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New stadium gains unlikely fan in Lapides


There can't be much wrong with Memorial Stadium, not with Orioles attendance topping the 1 million mark on the earliest date in club history (June 29). Even so, the new park rising at Camden Yards continues to gain enthusiasts anyway.

One of the newest is also one of the most unlikely -- Sen. Julian L. Lapides, one of the legislators representing Baltimore in Annapolis. Lapides led the fight to keep the glitzy new park from being built in the first place.

"I still don't think we needed another ballpark," says Lapides, "but we're going to have it and I have to admit it -- they sure have done a great job with it."

Lapides has only one remaining complaint about Camden Yards.

"I wish the media would stop calling it a $100 million ballpark," he said. "It's really more like $200 million when you add in things like the cost of the new roads."

Actually, the new park will cost $208 million, $108 million for the ballpark and $100 million for land acquisition.

Meanwhile, attendance for the six-game Orioles' homestand now at its midway point is expected to total 250,000.

* An embarrassment of riches is the situation facing the Blast for a practice facility.

The pro indoor soccer team already has a very nice one, the newish Willie Myers Arena in Brooklyn. This year it will switch to one that's every bit as nice, the brand new Du Burns Arena in Canton. Both are Baltimore City-owned facilities.

"We're going from a great place to a great place," says Blast public relations man Drew Forester, who is just back from a honeymoon trip to Hilton Head, S.C. He married Janet Streett, assistant to Blast coach Kenny Cooper.

The Burns Arena, with a capacity of 1,000, also will be used for some other activities, with the Blast involved in management. In addition to youth soccer, there are plans to stage boxing and local concerts.

* Hal "Skinny" Brown, who entered the Orioles Hall of Fame over the weekend, said something we often hear from old-timers.

"I would have played for nothing," said Brown, who pitched for the O's from 1955 to 1962.

The guys who played for $20,000 a year seemed to appreciate it more than the moderns who earn a couple million.

* Another ex-Oriole of more recent vintage, Al Bumbry (1972-84), now the first base coach for the Red Sox, received enthusiastic cheers whenever he was introduced over the weekend -- as well he should. Al was one of the most popular Orioles ever. It's a shame Bumbry was allowed to slip away to another club. He still lives in Baltimore County.

* It still shocks me when the Red Sox come to town and a good play by the visitors draws almost as many cheers as one by the Orioles. There are that many Red Sox fans who attend their games here.

Seated behind me at the Saturday game was a couple from London. It was their first baseball game and they learned more about our national pastime in a day than I've ever learned about cricket in my life.

One question the Englishman asked me was a good one. He wanted to know why a batter had to stop at second base after hitting a ball over the fence. Answer: ground-rule double on a ball that bounces over.

The visitor knew more about baseball than rules. When Wade Boggs came up, he said: "This chap at bat now -- wasn't he involved in some sort of scandal a couple years ago?"

* Pete Harnisch's success with the Houston Astros -- he fell out of the NL ERA lead yesterday -- is easy enough to understand. Pete tells his former Orioles buddies: "Those guys over there [the Houston manager and coaches] make me feel like I'm going to win every time I go out there." Too bad the Orioles staff didn't play to Harnisch's emotions.

* One of the best-ever luncheon programs is set for tomorrow at J. Patrick's on Andre Street in Locust Point. As if it weren't enough to have legendary baseball announcer Ernie Harwell there, Rex Barney, for good measure, is bringing along his old pal, Tiger manager Sparky Anderson.

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