How long does it take to clean two championship banners?

February 07, 2014 | Drew Forrester

How long does it take to clean two championship banners?

My family attended Disney on Ice last night at the Baltimore Arena.

As a side note, if you have young children and can make it down there by Sunday, there are worse ways to spend two hours.  It was fun, full of energy and even old folks like us will recognize a lot of their skating characters.

I had a good time last night despite the fact that I was completely aggravated about twenty seconds into my entry into the building.

As Robert Palmer would sing once upon a time — “I’m…..looking for clues.”

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Without fail, anytime I go to an event in the Baltimore Arena, I always take a glance up to the rafters to see the Blast championship banners that hang from Lombard Street aside of the building.  I worked for the team in ’82-83, ’83-84 and ’84′-85, which were also years the Blast captured the Eastern Division championship in the MISL.  We also won the league title in 1983-84.  Those are the four banners that represent “the old days” of the Blast and they’re still up…a faded yellow, perhaps, but still hanging in the ceiling of the Arena.  There are other Blast banners hanging, as well, symbolic of the excellence established by in “the current era” which started in 1998.

They were all hanging up on Thursday night, right where they should be.

Two other banners, though, were missing.

In 1992-93 and 1993-94 the Baltimore Spirit – an entry in the National Professional Soccer League – won the Eastern Division Championship.  For the uninitiated, the Spirit came about after the MISL (which contained the Blast) folded following the 1991-92 campaign.  Faced with the prospect of having no indoor soccer in Baltimore for the first time since 1980, a local businessman – Bill Stealey – put an expansion team in the league and was essentially forced to “re-name” the franchise due to a legal situation involving the old league (a “union league”) and the new league (“non union”) and the fact that the “new owner” and “old owner” couldn’t agree on a price tag for the Blast name and logo.

Make no mistake about it, though, the Spirit was the Blast.  Kenny Cooper was the man in charge, the fan base was identical, a large number of players carried over from the MISL to the NPSL and other than the name – Spirit – nothing changed from the final days of the Blast in June of 1992.

The tradition of great Blast soccer carried over to ’92-93 and ’93-94 when the Spirit won those two Eastern Division titles.

Naturally, having worked in the Arena as part of the Blast and Spirit from 1981 until 1998, anytime I go to the Arena I glance up at the Blast banners at the Lombard Street end and then to the Spirit banners at the Baltimore Street end.

Except last night, the two Spirit banners weren’t there.

Blast banners:  there

Spirit banners: not there

I immediately went to Facebook and asked, “Who is responsible for the Spirit banners not being there?”  I also called it “bush-league” that they weren’t up there.

A few Facebook friends quickly chimed in to tell me they haven’t been up for a couple of years.

Evidently, they’re being cleaned.

For a couple of years.

Who’s cleaning them, the Orioles?

A Blast representative reached out to me quickly and assured me the current team has nothing to do with the removal of the Spirit banners from the rafters.

I hope that’s true.

I’d be very disappointed to find out the Blast called for those banners to be removed.

The person who told me the current organization had nothing to do with the Spirit banners not being up there is a trustworthy man, so I believe him.  Especially since I signed him to play for the team in ’92-93 and hired him to work in the front office (where he still remains) when his playing days were over.

So…where are the banners?

Being cleaned?

Really?

Or did someone in Arena management just assume they were no longer important enough to hang from the rafters?

If those banners were removed intentionally, it’s a bush-league move and it needs to be corrected.

If, in fact, they’re being cleaned (for two years), pay the bill, get them back, and hang ‘em up.

I’m looking for clues.

They belong up there.

And, on behalf of people like Kenny Cooper, Jason Dieter, Barry Stitz, Steve Nichols, Mike Conway and everyone else who played for those two teams, I’m going to do my best to get those banners back up in the rafters of the Baltimore Arena.

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12 Comments For This Post

  1. unitastoberry Says:

    Reminds me of an old Three Stooges when they ran a cleaners. Good Lord Baltimore.

  2. Mike ffrom Carney Says:

    Is there still a Skipjacks banner? (DF: Didn’t see them either. I don’t remember if they won anything “banner worthy”…)

  3. lakerboy Says:

    Drew…Your column concerning the Baltimore Arena takes me back. I’m sure there are many fond memories you have of great games and great athletes you witnessed performing there. I also watched lots of games there, with probably my favorites being the deciding winning championship game against the St. Louis Steamers in the early to mid 1980′s, and the two home victories against the San Diego Sockers when they had Alan Meyer and Steve Zungal. If I correctly recall, San Diego’s coach Roy Neumann (?), made some crass comments about the Arena and our fans. I think that was also the series that we were shut out TWICE in San Diego:-(
    All that said, it’s amazing to me that the “Municipal Ruins” (as Phil Jackman) once called it, has not been replaced. As much as I dearly love the Civic Ceneter (Arena) because of it’s great memories, it was essentially an antiquated facility the day it was built. (What modern day arena incorporates a stage in the design plan?) The Phildaelphia Flyers are the NHL team that we were suposed to get in the early mid 1960′s NHL expansion, but they ended up in Philadelphia after the NHL took a look at our facility and compared it to the plans for the Spectrum. I’m not claiming that we could actually support a major league basketball or hockey team, even in a state of the art venue, but it’s too bad that we never had an opportunity. Lastly, would the Bullets have stayed in town if there had been a viable facility? Who knows?

  4. lakerboy Says:

    Come to think of it, I think Julie Vee was on that Sockers team too. Man were they good.

  5. justafan Says:

    The Civic Center was not the deciding factor in the NHL’s decision to choose Philadelphia over Baltimore. The Owners of the Baltimore Clippers refused to come up with the necessary francise fees to complete the deal. Indeed, the NHL played in arena’s far worse than Baltimore. The Tamps Bay Lightning played in a place called Expo Hall located on the Tampa Bay fair grounds. The building had no permanent seats. All seats were on risers and the sight lines were terrible, no matter where you sat. The dressing rooms were behind one of the goals with a huge curtain spread across the area to provide some sort of privacy. The original facilities in Phoenix and Calgary were also sub standard when compared to the Civic Center. The dissatisfaction with the Civic Center was more spin than fact.

  6. BK Says:

    I remember the Skipjacks the most from the Arena. My father and I had season tickets for many years when I was young. They did win the South division in the 83-84 season under coach Gene Ubriaco, and led by the ‘great’ Mitch Lamoureux and all 5’6 of him, lol. Not sure if that division win in 83-84 warranted a banner or not, but I would think it did. They also made it to the finals the next year, 84-85.

    Talk about arenas, if anyone did follow the Skipjacks, do they remember the Hershey Bears arena? OMG, the seats were so steeply vertical that you had to hold onto a rail to climb them as you were afraid you were going to fall to your death with one mis-step. As a result, the whole place was claustrophobic and every seat was right on top of the ice. Great memories.

  7. lakerboy Says:

    Having attended games at a variety of nationwide venues over the years I can confidently assert that the Civic Center was one of the worst places to watch a game. I have not been to the original NHL facilities in Calgary, Phoenix and Tampa Bay, but I do remember that we almost didn’t get the (short tenured) WHA Baltimore Blades because the Civic Center was sub standard even by WHA standards.
    When the Blast was drawing large crowds in the early 1980′s I remember sitting in seats at the Arena that were obstructed…where you could only see one goal. For a major city like Baltimore not to have a decent indoor venue is a travesty. But then again, I’m not completely confident we could financially support another major league franchise, be it hockey or basketball.

  8. David Says:

    I have not seen a Spirit banner in the arena for some time now. Possibly even more than 2 years. In fact during a Blast game there is no mention or anything that acknowledges the Spirit. That in itself is a shame because i remember wars there against the Harrisburg Heat. They next to the Cleveland Crunch were one of the Spirit’s most heated rivals over the years. Could it be an issue that it was the NPSL that turned to the NISL that became the MISL?

  9. Robert Says:

    This missing banner issue in just another in a long line of Baltimore bush league moves. I’m alluding to the cancellation of the Baltimore Grand Prix for two years after the city lured the event here, made expensive preparations & hosted it. And the cancellation decision was made merely because of just one competing event taking place at the same time. What a bunch of bozos they are who run the city. Cheers.

  10. Dan Says:

    Now there’s an important Balt. sports story . I hope you told your kids that you ran the team back then , I know I would’ve . Takes me back to the old days when I would venture into downtown Balt . to take in a show , or din. at that revolving restaurant , . Always felt safe down there back then , of course I was always packin . – Ba Zinga -

  11. BmoreB Says:

    I still have the team photo of the Blast from I think 1981. It’s a 3.5 x 5 picture that I’m sure came straight from Rite Aid the day of the game. Classic !

    It was obvious the team didn’t have big league dollars but they did everything they could to win, entertain and make the fans happy back then.

    Too bad that other team with orange colors in their uniforms can’t do the same today as the Blast did back then.

    #angelossucks

  12. Marty Says:

    What you fail to say justafan is the fact Tampa/Phoenix & Calgary all used those sub standard areans as temporary homes until their new modern buildings were completed. The Broken Down Barn on Baltimore Street was to be the NHL team’s permanate home. And with the short sighted goofs who run this city, I doubt very much they would have built a new arena to take its place. Yes the NHL made the right choice to go to Philly over Baltimore. Not sure how you can call the dissatisfaction with the Civic Center more “spin” than fact. It’s a dump and has been one since it opened.

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