Plan to convert stadium has an old, familiar ring


These geniuses who have come up with a plan to save Memorial Stadium are to be commended. They want to convert the stadium into offices, keeping the playing field as a garden courtyard. Yet, with all due respect to men with master's degrees, I'd like to point out that I barked up this tree first, but with a slightly different woof.

In this space seven or eight years ago -- you could look it up -- I suggested turning the stadium into condominiums, a place where people could live in the atmosphere of a nostalgic baseball dreamland. Every night, the big lights would come on, providing not only excellent security but a kind of "Field of Dreams" experience. Residents could even plant a cornfield in the outfield, if they like.

The security guards could wear vintage flannel baseball uniforms and stage a game now and then. (In October, the field gets converted to a gridiron.) The old playing field would provide a vast recreational area for residents, a sort of massive town common. Some architectural brain could find a way to save seating for about 8,000 people. Farm league, college and high school games could be played once in a while. We could have the City-Poly, Calvert Hall-Loyola Thanksgiving Day football games there again. Imagine living in a condo high above the field, looking down on a live baseball or football game a few times each week.

The ESPN Zone is going to be swell as a sports environment, but the 33rd Street condominiums would offer the real thing, right out the front window. Offices, schmoffices. Make Memorial Stadium a big house.

Southside seating

Somebody explain to me why there are benches on the southbound light rail stop at Centre Street but none on the north side. ... Discovered yesterday morning hanging on a parking meter under the Jones Falls Expressway, off Guilford Avenue: one ripe banana. ... And right nearby someone sleeping in a domed tent. ...

Lisa Simeone has given the world, via radio and the City Paper, one picture of the modern bachelor party, and it's not a pretty picture. But I'd like to offer another version: The bachelor party for Ingmar Burger. He's a regular contributor to TJI, a resident of Hamrol, the community between Hampden and Roland Park, right behind Alonso's. Ingmar is marrying relatively late in life; most of his aging baby boomer friends are old enough to be big brothers or uncles. His bachelor party started at 5: 30, ended at 7, with beers and cigars in between, and not a thong in sight. Went there, did that, Wednesday night. Home by 8. Makes you sick, doesn't it? ...

Here's an "I'm wondering" from TJI reader Frankie Sweetbreads: "I'm wondering if the people who propose raising the retirement age to 67 or 70 will also figure out how to keep employers from laying off aging baby boomers as we get slower and more expensive. Can a stroke of a president's pen really make employers hire old-timers after they pass 55 or 60? I wonder how we protect ourselves from having our hours reduced as we get older and less productive, something which would, of course, mean a lower average wage in our last few years, which would reduce our Social Security benefits. If they've figured all this out, I'd sure like to hear about it."

Cultural glimpses

From TJI's chief cultural correspondent, Joey Amalfitano: "Last Saturday, Maxine and I went to the craft fair and herb festival in Darlington, that charming Harford County town nestled in the rolling hills near the Susquehanna River. Maxine picked up some lemon mint and other alien plant life. It was one of those days when the sun was shining, and folks were carrying babies around, and everyone seemed to share a pleasant greeting. ...

"Also, I caught up with Josie Grumbe, that South Baltimore princess who still holds court at the main bar at Burke's Restaurant, Lombard and Light. Josie tells me that after serving patrons for 28 years, she's thinking about retiring. But it should be noted she hasn't lost a step. Josie served up my cheeseburger and frosted mug of root beer with the same high degree of professionalism, and she updated me on the old-timers, many of whom worked at the News American of happy memory. ...

"And then there's Trish, one of the waitresses at the Woman's Industrial Exchange; she couldn't have been nicer to us the other day. Maxine had the chicken salad with tomato aspic, which was up to its usual standard. I had the $4.95 special -- two roasted chicken legs, scalloped apples, rice and that gloppy yellow gravy that's the cream of comfort foods. You should get there if you haven't been in a while, folks. And look, dress up a little if you go. Max wore a T-shirt and jeans the other day and I had to give her hell for it."

Emergency pitch

Sykesville Mayor Jonathan Herman had a little trouble getting his pitch across to state highway officials this week. The mayor needs improvements to intersections along Route 32 so he can begin an ambitious renovation project on property the town recently annexed from the state. With colorful maps and graphs, Herman spoke enthusiastically of the plan. But he could tell he was not captivating his audience. "Maybe I should create an emergency, so the state has to come in and fix it!" the mayor said in desperation.

Immediately, the group perked up. "Sounds like what Baltimore City does," said Parker Williams, state highway administrator.

If it's best, what's worst?

Washington topping Money magazine's list as the best place to live in the northeastern United States recalls from the bilious gland where stew my most unflattering social prejudices the time some dandy Hugh Grant look-alike swaggered into a fashionable Georgetown restaurant -- is there any other kind? -- and, as if condescending to his man-servant, asked the maitre d', "Won't you be a dear and take our umbrellas?"

That's Washington -- home of the ersatz aristocrat and all other species of power-seeking social-climbers, and the people who clean up after them, lawyers included. Do I have it about right? I think so, and I offer no apology for the prejudice, formed by a single subtle incident, but refried many times over the years; the fTC taste is always the same.

Washington is great if you can afford Georgetown. The rest is a massive office theme park with attractive landscaping and impressive statuary. At lunch hour, if you're not careful, you will be trampled by joggers. I have missed the full Washington experience -- living and working in the center of the free world, or one of its congested suburbs. I've not missed much.

Pub Date: 6/12/98

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