Ronald R. “Ronnie” Potter, the former Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards groundskeeper who was at the helm of a red Corvette the night Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s of playing in 2,130 consecutive games, died Monday from cancer at his home in Cambridge. The former Bolton Hill resident was 55.
“I first got to know Ronnie at the Mount Royal Tavern and took an instant liking to him, and then we became baseball buddies,” said Charlie Vascellaro, a Bolton Hill baseball writer and author. “He was warm, friendly and just a genuinely good guy. He was straight-up and told it like it was, for better or worse, but mostly it was for the better.”
He added: “Ronnie was a beloved free-spirited character with a warm, infectious personality. He was inquisitive, liked learning and pursued his interests passionately.”
Ronald Ruben Potter, son of Ronald Wayne Potter, a Maryland Highway Department roads inspector, and his wife, Sandra Eileen Rhodes Potter, a high school audiovisual specialist, was born and raised in Cambridge.
After graduating from Cambridge South Dorchester High School in 1983, he completed a two-year course at the Institute of Applied Agriculture at the University of Maryland, College Park.
He began his career as a groundskeeper at Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County and then was promoted to assistant groundskeeper at the Naval Academy golf course in Annapolis.
In 1991, he began working as the assistant manager of groundskeeping at the old Memorial Stadium, in what would be the final year of the Orioles playing on 33rd Street.
On Opening Day in 1990, Mr. Potter had to pay for a lower-deck seat about 30 rows back from home plate, but in 1991, as a member of the Orioles’ eight-man grounds crew, he sat with other crew members in their dugout in the left field corner.
“I love baseball. I can’t image a better job than the one I have,” he explained in an Evening Sun interview. “There’s no comparison between my seat for this year’s Opening Day and last year’s. This is a better seat because it’s so close to the field, and it means I’m working for the Orioles’ ground crew. I mean this, it’s really a thrill.”
When the Orioles played their final game in Memorial Stadium on Oct. 6, 1991, against the Detroit Tigers, the honor of digging up and removing home plate fell to Mr. Potter. “They put him in a limousine and drove him to Camden Yards, where he put home plate in the ground,” his mother said.
When Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games in 1995 at Camden Yards, it was Mr. Potter who drove him for a victory lap around the warning track in a red Corvette convertible before adoring players and fans as banners declaring his having played in 2,131 consecutive games were unrolled on the brick walls of the B & O Railroad warehouse.
“It was one of his favorite memories,” his mother said.
“He was a huge Harold Baines fan, and one night he asked me if I wanted to drop by his apartment and see his baseball memorabilia,” recalled Mr. Vascellaro. “He had signed bats, hats, gloves and stuff that Baines had given him. "
When Mr. Vascellaro was watching a baseball game, he knew he could expect a call from Mr. Potter.
“He called me all the time and would call during the game. He wanted to talk in that moment and that moment was now,” he said. “He’d call during spring training or during the World Series, and I’d tell people, ‘I have to take this call. It’s from Ronnie.’ ”
After leaving the Orioles in 2000, Mr. Potter established his own business, Major Sports Turf Inc., which maintained baseball fields and golf courses.
Mr. Potter was first diagnosed with cancer five years ago.
“The last game we went to together was in 2019 as there were no games last year,” Mr. Vascellaro said. “He’d be in remission and would come over from the Eastern Shore and we’d go to a game. He’d be in remission and fought hard against his cancer diagnosis and got a few extra years.”
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