Permit mix-up irks fantasy campers Filmmaking crew must wait to use Memorial Stadium BALTIMORE CITY

October 01, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

They were playing baseball at Memorial Stadium yesterday, but the best showdown of the day was not between a pitcher and hitter but between the organizers of a fantasy baseball camp and the city officials who wanted to put them off the field.

The problem was that the city had issued two permits to use Memorial Stadium. One went to the fantasy camp, an outfit that brought together 46 people -- including a state delegate, a top lobbyist, and a member of the Orioles ownership group -- who paid $1,500 each for an almost-authentic major league baseball experience.

The other permit went to Home Run Productions, the outfit that is in town to film the movie "Major League II."

Since July, the city has struggled in vain to resolve the conflict. But it flared yesterday when the fantasy campers refused to honor a new permit restriction ordering them off the Memorial Stadium field at 1 p.m. yesterday. The camp organizers said they were told they could use the field until 4 p.m.

When Alfred Kramer, an assistant city solicitor, strode onto the field to enforce the restriction, he was met with defiance. "We're not leaving," camp organizer Ken Nigro said flatly. "What, did we commit an ax murder? The mayor just told us we can stay until 4 p.m."

Just what Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said was at the heart of the dispute.

Alan Rifkin, an attorney and legislative lobbyist who received the gift of the fantasy camp as a birthday gift from his wife, emerged at one point to say that Mr. Schmoke told him that the campers could stay on the field until the later time.

"He was gracious," Mr. Rifkin said. "He told us we should have a good time."

Minutes later, however, Mr. Kramer was saying that the mayor had told him the campers had to go. But he added the city would take no action to physically throw the campers off the field.

"It's mental constipation, that's what this is," said Ed Markley, co-producer of "Major League II," as he eyed the scene from behind his Ray Ban sunglasses.

Mr. Markley looked cool, but he had to be worried about production delays that he said could cost $125,000 per day if he falls behind schedule. As the dispute went on, a movie crew, actors and more than 500 extras cooled their heels.

In the end, the city managed to cobble together a compromise. The fantasy campers, who are playing games in real Orioles uniforms, in a real stadium, and under the watchful eye of eight real former major leaguers, were allowed to stay on the field until 4 p.m. yesterday. But they agreed to leave by 1 p.m. today, and they will have the field all day on Saturday.

The deal was good news to Mr. Rifkin, who said the confrontation marred his baseball fantasy. "The thing here is the [city's] indecision," he said. "You can, you can't. They are not getting their movie made and we're not having any fun. Nobody is getting anything out of this."

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