Memorial Stadium memories live on in Baltimore
Downtown Baltimore is home to two full-scale professional sports stadiums in M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. While each franchise is now associated with their respective stadiums, both teams played their first home games in Baltimore in a different, more historic establishment. The Orioles, Ravens and Baltimore Colts all started their Baltimore journeys playing at Memorial Stadium.
Memorial Stadium was located in Baltimore, Md., on E. 33rd Street. For a city that is rich in sports tradition, it all started at Memorial Stadium, which came to be known as the world’s largest outdoor insane asylum, a title created by Cooper Rollow of the Chicago Tribune.
“Going to games at Memorial Stadium was some kind of experience,” said David Spranger, current Ravens season ticket holder who attended hundreds of Colts games at Memorial Stadium. “Most NFL fans look at Baltimore as one of the best home-field advantages in the league, but not many of those realize where it all started. It started at 33rd Street.”
Those who attend sporting events at Camden Yards or M&T Bank Stadium take part in many traditions that all started at Memorial Stadium. When “The Star Spangled Banner” is sung prior to games, the “O” in “O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave” is yelled by Baltimore fans. This is done not only as a nod to the Orioles, but also to the city of Baltimore, as the sound is associated with a Baltimore accent.
William “Wild Bill” Hagy, an Orioles season ticket holder who sat in section 34, started the
tradition of yelling the “O,” among many others. Today, Wild Bill Hagy is recognized as a member of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame, and Baltimore sports fans across the city, young and old, are well aware of the impact that Wild Bill had on Baltimore sports.
“Wild Bill Hagy singlehandedly transformed Baltimore from a town just happy to have a team, to a town that lived and died with their team,” said Brian King, a Salisbury native who had a partial ticket package just one section from Wild Bill’s section 34 at Memorial Stadium. “Before Wild Bill, fans just went and did the generic cheers. After he came along, O’s fans began to will their team to win. On some nights, the crowd, let by Wild Bill, refused to let their team lose. Without Wild Bill Hagy, I firmly believe the Orioles do not make it to the 1983 World Series, much less win it.”
Wild Bill Hagy also originated the “O-R-I-O-L-E-S” chant that is so frequently yelled at current Orioles games at Camden Yards.
“The Orioles chant is my favorite chant when I come to Orioles games,” said Les Connor, a
12 year-old O’s fan who attended a September afternoon game with his dad. “I know the oriole bird usually leads it, but my dad told me that there used to be a guy named Wild Bill that started it. I’m glad he did, because it’s a fun chant.”
There are many people like Les who take part in numerous Baltimore traditions, but who are not aware of where they started. Conversely, those who took in sporting events at Memorial Stadium carry those experiences with them forever.
“People frequently call in to our show and complain about how Orioles fans aren’t into the game at Camden Yards, or how Ravens fans aren’t loud enough on crucial third downs,” said Patrick O’Neill, producer for “Sports With Coleman” on Fox 1370 sports radio in Baltimore. “Usually, it’s the older guys who reflect back on their experiences at Memorial Stadium who aren’t satisfied with the present day fans. They complain that fans aren’t into the game, only getting up to cheer when the scoreboard tells them to. Clearly, Wild Bill raised the standards around here, and the atmosphere at Memorial Stadium will never be met in the eyes of some old-timers.”
The Baltimore sports scene is alive and well in Baltimore. The Orioles play in what many consider to be a top five stadium in Major League Baseball, while the Ravens constantly sell out their games for the season in less than 15 minutes. The passion that local fans have for their teams has been passed down from generation to generation. Most of that passion and love for Baltimore sports originated at Memorial Stadium.
“Without Memorial Stadium and all that it encompassed, I don’t think it’s a stretch that I wouldn’t be here today producing this show,” O’Neal said. “There would be no Camden Yards or M&T Bank Stadium. There wouldn’t be 70,000 screaming fans dying to get into a Ravens game.”
Everyday, fans walk by statues and landmarks around the area that tell a story about the history of Baltimore sports. For some, the greatest stories of all were told at the old Memorial Stadium.
“Without Memorial Stadium, sports in Baltimore would be an afterthought,” King said. “I’m sure glad I got to experience that place.”