Ghosts of Memorial Stadium: 1988 to 1990


One of the fascinating things about following a sports team is the long history you develop, and the long train of places, things, and teams that you have seen over the years. This piece is about this writer’s memories of a dormant ballpark, a place of the scenes of the greatest moments in the history of the Baltimore Orioles franchise, a place that no longer stands, Memorial Stadium.

Located on 33rd Street in Baltimore, there were still neighborhoods within walking distance of the stadium in the years that I frequented the place, 1988-1990 while I was a student at the University of Maryland. My Dad didn’t care for baseball but he was willing to sit through the Red Sox games for my sake, so we managed to see a handful of games. From the Orioles’ inaugural season in 1954 to 1991, it was their home. It was a classic horseshoe stadium in the style of the old Cleveland Stadium, but far less cavernous.

My memories of the place center, of course, mainly around the Red Sox. Looking at my seven ticket stubs from that era, some thoughts still bounce around my head. You could have made me swear that the longest game I ever saw was 12 innings and it ended when the Sox’ Dennis Lamp gave up a bloop single to center field that won the game for Baltimore. Research shows me that it was actually the 11th inning, and the blooper fell more toward right field. I can remember it was just out of the second baseman’s reach. In fact the winning run scored because Eddie Murray, who had seven steals that year, stole second and scored on that bloop hit. Pat Dodson started at first base for the Red Sox that night. Does anyone remember that name? Five days later, he would conclude his major league career at age 26, career batting average, .202.

Unlike Fenway’s mostly cozy confines, Memorial Stadium had generous dimensions, 400 to 410 feet to center at various times, as well as 14 foot high fences down each line and for a portion of the power alley. It was not nearly as cramped as Fenway since it was built in 1950, and the people had gotten a little bigger by then. It was an old school stadium, even in 1988. You had to cross a very wide and very busy road to get from the acreage of the parking lot to the stadium itself. There were not many things nearby, so it wasn’t a place like Fenway that you could visit the shops nearby and take in the atmosphere. We were looking to get back to the safety of our car as quickly as possible.

Another fond memory I have of the place is witnessing a shutout, by our then-hero Roger Clemens. As soon as Clemens had come to the Sox in 1984, he was on the road to greatness. He fully realized his potential in his third season, 1986, when he was 24-4 and the Sox went to the World Series. The Sox were fighting to try and get back there on June 18, 1988 when he stepped on Memorial Stadium’s mound against the 18-48 Orioles. Not many people can say they have witnessed a pitcher throw a nine-hit shutout, or that the starter threw 148 pitches. Both of those things happened that day. Perhaps if the game had been closer than 5-0, John McNamara would have taken Clemens out, but he left him in to finish even though he gave up two hits in the eighth and ninth innings. This was actually one of eight shutouts Clemens would record that year, along with 14 complete games in 35 starts, so he was used to finishing what he started.

Only a few flashes of memories mentioned in this article, more than a quarter century in the past, evoke the events of these games. There was a game on September 17, 1990 that I attended where I may have been sitting in excellent seats behind home plate. The box score tells an interesting story of an Orioles pitcher who pitched the final four innings of the game for a save. His name: Curt Schilling.

When the Red Sox venture out to Seattle, I hope you will join me for another trip into Red Sox history, with some stories about the Mariners’ first home, The Kingdome.