Neighbors pay last respects

Stadium: At 33rd Street, memories are coming down in a cloud of dust.

March 09, 2001|By Stephanie Shapiro

On the kind of sunny but cool afternoon that would do Opening Day proud, billows of dust rise from the ruins of Memorial Stadium, like mist from a primordial swamp.

Two cranes operating wrecking balls move with the slo-mo, lumbering savagery of dinosaurs. The mute scoreboard still touts Budweiser, but the bleachers are already gone.

Brian Kirby and David Harris, two employees of the Enoch Pratt library, stop on their lunch hour to observe. They peer through the chain-link fence on Ednor Avenue. Kirby once played there for a teen travel baseball team from South Baltimore. Harris remembers watching many a ballgame there.

Others stop by. Some snap pictures; some stare. A man and a boy drive around the stadium parking lot in a van for a closer view. Surrounding homes that once stood so cozily in concert with the landmark appear unloosed from their moorings.

One swaying wrecking ball hits a pillar, and it buckles in a shower of debris. A thud resounds, sounding like the distant detonation of fireworks. The other wrecking ball pulverizes ruins already on the ground. A backhoe pushes red bricks, concrete chunks and steel rods out of the way. Engines cut the air with a buzz-saw drone.

The stadium's entrails splay out at sickening angles. What was once an emerald green field with a tomato patch is now an ugly gash.

While preservationists and government officials battle in court, the stadium is falling, slowly. The neighboring community opted against implosion. It's still divided on the stadium's fate. Some ask, what good is a memorial to a neighborhood if the neighborhood itself is deteriorating? Others think it an act of desecration to crush a shrine to fallen veterans, athletic glory and sane architecture.

"I don't know if I can sit here and watch this," Kirby says to his buddy.

They leave to grab lunch, but also wishing they had brought a camera.

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