Harry B. Benninghoff

Procter & Gamble sales director who turned his love for baseball into a dream job with the Orioles

April 02, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Harry Bryner Benninghoff, a retired Procter & Gamble executive who had a happy second career in his retirement working as an Orioles tour guide at Camden Yards, died Saturday of complications from melanoma at his Ruxton home.

He was 77.

Mr. Benninghoff was born and raised in Abington, Pa, and during his years at Moreland High School in Willow Grove, Pa., was an outstanding baseball, football and basketball player.

After graduating from high school in 1950, he attended Cheshire Academy in Cheshire, Conn., for a year, graduating in 1951.

He earned a bachelor's degree in 1954 in English from Yale University, where he played football and was a member of Skull and Bones, a secret society, and chaired the junior prom.

Mr. Benninghoff served as an Air Force pilot before beginning his career with Procter & Gamble in the late 1950s in the Midwest before moving to Baltimore in 1968.

He was manager of East Coast sales for the company at the time of his retirement in the early 1990s.

For the past 16 years, Mr. Benninghoff had his dream job at Camden Yards, where he worked as a tour guide and assisted in other special events.

"Harry was extraordinary and a valued member of the Orioles' family," said Sue Ellen Hickman, tour coordinator for the Orioles. "He helped set up the tour that we give of Oriole Park and trained most of our tour guides. He also would conduct VIP tours."

She said that Mr. Benninghoff also made sure that the guides' remarks didn't grow stale.

"He made sure that they were up-to-date with their information on the Orioles, the ballpark and the surrounding neighborhood," Ms. Hickman said.

"Harry did many things for us," she said.

"He had a contact at Fort McHenry, and he borrowed a large flag from the fort, which was unfurled on Opening Day during the singing of the national anthem," Ms. Hickman said.

"He made sure it would roll down the ivy-covered wall the right way and was held in place. He then made sure his team of volunteers carefully furled the flag when the ceremony was over."

After attending their 50th reunion at Yale, classmate Pete Giesen wrote:

"Apparently, what Harry wrote in our class book about his association with the Baltimore Orioles and his 'green cathedral' is all true. If you are ever in Baltimore, take a tour of the Park at Camden Yards and make sure Harry is your guide. He is an entertaining encyclopedia about baseball."

Another duty was assisting in the Orioles' Heavy Hitters program, which honors groups that sell 250 or more tickets.

"They would choose a person to go on the field and receive a ball, and Harry would escort them," Ms. Hickman said.

"He was a genuine gentleman who was always up, chipper, and with a big smile on his face. He always had a kind word," she said.

Monica Barlow, public relations director for the team, described him as "a gentle soul who was a warm and friendly person."

Another job that Mr. Benninghoff handled was making sure that the brass baseball plaques marking the spot where home run balls land on Eutaw Street were installed.

Despite not feeling well, Mr. Benninghoff was at Oriole Park a week before his death, making sure that last year's home-run plaques, which were to be placed before Opening Day in the concrete walkway, were going in the proper location.

"Harry would go over the list with us and confirm where the balls landed before the plaque went in," Ms. Barlow said.

Singing was another passion of Mr. Bennighoff, who was an alto and a member of the Harbor City Chorus and the Bay Country Gentlemen.

Mr. Benninghoff was a communicant of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 232 St. Thomas Lane, Owings Mills, where services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Surviving are his wife of 54 years, the former Nancy Shields; two sons, Brian S. Benninghoff of Bethesda and Gary S. Benninghoff of Newtown, Pa.; a daughter, Sara "Sallie" Benninghoff Warren of Riderwood; a sister, Suzanne B. Munger of Doylestown, Pa.; and seven grandchildren.

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