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New Memorial Stadium Allows Youth To Form Memories At Historic Spot

May 15, 2015

So much of Baltimore sports history took place at Memorial Stadium.

Johnny Unitas became one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks while helping to put the Baltimore Colts on the map.

Brooks Robinson displayed the fielding brilliance that defined him as one of the best defensive third basemen of all time while helping the Orioles to two World Series titles in five years.

The building on 33rd Street featured unusual charm in so many ways. During the Colts' glory days, it was called the "The World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum" due to the craziness and volume of the building's noise. Memorial Stadium is long gone now, but younger children are playing on the spot where so many famous athletes made history.

A beautiful baseball/sports field sits where the Orioles and Colts -- and later Ravens -- played so many times and is officially located at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Family Center Y at Stadium Place. The field opened in 2010, and The Baltimore Sun reported it as a $1.5 million project that had funds raised by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, started by Bill and Cal Ripken Jr., "in honor of their late father and dedicated to bringing baseball to disadvantaged youths." 

The Sun also reported the state of Maryland's Program Open Space contributed $400,000.

The field there can be used in several ways. It's a baseball field that can also be converted and is being used for softball, soccer, lacrosse, football and other special events. Ripken's youth leagues play there as does Putty Hill Baseball, the Baltimore Broncos semi-pro football team and various schools from the area.

Issue 209: Memorial Stadium Field
Photo Credit: Jeff Seidel

Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School and City College's lacrosse teams will practice on the field. Waverly Elementary uses it for gym class at times. The Friends School also began using it recently, and the Quakers are happy with what they've found.

Friends School athletic director Greg Whitley said the school was facing some decisions about space. But the school found the location almost by accident. A staff member happened to drive by the field, saw it and thought that might be the answer to Friends' upcoming questions. The school entered into an agreement with the facility to use the field, one that started this spring and will likely go on for a while.

"What got us really thinking about it was that we use the baseball and softball diamonds at Medfield Elementary, and they're going to be building a new school there on that site," Whitley said. "So we had to be thinking about new options. It's a multi-functional facility. It's a great facility. We'll be using it for the next couple of years."

Pete Karsos is the president of Putty Hill Baseball and spent many days and nights at the old ballpark. He remembers what it was like to park on the back lot or on the many nearby side streets and walk to the ballpark.

He also used to play games that often took place on the back lots of Memorial Stadium. Karsos appreciates the history, but these kids now need a chance to play baseball in a good facility. This place provides them with that.

"It's a positive to introduce the game down there and bring it back," Karsos said. "The message is to get the kids to play baseball, just to have something where they can play ball. It's really in a great spot, and we'll see how it grows."

Putty Hill places different age groups down at the field, often the 11- and 12-year olds. Karsos said they also try to get the kids on the field for practice and games.

In terms of baseball, the last game played at Memorial Stadium was Oct. 6, 1991, long before any of the youngsters who run the bases there now were even born. But some kids do understand the history of the spot, even though the stadium is no more.

There's one piece of history that does remain in place, though. Home plate has been placed back where it used to be on 33rd Street. Now, there are children playing on the same spot where Hall of Famers competed. That should be enough to make any kid who understands Baltimore sports history smile a bit.

Issue 209: May 2015