Cal and 33rd

July 02, 2010 | Paul Hoke

I read the articles.  I saw the WNST videos.  Cal Ripken, Oriole legend and my childhood hero, is building a baseball and football facility for inner city kids on the hallowed grounds of 33rd Street that used to hold our beloved Memorial Stadium.

God bless him.

I know Cal has the kid’s best interest in mind as he builds as place for them to come live, play, and enjoy the game of baseball as we all knew it growing up.  I think it is a fabulous idea.  What better place for today’s youth to learn the game then in the exact same spot where so may of us fell in love with baseball, and the Orioles.

My love affair with the black and orange was born on that exact spot in October of 1982.  When I watched our Birds of Baltimore drop the final game of the 1982 season to the Milwaukee Brewers, 10-2.  I had no idea of the significance of that day at the time.  I was 6  years old.  I didn’t know what a pennant race was.  I didn’t know that the loss eliminated the Orioles from the postseason.  All I knew was that my dad’s team lost.  And…..that from that moment on…..I loved baseball, and the Orioles.

On June 20th, my wedding anniversary, my wife and I headed downtown for dinner and a few drinks in Fells Point.  On our way home, we traveled up Charles to 33rd.  I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help but make that eastbound trek across 33rd to Loch Raven Boulevard.  I have to pass it.  And each time I do, I look to my left, and there she is…in my mind.  I see our Grand Old Lady standing there.  Not some old folks home, or YMCA whatever.  I see the building that housed me for 20-30 games a summer from 1982-1991.  The building where my love for baseball and the Orioles grew.

I grew up on Erdman Avenue, just 5 minutes from 33rd Street.  During the summer, even on game nights when I wasn’t in attendance, I could still hear the “Roar from 34”.  I can remember, even today, the feeling of walking up that ramp, into the seating bowl.  Seeing the green grass.  The scoreboard.  My Orioles on the field.  My dad and I bonded in those seats.  He taught me the intricacies of baseball from those seats.  Memorial Stadium was a second home to me.  I loved her.  My wife laughs, but every time we pass that hallowed ground, I shed a tear for my second mother.  Memorial lives within me.

I went to 10 Baltimore Colts’ games at Memorial.  Granted, I didn’t see a whole lot of winning, but I was there for the horseshoe.  Mike Pagel was my favorite Colt.  Yes, I know, but what can I say?

I went to the Baltimore Ravens’ games there during the 1996-1997 seasons.  I saw the first Ravens’ victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers there.  A 31-17 win in a rain soaked Memorial.

And to see Cal and Brooks standing on that ground once again…brings back all the memories.

When we didn’t walk to the park, dad would park at Lake Montebello, and we would walk from there.  Past Mervo, my brother’s alma mater.  I remember the flags that flew on gameday.  Man, I loved that place.

Anyway, to hear that Cal plans on building a baseball field on that site is very fitting, as I watched the first half of his career unfold there.  I can’t wait to see the facility unfold.

Anything related to baseball will be a welcome sight there.  My childhood, my dad, and my memories all reside at that little piece of land on 33rd Street.  And I will never forget her.