Ernie Tyler was buried on a brisk, chilly day at the start of spring training, which seemed only right. One day after Orioles' pitchers and catchers reported to camp in Florida, Tyler -- a lifelong club employee who worked as umpires' attendant -- was laid to rest following a church service attended by Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.
Tyler, 86, died Feb. 10 of complications from a brain tumor. Otherwise, he'd have been preparing to work Opening Day for the 51st straight season. His work ethic was the stuff of legend: between 1960 and 2007, he worked 3,769 consecutive home games at both Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards.
In the narthex at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church was a mounted photograph of Tyler, wearing a broad grin and flanked by paintings of the two ballparks that he dearly loved.
"Now, Ernie is in his 'field of dreams' with the Lord," said Msgr. James Barker, of St. Ignatius.
More than 250 people attended the funeral Mass, including several wearing orange-and-black Orioles jackets. Mourners filed in to the song, "The Wind Beneath My Wings," which epitomized Tyler's role with the Birds, players said.
"He was as much a fabric of the team as anyone has ever been," said longtime Oriole B.J. Surhoff, who retired in 2005.
Scott McGregor, an Orioles pitcher for 13 seasons, delivered the eulogy for Tyler, who grew up in Baltimore and attended Mount St. Joseph. McGregor said that last week, he and Mike Flanagan, another Orioles 20-game winner, sat down together and rehashed Tyler's baseball career, which began as an Orioles' usher in 1954. Then it hit them.
"We couldn't think of one thing that Ernie ever did wrong," McGregor said. "His actions were outstanding. He was always humble, always a friend. And he never wanted anything but what was best for everyone else."
Then McGregor suggested a footnote to Tyler's career.
"Maybe we should rename Camden Yards as Ernie Tyler Stadium," he said tearfully, "because Ernie represented everything that every family in the city of Baltimore should want to stand for. Ernie has left us, but he will never die as he continues to impact lives for generations to come."
Other former Orioles who paid their respects included shortstop Mike Bordick and outfielder Ken Singleton. The latter called Tyler "one of the kindest men you'd ever want to meet who left a great legacy, his sons Jim and Fred, to continue with the team."
Jim Tyler serves as the Orioles' home clubhouse attendant, while Fred Tyler works the visiting clubhouse.
"Those apples didn't fall far from the tree," Singleton said.
Ripken recalled having asked Tyler to attend his Hall of Fame induction in 2007, and how Tyler sacrificed his own Iron Man streak to do so.
"What an honor it was for Ernie to take his time off for me, and to want to share that great moment," Ripken said. "It meant the world to me, and it seemed the same to him."
In 1998, when he quietly decided to end his own consecutive games streak at 2,632, Ripken said Tyler was one of a handful of people in whom he confided.
"After [2,632], I asked him in the clubhouse, 'Ernie, what do the umpires do with their lineup cards after the game?' He said that they throw them away. I asked if he could get it."
Tyler looked at Ripken quizzically. Then he nodded in acknowledgement.
"He got it," said Ripken, "without saying a word."