All the commotion around Section 34 these days is being directed at hamster cages, rusty Kennedy-Johnson campaign buttons and boxes of Cap'n Crunch.
For a little over a month now, Memorial Stadium's eastern parking lot has been converted into a sprawling Sunday flea market. From Archie comic books to Zorro lunch boxes, the discarded output of American manufacturing is piled high and far, usually tagged at less than $5.
"The name Memorial Stadium draws. We don't have to give directions. It's grown faster than any other brand new flea market," says Jay Harris, a professional flea market organizer who worked out an arrangement with the city to rent the asphalt based on a split of the take.
He says he felt there was a market for an outdoor vending carnival after the old Edmondson Drive-In, on U.S. 40 West, shut down and was plowed up for development. It had served for more than 20 years as a huge Sunday junk sale until its demise last year. He judges that Memorial Stadium could become a natural gathering spot to take on some of the other local flea markets staged at Columbia, Elkridge and North Point.
"I wouldn't say it's like 6th Avenue in New York. There aren't any great pieces of Thonet furniture here, but I saw some good Prince Albert tobacco tins," says David Shafto, a transplanted New Yorker who moved to Baltimore two years ago.
The open-air market carries an admission price of 25 cents. It stretches along the former first base side of Memorial Stadium and runs eastward toward the 3600 block of Ednor Road and the homes of the Lakeside neighborhood. Dealers arrive about dawn and the posted opening time for customers is 8 a.m. Sharpies, deal-makers and antiques pickers swarm over the place long before most people have cracked a Sunday newspaper. The event closes at 3 p.m.
Most people drive and park at the stadium, but many walk from Waverly and Ednor Gardens. Some families there yesterday pushed strollers. Others arrived on bikes and the MTA's No. 3 bus. Few left empty-handed.
Minnie Gross, who has a selling place at Mount Clare Junction in Southwest Baltimore, brought her framed Elvis, Batman Returns and Last Supper prints to exhibit at her space.
"It's been kinda slow," she said yesterday morning as dozens of lookers passed by.
Just across the way, a man was selling a large amount of cast-off hospital supplies, wheelchairs, urinals and rubber gloves. Down the aisle was a stand offering fresh green beans, squash and potatoes.
One buyer grew enthusiastic over the $2 price on a box of Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal that he said normally sold for about $3.50.
"I was at Camden Yards last night and I'm here today," said Mayer Posner, of Ricksway Road near Pikesville, who noted that he often makes the Sunday rounds of local flea fests.
The market began slowly in June, with about 70 vendors who paid a $15 fee for a space. Yesterday there were 168 sellers. If the market continues to grow, its organizers plan to hold it on Saturday as well.
"I can't tell you how many come up and say, 'My grandmother had one of those.' " said dealer Deborah Catalano of Overlea. Her wares included wicker porch furniture, dishes in the shape of fish and, for $60, a large plastic-enclosed architect's model of the Brokerage at Market Place.
"I wish somebody would buy that thing. It weighs a ton," she said.