|The Living Spirits Of Sports Legends|
Chasing ghosts, memories and dreams in historic Camden Station
By Charlie Vascellaro
Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards made a Toronto Star list of "Ten places to get your fright on," for all its violent Civil War and turbulent B&O Railroad labor-relations history, which resulted in dozens of deaths during its formative years.
With this in mind, and at the urging of PressBox publisher Stan Charles, I decided to do a little ghost hunting in the museum, and invited former Baltimore Orioles general manager Roland Hemond to join me. Hemond is a walking, talking, 82-year-old historical artifact himself, whose major league career spans more than six decades. He witnessed firsthand much of the history being celebrated in the museum.
Hemond currently lives in Phoenix, Ariz., and is the Arizona Diamondbacks' special assistant to the president and CEO. He was an early contributing architect of the team, beginning his term as senior executive vice president in 1996, two years before the Diamondbacks' inaugural season, and ending it in 2000. He returned for his second stint with Arizona in 2007.
Before our overnight stay in late April, I had been briefed on some spooky encounters several employees had had at the museum, although most of them wished to remain anonymous, for fear of appearing insane. Fortunately, appearing to be crazy has never been a phobia of mine.
One staff member referred me to a recent museum visitor, who said that while walking through the museum for a private event, she had felt the spiritual presence of a small child near a display case honoring recently deceased Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan.
"It was a very physical feeling," said Maggie Mellow, of Merritt Island, Fla. "It made me dizzy and made my skin crawl and tingle. I couldn't see anything, but I knew it was a young man. I asked the man giving the tour if he had heard of the building being haunted, and he turned pale white."
The area where Mellow felt the presence is between the main lobby entrance to the Sports Legends Museum and the Gentlemen's Waiting Room, a location steeped in Civil War history. The first bloodshed of the Civil War took place at Camden Station April 19, 1861, five years after the completion of the building's construction. In an incident referred to as the "Baltimore Riot" or "Pratt Street Riot," a mob of approximately 500 southern sympathizers attacked about 1,700 Union troops of the Sixth Massachusetts Infantry, as they were preparing to board a train on Pratt Street. Four soldiers and dozens of civilians died.
Camden Station was again the site of violent conflict during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, when striking B&O Railroad workers and sympathetic Baltimore citizens clashed with members of the Maryland militia, resulting in 10 deaths, dozens of injuries and fire damage to the station.
John Ziemann, deputy director of the Sports Legends and Babe Ruth Birthplace museums, said the Camden Station building still bore scars from the railroad strike incident.
"When they were starting to restore the station in conjunction with the construction of Oriole Park in the early 1990s, and later, when we came in to give the building another facelift in 2004, workmen told me they found bullet marks in the East Tower," said Ziemann, who also serves as president of the Baltimore Ravens' marching band.
The successor to the Baltimore Colts Marching Band is represented in a chronological display of the bands' uniforms, which float in space as if being worn by invisible men; they kind of look like ghosts.
Hemond and I began our night at the museum in the lobby right where Mellow felt the building was haunted, in front of the Gentlemen's Waiting Room and next to the Mike Flanagan display case, which had since been converted to honor another former Oriole, Frank Robinson.
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Illustrations by John Pennisi
Issue 174: June 2012