and to, in no small way, attempt to boost civic morale.
In EVERY one of those places except Montreal (and NOTHING has affected the BALTIMORE Orioles more than the fact that Montreal couldn’t recover after the failed 1994 lockout that Peter Angelos has his fingerprints all over), baseball BECAME the single most significant part of their urban renaissance.
So how important is baseball in American life?
And why is it important and how does it sell?
Tradition, tradition, tradition — baseball really always been in the business of building through children, hero worship and, yes, tradition.
Once you’re a fan of the Orioles, it was once thought, that you would be connected for life.
For some teams, it’s been true.
For others, it’s been taken for granted.
But there is NO doubt in my mind the reason why all of the aforementioned cities — including Washington, D.C. right under our noses — has gotten into the “civic morale” business via baseball.
This city is a prime example: there are things for white people to do and black people to do; there are things for rich people to do and things for poor people to do; there are things that young people, and old people and foreign people and clubs can do, and all sorts of social activities one can have living in a big city.
But there’s only ONE thing that brings ALL of the people together to feel as one: SPORTS!
So, on that front, what Camden Yards did for the city was to galvanize a meeting place — and not just ANY meeting place — a place where people from everywhere can gather in the American tradition of watching baseball, drinking beer, eating hot dogs and pulling for our hometown team!
And, on top of that, Camden Yards was considered the finest place to do so in the world.
Most of my memories of Orioles baseball before the baseball strike, are honestly, very good.
Other than my Pop canceling his subscription to The Sporting News during the baseball strike of 1981 — I still have no idea why he took the strike out not on the players, not on the owners, not on the agents, but on a magazine in St. Louis that would employ me for three years later on in life and, only then, did I see that he was getting even with them for me BEFORE I worked for them and before HE died — my Pop never had a bad word to say about baseball.
Even the guys like Reggie Jackson and Mickey Rivers that he didn’t care for, were just part of the theatre for him. They were just like the bad guys in a spaghetti Western.
For me, it was pretty much the same. As a fan, they could crap on me repeatedly and I’d come back begging for more abuse.
Hell, they damned near put me out of business in 1994 during the strike.
I was a single parent raising a 10-year old boy on Kane Street in Dundalk. I had a ponytail, a yellow jeep, MAYBE $2000 to my name and DEPENDED on baseball to make a living.
I hosted a sports talk show on WWLG-AM 1360, was making very little money and only getting by through supplementing my sports gig by doing mobile DJ work at parties and weddings on weekends.
I hosted sports talk in a city with the Orioles and nothing more. The Blast were dying and becoming the Spirit. The Colts were a DISTANT memory. Paul Tagliabue and the NFL had told Baltimore to pound sand or build a museum. The Terps were nice, but not a full-time gig, really.
The ORIOLES WERE EVERYTHING!!!
I’ll say it again: EVERYTHING!!!
The Ravens were NEVER GOING TO EXIST!!!
So, much like any of the vendors outside the stadium, or the bars and restaurants and hotels and cabbies and businesses, the Orioles were BIG, BIG BUSINESS to this city and to its economy. From their ushers and concessionaires to the guy who washed the players’ cars — everyone connected to the Orioles and to baseball was taken a licking!
“Hi, I’m ‘Nasty’ Nestor Aparicio and I host sports radio in Baltimore. It’s March 1995 and there’s no baseball. Our basketball team in College Park is interesting with this Joe Smith kid but there’s NO BASEBALL