Schaefer honor would befit 12-year quest KICKING OFF A NEW ERA

September 01, 1996|By Ken Rosenthal

Call it the William Donald Schaefer Sports Complex.

The tribute would be so fitting, both Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Ravens owner Art Modell support it.

But former Gov. Schaefer doesn't believe his name will ever be attached to the Camden Yards stadiums, due to his strained relationship with the present governor, Parris N. Glendening.

"The day I join the astronauts -- the day they shoot me to the moon -- that'll be the day they name it after me," Schaefer said.

Schaefer risked his political career to get the stadiums built, spent more than a decade trying to replace the Colts and became the emotional symbol of the city's fight against the NFL.

But with the league returning to Baltimore today after a 12-season absence, Glendening apparently would prefer that his predecessor's efforts were forgotten.

Parris is burning.

It's all rather petty, and rather a shame.

The baseball stadium is called Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and the Ravens are likely to sell the name of their stadium to a corporate sponsor.

The only way to honor Schaefer would be to put his name on the entire complex -- and Modell endorsed the idea, even though it was Glendening who lured him to Baltimore.

"That would be appropriate," Modell said. "It would get my support. I think he's done a hell of a job. He has not been given the political or public credit he deserves.

"It bothers me because I think the man has been slighted somehow."

Glendening's spokesman, John Frece, disagreed.

"I think Governor Glendening has been getting a bad rap for not appreciating the contributions of others who came before him," Frece said.

"But the fact remains, it was Governor Glendening who brought the NFL back to Baltimore. Was the process set up by others? Yes. But it was Governor Glendening who made it happen."

Modell said he is unfamiliar with the state's political alliances -- "I don't know who likes who and who doesn't like who" -- but even an outsider can sense the friction between the past and present governors.

Glendening did not invite Schaefer to sit on the podium when the Browns announced their move to Baltimore last Nov. 6.

He also issued the former mayor of Baltimore a belated invitation to the groundbreaking of the new stadium July 27 -- Schaefer declined and stood in the crowd.

So, don't expect Glendening to hail Schaefer when the new stadium opens in the fall of 1998 -- not when the governor likely would be nearing the end of his re-election campaign.

Naming the complex after Schaefer?

"I doubt it," said John Moag, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

"I'm being realistic. Governor Schaefer has an awful lot of things in his name. Maybe the legislature would support it, maybe it wouldn't. I suppose we could name it that, anyway. I don't know what the legislative rights are.

"But in my personal view, the identity of the property is so distinct as Camden Yards, putting any individual name's on it -- ++ Governor Schaefer's or anybody else's -- is probably inappropriate to the setting itself.

"We've become world-known as Camden Yards. There's real, real value in the name."

Schaefer could appreciate that.

Camden Yards, remember, is what he wanted to name the baseball stadium, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards is the compromise he reached with former Orioles owner Eli Jacobs.

Naming the complex for Schaefer wouldn't diminish its mystique -- Camden Yards would remain Camden Yards.

It simply would be a formal way to recognize the contributions of the man who made it all possible.

"I think it's an excellent idea," Angelos said. "It's been broached before. It simply hasn't gained any momentum. But from the standpoint of what's there, he deserves every bit of credit for its presence."

The Schaefer Circle outside the home-plate entrance at Oriole Park isn't enough.

It's true that Schaefer's name is prominent all over Maryland, but the sports complex represents one of his most significant legacies.

Besides, how many sports fans have visited the William Donald Schaefer Life Sciences Institute in Baltimore, or the Schaefer Center for Superconductivity Research in College Park?

Frece said Glendening isn't even considering the issue at the moment. But if the governor is upset with Schaefer, it would not be completely unwarranted.

Schaefer maintains the present administration "gave away more than I think we would have," but the state investment in Angelos' attempt to buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during his second term would have been up to $20 million more than the $200 million initially projected for Modell.

It is Schaefer who lost the Colts as mayor, Schaefer who headed the city's ill-fated expansion effort as governor, and Glendening who fulfilled Baltimore's NFL dreams when most thought the city no longer had a chance.

Still, all that misses the point.

After losing the Colts, Schaefer needed to secure a new ballpark for late Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams to ensure that the city kept its baseball team.

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