One of my most memorable SP78 games ever took place during a trip to Baltimore in the summer of ’92, when my friend Steve P and I decided to see a couple of weekend Orioles games at their new retro ballpark, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which they’d moved into earlier that year. By this point in the SP78 season, I was taking Statis Pro with me on nearly every vacation or trip I made, and this time I brought team cards for the Orioles and Indians, who were playing a May 26th contest at, coincidentally, Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
We left San Diego late on a Thursday night, arriving in Baltimore early the next morning; after securing a rental car, we drove through downtown, past the new ballpark, and after lunch we continued on to a neighborhood on 33rd Street and visited old Memorial Stadium, where the O’s had played from 1950 through 1991; the place was quiet and seemingly deserted, but while taking photos from the surrounding parking lot, a stadium employee saw us and asked if we’d like to take a peek inside, which of course we gladly did.
From there we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening hanging around and exploring the outskirts of Baltimore and the downtown harbor area; we checked in at our hotel in Linthicum, played catch under sunny skies at Lake Montabello Park, had dinner at a Bennigan’s not far from the new stadium, then that night saw the Orioles clip the A’s 4-2 at a packed Camden Yards, which was as cool a place to see a game as we’d expected. Our seats were in a section above the left-field wall—not the best seats in the sold-out house, but at least we watched the action from the front row—and a loudmouth directly behind us flapped his uneducated yap at A’s players for the entire game, but beyond that, Steve and I had a great time. And yes, we got to see Cal Ripken, Jr play, a few years before he broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak; tonight he went hitless in three at-bats while playing a flawless game at short (his brother Billy, playing second base, connected for a single in the fifth inning, so at least we got to see somebody named Ripken deliver a base hit).
We had another O’s-A’s game to see Saturday night, but the first order of business the next day was to head back out to Memorial Stadium and, for the first time in SP78 Replay history, I played a Statis Pro game outdoors, as well as at the actual venue where the game was scheduled. Having been there the day before, and noticing how desolate the stadium’s perimeter was, I figured it was a safe place to play, as well as a scenic one; we set up the game on the stadium’s front concourse, on a cement planter underneath the towering war memorial facade, and it was only then that I realized we were playing on August 22nd, a date I usually reserved for landmark games or events. Luckily, this one fit the bill.
It was strange to play a Statis Pro game outside, at a location new to me, and one where I’d probably never play a game again. Steve piloted the Orioles and led them to an exciting yet controversial 4-3 win; with the Indians leading 3-0 in the seventh, the O’s erupted for four runs, thanks in part to second baseman Billy Smith’s RBI single, which ignited the team’s run-scoring barrage. During his next at-bat, however, it was discovered that he was using an improperly-weighted bat, and he was promptly ejected from the game, and eventually suspended for three games. This brought into question the validity of his rally-sparking base hit, and became a lighthearted bone of contention between Steve and I for years.
We also spent a portion of that day trying to find the headquarters of the Avalon Hill Game Company—makers of Statis Pro Baseball—on the outskirts of Baltimore, but even with the company’s street address in our hands, we were unsuccessful in our efforts; apparently, the offices were secured by a giant cloaking device. We also made stops at Johns Hopkins University, a fun little diner called Tambor’s, and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor before returning to Camden Yards for that evening’s game; unfortunately, we were unable to secure tickets (at an affordable price, anyway), so we instead spent the entire game hanging out on Eutaw Street, on a wide concourse beyond center field that allowed us a perfect view of the playing field and that night’s game. Dozens of other fans had the same idea, and as it turned out, this wasn’t such a bad vantage point after all. We chatted with other fans, explored Eutaw Street, and at one point found a guy hawking orange ‘No Pussies in Birdland’ t-shirts, which I’ve regretted not shelling out the ten bucks to buy ever since (somebody was also selling potatoes from a gunny sack, but neither Steve or I had any qualms about passing on that offer).
The Orioles lost that game 5-3, which I guess meant Steve and I picked the right game to get tickets to, and on the drive back to the hotel we stopped at a Roy Rogers for some late-night chicken dinners to-go to cap off our fun-filled day. We flew out of Baltimore the next morning, and as I’d predicted, I never again played an SP78 game at Memorial Stadium; sadly, the park was torn down in 2001, and now is home to a senior citizens complex and a YMCA facility, where I will not play Statis Pro should I ever return to Baltimore.
Over the next few months, I played the remaining three games of the Orioles-A’s four-game series, with Steve managing the Orioles in every one of those games, an accomplishment from my season that has yet to be equaled. As for the trip, it still amazes Steve and I that we crammed so many events into two days, and had so much fun doing so; I doubt I’ll ever see another game at Camden Yards, or even visit Baltimore again, simply because I want the memories of that 1992 trip to remain my only memories of Baltimore.