Not since the City Fair and the large ethnic festivals left downtown Baltimore has there been such an abundance of different activities as we see right now.
Baseball's All-Star Game has grown into All-Star Week, which runs until Tuesday evening. You don't need a ticket to the ballgame to enjoy a lot of baseball-related activities, many of them free. And you don't need to be a baseball fan at all to enjoy several classical and popular music concerts at the Inner Harbor.
If you are a rabid baseball fan, the place to be is the Convention Center, site of All-Star FanFest. All of its halls and hallways have been turned into a giant carnival tribute to the national pastime. It's a baseball theme park, gallery of reminiscences, museum of baseball lore and supermarket of souvenirs that is impossible to catalog.
There are games and tests of baseball skills for kids of all ages. They can pose in baseball uniforms for their own baseball cards. Manufacturers of baseball equipment show how it's done. And there are enough baseball cards, hats, shirts and esoterica for sale to strain the wallet of the most indulgent parent.
Those of a certain age will relish a model of Mel Allen, with a voice to match, commenting on their pitching prowess. Others will line up for free autographs of famous major league old-timers. (Earl Weaver and Tippy Martinez were outdrawing John Lowenstein and Milt Pappas the other day.) Demonstrations of bat-making and ball-stitching attract the technical-minded. History buffs will be reminded Baltimore was the champion in 1894, 1895 and 1896. Those who venture into the far reaches of the adjoining Festival Hall will find a picture-history of players in the black baseball leagues of the Twenties and Thirties, including a teen-ager named Leroy Campanella who got his start with the Baltimore Elite Giants. There's even a Fifties-vintage Baltimore Transit Co. bus of the type that hauled the black ballplayers to their games, in obvious contrast to the facilities available for white players in those days.
Outside there's a lot more entertainment that's free. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Rash Field tonight (bring a donation of non-perishable food). Pop and jazz music tomorrow and Monday evenings at the Inner Harbor amphitheater. All-Star StreetFest brings some of the hoopla inside the Convention Center to the street outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
There are other events in addition to the big game Tuesday that are long sold out. But even for those who won't be at the ballpark Tuesday night the game has turned out to be more of a festival than they could have expected. And it is an opportunity for the Baltimore metropolitan area to show itself off to thousands of visitors from across the country and to millions of others on television.