Baltimore gears up now for baseball's 1993 celebration Mark Hyman


July 12, 1992|By Mark Hyman All-Star sites | Mark Hyman All-Star sites,Staff Writer

On deck, Camden Yards.

The All-Star Game, baseball's annual showcase of 20-game winners and .300 hitters, is inching its way to Baltimore.

Tuesday, the National and American League stars meet in San Diego, where they'll play before a sellout crowd of Bermuda shorts and Day-Glo hats at Jack Murphy Stadium.

That will clear the way for the game Orioles fans have been waiting for since the city last played host to the star-filled game in 1958, or two years before the birth of Cal Ripken.

Baltimore's All-Star Game will be played July 13, 1993, which would seem to give local organizers enough time to hang bunting, rent banquet rooms and arrange for the seemingly endless series of special events that precede the main event.

But city, state and Orioles officials did not wait for the San Diego game to start work on their own plans. They took the first steps three years ago, when the Orioles officially entered a bid for the game, eventually prevailing over the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals.

This week, though, Baltimore's All-Star efforts switched into high gear as a delegation of local planners flew to San Diego to learn from its successes and mistakes of this year's game.

The stakes are high. With as many as 25,000 out-of-towners expected to visit during All-Star week, it's important that the courtesy buses operate on schedule and there not be a shortage chilled shrimp at the All-Star gala.

"You invite the eyes of the country to look when you do this," said Wayne Chappell, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Association. "It's an opportunity to score a lot of points, but you take a chance of embarrassing yourself if you don't do your homework."

When the Orioles last were All-Star hosts, the planning was much simpler. The city opened the Memorial Stadium gates and 48,829 came to see the Americans beat the Nationals, 4-3.

Since then, the showcase game has blossomed into a week of baseball-flavored events. FanFest, a supermarket of baseball exhibits, generally opens its doors the Saturday before the game.

In Baltimore, the three-day baseball convention will be held at the Convention Center, three blocks from Camden Yards. For one admission price, about $10, fans can bat against Hall of Famers Warren Spahn or Bob Gibson in a pitching simulator or sit in on clinics offered by major-leaguers. The show also includes the largest traveling exhibit of baseball memorabilia.

Monday, the Orioles and Major League Baseball open the ballpark for an unusual tripleheader: an All-Star workout, a home run contest among the game's premier sluggers and a star-studded old-timers game. Proceeds from ticket sales -- this year, about $300,000 -- are donated to local charities.

Tuesday is game night, which all but a few fortunate Baltimore fans will spend in front of their televisions.

The All-Star preliminaries are designed to soften that disappointment.

"The concept is to expose as many fans as possible to the All-Star concept," said David Dziedzic, Major League Baseball's director of special events, and point man for the annual game. "When Major League Baseball comes to town, we want people to feel we've put on a great event and helped the community."

For baseball dignitaries, including players, team owners and commissioner Fay Vincent, the culinary highlight of the week is the All-Star gala, a party thrown by Major League Baseball where you might overhear a conversation about a pending trade or maybe a plea for more swizzle sticks.

One of the host city's weightiest decisions is where to hold the affair, with preference usually going to the most exotic setting. This year's gala in San Diego will be set in Balboa Park, one of the country's most beautiful public spaces.

When the Orioles made their All-Star Game pitch in 1989, they suggested throwing their bash at Fort McHenry. And so guests wouldn't forget the significance of the setting, the Orioles said: "We have tentatively planned a re-enactment of the Battle of Fort McHenry, complemented by food indigenous to the Chesapeake Bay."

A decision on the gala site hasn't been made yet, though Fort McHenry and Rash Field at the Inner Harbor are being considered, Chappell said.

Though nothing has been confirmed, the Orioles are attempting bTC to stretch out the weeklong baseball carnival a day or two. Team officials are working with the American League schedule makers "so we have home games in and around the All-Star break," said Orioles vice president Bob Aylward, who is leading the team's planning. "We think a lot of people will be in town for FanFest, and might want to string a series of events together, including a game at the new ballpark."

For the Orioles, the benefits of serving as All-Star hosts are difficult to measure, particularly since the most of the revenue goes to the commissioner's office for dispersal among the -- after next year's NL expansion -- 28 teams.

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