CONCRETE GOODBYE Perfect it's not, but Memorial deserves big send-off MEMORIAL STADIUM: A FAREWELL

Maybe this isn't the ideal moment, with Baltimore baseball fans trying on their party hats and preparing for the biggest bon voyage party ever thrown in honor of a concrete building.

But here goes anyway.


Memorial Stadium isn't perfect.

Like most middle-aged things, it doesn't work as well as it did years ago. In some ways, it hardly works at all.


Baltimore Orioles fans generally are tolerant of the old stadium's creaks and quirks. But ask them to tick off the minor aggravations they've encountered, and they can go on. And on.

Many Orioles fans are women, a possibility apparently unforeseen by the building's planners. You know this if you've ever cruised the stadium concourse on Opening Day, and noticed dozens of women waiting their turn outside the restrooms.

Fans often prefer a seat with a view of the game over a seat behind a concrete post. At Memorial Stadium, there are no guarantees. Of the 53,371 seats, roughly 9 percent are blocked by pillars, overhangs or other obstructions.

Even buying a hot dog at Memorial Stadium can be a trying -- and time-consuming -- experience. First, you line up in front of the stand. Then, you notice that you are causing a traffic jam because the line has backed up to the middle of the concourse. Then it is the eighth inning.

But who could be thinking of a hot-dog line at a time like this? Or even an obstructed view? When the Orioles move to their new, presumably hassle-free downtown ballpark next season, those minor irritants quickly will be forgotten.

Other memories will not, though, particularly the ones that produce goose bumps the size of walnuts.

Memorial Stadium has stood in roughly its current configuration on 33rd Street only since 1954. But a sports park of one primitive sort or another has been on the site since 1922, when 50,000 fans crowded into a football horseshoe to watch a memorable clash between the Quantico Marines and the Army Third Corps.

A lot can happen in 69 years. And on 33rd Street, a lot has. Navy and Notre Dame kicked off their long-running football rivalry there. The old Baltimore Orioles of the International League drew 52,833 for a minor-league game, a record at the time. The Baltimore Colts created a National Football League dynasty. The Orioles created Orioles Magic and the upper-box seat.


This special section celebrates those events and others that have contributed to the magic and romance of Memorial Stadium. Inside, you will find articles about the history of the stadium and about the teams that have played there. You'll hear the voices of famous people and Joe Fan. You'll sit on the porch of a home across the street from the stadium as the hometown crowd roars. If you're in the mood for a walk, you'll take the unlikeliest tour of Memorial Stadium, with stops inside the umpires' dressing room and the Orioles owner's refrigerator.

In this special section, we hoped to answer every question, to note every highlight, to celebrate every championship and to satisfy every curiosity about the old concrete giant that is Memorial Stadium.

And with 20,000 pages, we'd have done it.