Baseball fans live on former stadium site
When James Batty sits on the deck at his apartment in northeast Baltimore, he sometimes reflects on the times when an empty baseball field across the street once housed a massive edifice known as Memorial Stadium.
“I actually worked there two different times — first from 1957 to ‘59. Then, I came back in the mid-1960s,” he said.
Now 76, Batty first worked as a vendor while in high school, selling popcorn, peanuts and hot dogs. “Minors couldn’t sell beer,” he recalled, “so I was too young the first time.”
Batty recalls the times when the stadium consistently attracted sold-out crowds and fielded the city’s world-championship caliber athletic teams.
His highlight experience as a vendor was having worked the 1958 MLB All-Star Game. “I really remember the 1958 All-Star Game, he said. “That one had Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.”
Having grown-up on the west side of Baltimore, on Vine Street, Batty said he never imagined he’d someday live on the same property where Memorial Stadium was stood.
The stadium was built in 1950 and razed in 2001. The structure was originally built as a tribute to World War I and World War II veterans, hence the name “Memorial.”
After the stadium was torn down, the property was revamped as a mixed-use property zone, featuring apartments for older adults, a new YMCA, and an athletic field for youth soccer, lacrosse and baseball leagues.
Variety of housing services
As an eight-year resident of the Ednor Apartments at Stadium Place, Batty said he’s very grateful to live at the complex, not far from the old Eastern High School, which has been renovated into a Johns Hopkins medical facility.
The Ednor Apartments features four independent living buildings for those 62 and older. Ednor and an additional community for seniors, Venable II, offer subsidized apartments and are managed by Habitat America.
A separate, market-rate apartment community on the site, also for those 62-plus, is Heritage Run, a Presbyterian Senior Living community.
Also on the site is Green House Residences, a Catholic Charities-run nursing facility that offers a home-like environment for physical rehabilitation, skilled nursing, and long-term care.
Residents of the apartments can take advantage of an affordable membership to Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Family Y Center, which offers a state-of-the-art fitness center, four-lane indoor pool, group exercise classes and more.
The athletic field is sponsored by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and uses the original diamond setup, as did Memorial Stadium.
The original home-plate was originally relocated to Camden Yards when the new stadium opened in 1989, according to Bill Stetka, Orioles alumni director. That plate is no longer at the new field. “Those rubber plates don’t last forever,” he added.
Stetka said he’s very impressed with the renovation of the old stadium property. “They did a really good job in developing the area which once housed the old stadium,” said Stetka, formerly the Orioles’ public relations director before assuming his current role nearly 10 years ago.
For the record, Stetka said Memorial Stadium was never in disrepair. Rather, the ball club needed a venue that could compete with the then-modern stadiums of the 1970s, such as Riverfront (Cincinnati), Three Rivers (Pittsburgh) and Busch (St. Louis).
Orioles and Colts memories
Batty once studied to be a cabinet maker at George Washington Carver High School, where he graduated in 1959. He retired from the City of Baltimore, having worked in the city’s waste water treatment department. “Somebody’s got to do that job, and I did it,” he smiled.
One of Batty’s many neighbors at the Ednor apartments, is Tom Gilk, 66. The retired chemical operator said he, too, is a longtime baseball fan, and recalls World Series trips for the Orioles.
“They won in ‘66, ‘70 and ‘83, but lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in ‘71 and ‘79. They were singing ‘We Are Fam-a-lee.’ We lost, but those were all good games — very competitive,” Gilk said.
Batty still faithfully wears his Orioles hat each spring and said he’ll always remain a “Birds” fan. “They’ve had some tough times, but overall, they’ve got a great organization.
”But,” he added, “I’ll still always remember Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, John “Boog” Powell, Eddie Murrray and Cal Ripken — they were the all-time greats,” he said.
Batty also worked the vendor role for the Baltimore Colts before the team left for Indianapolis in 1984. Proudly, he recalls seeing the the likes of Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore and John Mackey wearing their iconic blue and white jerseys. He added that he preferred the warm-weather baseball seasons over the cold-weather NFL schedule.
Gilk said he’s quite satisfied with his living conditions since moving to Ednor Place three years ago.
“I was living in west Baltimore. There were times when I was worried about my safety, and I always had people asking me for money. Since moving here, I tell you, it’s like heaven,” he said.
Batty, along with several residents overhearing Gilk’s comments, nodded in affirmation.
“It’s always very quiet around here, and they keep the place very clean. Never any trash, and the grass is always well-kept,” said Batty, a single man, who appreciates regular visits from his nieces who check on him often.
For more information about income requirements or monthly rental fees at the Ednor or Venable II apartments, call Habitat America at (443) 716-2550 or see http://habitatamerica.com. Heritage Run can be reached at (410) 235-1706 or at www.presbyterianseniorliving.org/heritage-run-at-stadium-place. For more on the Green House
Residences, see www.catholiccharities-md.org/greenhouse or call (410) 554-9890.