Sports lovers find a home in Baltimore that could rival almost any sports-crazed city. We have major league baseball and football, Michael Phelps, lacrosse, indoor soccer, horse racing, and just about any other sport you’d like to participate in or watch. Here are some other activities that don’t receive quite as much attention.
Lacrosse is to Baltimore as football is to Texas. That is never more evident than at a Hopkins lacrosse game at Homewood Field (3400 N. Charles St.)—especially one against rivals like University of Virginia or University of Maryland. The field’s lights shine down on thousands of spectators as the student band peps everyone up. The fast-paced agility of the talented Blue Jays is exciting enough to keep every fan hooked, even when it’s not exactly our year.
Then there’s the Baltimore Arena, which was called the Baltimore Civic Center when the NBA’s Bullets ruled there. The Bullets moved to Washington, D.C., and are now called the Washington Wizards. The civic center is now called an arena. It plays host to indoor soccer but not basketball or hockey because professional teams in these sports have failed here.
Yet we consider ourselves a big-league town, where home football or baseball games can significantly affect sales at the movies, restaurants, and other venues. We drop everything for a Saturday in May when the Preakness, the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, comes to town.
For many of us, Cal Ripken Jr., the Orioles infielder who played in 2,632 consecutive baseball games before ending the streak on September 20, 1998—a major league record—is a symbol of what we demand of ourselves. Through Cal we see ourselves—working hard, playing hard, having fun, getting better and better, facing adversity. It’s hard to forget Cal catching the final out as shortstop in the 5-0 victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia on October 16, 1983. The catch, the raised arms, the jumping up and down, the thrill of the moment. Then there’s the night time stood still in baseball—September 6, 1995. All the world’s sports fans watched as the banner proclaiming 2,131—the record number game—was unfurled on the warehouse past right field. In a scene seemingly out of The Natural, Cal took an impromptu victory lap at Camden Yards, slapping and shaking hands of the fans in the front row, as though each was a close friend.
It’s hard to forget the arm of Johnny Unitas launching touchdown passes to Raymond Berry heading down the sidelines toward the closed end of the field at Memorial Stadium more than three decades ago, or when a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Colts or the New York Jets and the Colts practically paralyzed the town all day Sunday.
Then there’s more heartbreak. More than 50,000 fans filled Memorial Stadium in 1988 to celebrate the end of a 21-game losing streak for the Baltimore Orioles, a record that brought the city ridicule and attention from local, national, and international sports fans. When the streak ended, the fans were there, another sellout, as if they had been a part of the streak, even though it was something they would have rather forgotten.
We live and breathe with the players—they aren’t just the team. They’re family, people who would be welcomed with open arms at a family picnic or birthday dinner. To love an athlete is a concept that is all too often thrown around without meaning, but in Baltimore there is truth to the statement that we love our teams. They form a big part of who and what we are—to ourselves, to our friends, and to the world.