Funny how the Great North American Baseball Road Trip worked out. The last ball park before heading within spitting distance of home is the one I’ve wanted to go see since it was built (and before that, its predecessor, Memorial Stadium).
Camden Yards (or Oriole Park at Camden Yards) was the first and possibly the best of the modern stadiums. The new concept included unique design of the outfield, tremendously improved viewing areas and a varied and accommodating selection of food and drink.
Nearly 25 years after it was built, I finally made it. I came carrying serious baggage. My Orioles had been visitors in 4 other GNABRT games…and lost all 4. Was I the jinx or had I just caught the O’s at a bad time?
I pulled out all the stops for the game, with the GNABRT t-shirt fully washed (though it has a sauce spot that may never come out). Hat ready, I was rested and prepared for a night of entertainment. I wasn’t prepared for the surprise that was waiting on my room phone.
Let’s backtrack a bit to get to that point, shall we? As you remember, yesterday I was at as low an ebb as ever on the trip. Drained, under par and homesick, I trundled off to my room to prepare for laundry and some sense of rest to hopefully get rid of my headache.
Still, those are my problems; I don’t visit them on others. So I chatted up the desk clerk, a couple of people in line, a guy waiting with me for the elevator and my waitress at the hotel restaurant. Eventually, night fell and I headed for bed.
Except, I heard some sort of cracking noise. I thought it might be coming from the next room, but no. Then, I thought, ugh, what if it’s some big bug behind the dresser. Using the iPhone flashlight revealed nothing.
I fine-tuned my listening and determined it was coming from inside the dresser. Ooo eee ooo.
Opening the fridge, I saw the large chunk of ice frozen against the back wall was smaller. I also noticed my socks were getting wet. Seconds later I realized the ice was melting, leaking out the fridge and soaking the carpet. Sigh.
Added to a couple of other discoveries (a wad of hair in the bathroom and no remote control for the TV), I decided to slip back on the shoes and give the blow-by-blow to the desk clerk. I tactfully waited until his current check-in was done and away (no sense creating bad publicity).
The desk clerk took notes and wanted to give me a free breakfast for the next day. I told him I didn’t come down to mooch, more to let him know about the fridge and the potential damage to the room. He insisted, so I took the voucher for a free buffet breakfast (it was good).
A man was waiting by my door when I got back upstairs. He had come ostensibly to replace my remote, but since I didn’t have one, he left the one he had brought and all was well. It wasn’t like I wanted to watch TV anyway.
Now, as I turned to go to bed, I saw the red light flashing on the phone. I figured it was the desk clerk checking up. Turns out, it was the man I was talking to by the elevator. In an odd twist, he worked for the hotel (though he had no ID badge or name tag showing).
His message said he thought it was a neat idea what I was doing and would I be interested in one of the hotel’s seats behind home plate. Huh? He could have asked if I would be interested in dating a supermodel. Well, probably not as much as home plate seats for an Orioles game.
I called him back in the morning and made sure he didn’t need to give the seats to important people, since I was “just a guy”. He laughed and assured me they like to give the seats out to customers and he thought it would make for a good story for my trip. No argument there!
The city: Baltimore, Maryland. The original settlement in the Baltimore area was one of the rare cordial relationships between colonists and Native Americans. It was about 60 years later when Maryland began being divided into counties that the County of Baltimore came into existence.
Though the city was settled around that same time, it was not officially “founded” until almost 70 years later. Named (like the county) after Lord Baltimore (who was the first Governor of Maryland), the city was already active with shipping and trade.
During the American Revolution, shipbuilding boomed within the town, enhancing the growing financial strength to Baltimore. While British blockades hampered shipping, seizing British ships provided a counter and continued the economic good times.
Of course, the railroads provided another burst, just as Baltimore was facing the upward limit on its ability to grow. Additional growth came in the form of Baltimore’s great freedom afforded to blacks, free and slave, during the 1800’s. During an influx of European immigrants in the mid 1800’s, free black workers saw a precipitous decline in their economic level. As the Civil War started, though, Baltimore still had the largest population of free blacks in the nation.
That led to difficulties during the Civil War (the rich favored the South) and, obviously, in all the decades since as the old racial tensions never truly disappeared. Regardless, the city continued to grow and add new industries as others waned or faded.
As with many cities, World War II provided a boost for Baltimore coming on the heels of The Great Depression. As in earlier wars, shipbuilding was the major contributor to the change. Post-war brought serious shifts in population centers as many white citizens moved out to the suburbs leaving the urban city dwellers a proportionately higher quantity of black citizens.
Combined with the previously simmering tensions, Baltimore has a history of active and often violent race confrontations. As recently as this year, tensions related to the perceived inequity of treatment between whites and blacks bubbled over into rioting.
Since there’s no easy segue from that grim backdrop, we’ll just skip over to Baltimore’s sports history. The city is only represented in two of the four major American sports leagues, in the NFL (Ravens) and the MLB (Orioles). Fortunately, both teams have brought home championships. Baltimore also was the birthplace of Babe Ruth, so there’s that.
The game: Baltimore Orioles vs. Atlanta Braves. The O’s have been in a rough patch for a while, finally righting themselves by winning three in a row. The Braves have been stinky all year. Trouble was brewing, though, since the pitcher going for the O’s tonight was already 0-2 on the GNABRT.
Sure enough, he gives up a hit to the first batter and then an out later serves up a long fly ball that looked like a homer, was ruled a double and replay reversed back to a homer. O’s trail 2-0.
In the bottom of the first, the O’s right fielder hits a three-run homer. Then he goes and hits a 2-run homer his next at bat and the O’s (and the pitcher) snap the GNABRT losing streak and beat the Braves 7-3.
The tab: Ticket, Free; Soft shell crab sandwich & Coke, $17.75; Organic soft chocolate ice cream in O’s helmet (kept), $6.50; Total – $24.25
Miscellany of Day 62:
– Finally. Taking a look on Yahoo maps, I located what (supposedly) was a Wells Fargo branch within a half-mile of the hotel. Early in the AM, I went out on the streets of Baltimore. I took a chance and made some turns all on my own and was rewarded with a branch on the corner.
I walked around the building, passing a man asking for change (you and me both, buddy) and located the ATM. Presto, money. In celebration, I gave the guy a buck.
Post-blog follow-up: I got a response to my tweet about Wells Fargo from…Wells Fargo! They said I should check out their branch locator in the future. I refrained from a snarky reply.
– The seats were nearly perfect. I say nearly, because shortly after I sat down a tall man sat next to me. Not only did he brazenly decide his elbows were best served by both arm rests, but he reeked.
I’ve smelled that type of odor before; it comes from dietary choices. I tried to lean away as discreetly as I could, but it took five more innings before I could move up and away a row and seat. I respect all choices in America, but you can’t turn off your nose.
– Last word: I teared up before the game actually started. Apparently that little boy’s dream of watching the Orioles play in Baltimore was still strong deep inside, half a century later. I could explain the nature of my emotions, but I’m not sure you could truly feel it.