New stadium should celebrate Justice Thurgood Marshall


Until today, I've tried to hold myself aloof from the Great Stadium Controversy.

There is famine in North Africa, riot and mayhem in Eastern

Europe. The Brazilian rain forest is disappearing and now they tell me the sun has spots.

Somehow, with all of that going on, what we call the new baseball stadium at Camden Yards didn't seem all that important.

Besides, none of the proposed names seemed good enough.

Until now.

Tuesday, Evening Sun sports columnist Milton Kent suggested we name the stadium after retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. I think Kent has a good idea.

No, I think he has a great idea.

fact, a Thurgood Marshall Stadium at Camden Yards sounds so very, very perfect that any other name suddenly seems frivolous and inappropriate.

When we last christened a new stadium in 1954, America had just gone through two great and terrible world wars in which thousands of Marylanders had fought and died. Remembering their sacrifices seems so appropriate that today it is hard to imagine that any name other than Memorial Stadium was ever considered.

So, now Justice Marshall, one of Baltimore's most esteemed pTC native sons, has announced his resignation from the nation'shighest court. And at the same time, the stadium authority is pondering who or what to honor with the multi-million sports edifice on Russell Street.

The concurrence of the two events is fortuitous because the authority seemed likely to have made a ghastly choice.

Camden Yards is a front-runner, for instance -- as though it makes sense that we should honor the courage and sacrifices of our war dead with one stadium and the memory of a railroad station and warehouse complex with its successor.

Some people like the idea of naming the stadium after Babe Ruth -- who was born nearby but spent much of his time in Baltimore acting like a young hoodlum.

Ruth's greatest baseball feats occurred in Boston and New York. Naming the stadium after Ruth would make the city a national laughingstock.

Then there is the suggestion that we name the stadium Oriole Park, which would be an even bigger joke on us.

Imagine honoring a corporation, the Baltimore Orioles, which apparently did not care enough about the city or the project to build the thing itself. In fact, the state felt compel- led to foot the bill for fear the corporation would pack up and leave town.

In contrast, no native Baltimorean of any color and very few Marylanders have risen to higher public office than Thurgood Marshall.

And I cannot think of any Marylander who has enjoyed greater esteem once he achieved such high office.

Baltimorean Spiro Agnew, for instance, became vice president of the United States, but then resigned in disgrace and went to jail for accepting payoffs from businessmen.

Roger Brooke Taney, who was born in Calvert County, became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1836 and had a distinguished career, but then he authored the infamous Dred Scott decision which, in effect, declared that slavery was constitutional, a ruling that proved to be bitterly divisive for the country.

In contrast, Marshall is a man of great dignity and courage who, as a lawyer, spearheaded the legal strategy that led to the Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, striking down the doctrine of segregation.

And someday, when we emerge from this present dark cloud of extremism, we will come to particularly appreciate Marshall's view that the U.S. Constitution should be viewed as a living, breathing, evolving document.

But all of this, you may say, has nothing to do with the game of baseball.

Of course it does. In this society, we name stadiums, highways and public buildings after people and events that are important to us. There is a Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, a Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, and the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City.

I suspect that over the years, this city will name many things after Thurgood Marshall-- libraries, schools, streets. I don't suppose for a moment that his legacy will be given short shrift.

But like it or not, few buildings enjoy the visibility or come to symbolize a city the way an athletic arena does. Therefore, to select any name other than the Thurgood Marshall Stadium doesn't trivialize the work of the eminent jurist.

It trivializes ourselves.

It trivializes our city.

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