In 1922 a local Baltimore sports fan would not recognize the name Memorial Stadium. At the time of its opening, it was called Baltimore Stadium. Later it would also carry the names Venable Stadium, Babe Ruth Stadium and Municipal Stadium. It was lovingly referred to as “The Old Grey Lady of 33rd Street” and also not so lovingly as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum.”
The original 1922 construction was originally designed for just football. It hosted early Army-Navy Games and, when they lost their park due to a fire, was later put in service for the Baltimore Orioles for the baseball games. Additional construction in 1950 added more seating with an add on upper deck. The Baltimore Colts and the Baltimore Orioles celebrated a number of winning games over the following decades. Memorial Stadium was the home of a Major Baseball All-Star Game in 11958 and one of the few arenas for the World Series and the NFL Championship game. There was only ever one home run hit out of Memorial Stadium. Frank Robinson made the hit on a 1966 Mother’s Day. Later, a flag was erected at the spot where the ball fell. The flag had one simple word “HERE”.
One of the most unusual occurrences happened in 1976 when a Piper Cherokee airplane crashed into a south end upper deck. Since it was nearing the end of the game, most of the fans had departed the area and so there were no injuries. The pilot, however, was arrested and fined for violation of regulations on plane safety.
No matter what the season, The Old Grey Lady was a beloved icon of the people of Baltimore. Deteriorating construction led to the need for major upgrades and, with the Orioles as the only supporting team, a new stadium was a consideration. The citizens of Baltimore may not have minded the thought of a new stadium, but they were expressing increased concern over what was going to be done with “The Lady”. When the task force began thinking about additional revenue streams, concerts were on the top of the list. Before they even had a chance to review, the locals protested against the idea.
Eventually, an overall decision was made to either develop the stadium for other purposes or demolish it. It took a lot of political maneuvering, but in April 2001, they took a ten month process to demolish the historic “Lady”. Most of the stadium was used on an artificial reef selected in a specific area of the Chesapeake Bay. In 2005, the actual site of the stadium was home to the largest YMCA in Maryland. Additional changes included senior apartment complexes.
Work began in 2010 to begin building a new football and baseball field on the same site. Everyone wanted the ‘home plate’ to be located exactly where it was before. The field was finished in 2010. The famous “Memorial Wall” from the original stadium had been placed behind home plate, in honor of those whose lives were lost in World Wars I and II. A miniaturized version of Memorial Wall is now outside of Oriole Park, the new Orioles’ stadium.