend: "I have a friend who's pitching for the O's," he said.

Rick Sutcliffe?

Yes, Barkley said, "he went to school with my trainer."

The stadium evoked memories as well as accolades from those who watched the opening game. Edward Neill Williams, son of the late Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams, said he believed his father "would have loved this stadium. He liked the idea of old-time parks."

Burns, an author who is writing a documentary on baseball, was invited to the opener by Orioles owner Eli Jacobs. "Baseball goes in cycles, close to the people and away from the people," he said as he sat in the governor's luxury suite. "This park is a great example of people reeling in and reclaiming baseball."

Indeed, said ABC Sports' Jim McKay, a resident of Monkton, as he entered the B&O warehouse for a party, "this is a new beginning for another 100 years of baseball in Baltimore."

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