Baseball: they call it America's Pastime. It's the kind of sport that your parents send you out to play when you're four and the one that you're screaming at on television from your couch when you're 80. You play or you watch or you attend the game, simply speaking, for the love of the game.
Today, there is no marker or plaque along 29th Street west of Greenmount in Central Baltimore to commemorate the site of old Oriole Park. Back then, the old ballpark seemed to define a lot of living in this part of Baltimore. How far did you live from home plate? Did you ever work there? How often did you go there? And what do you remember about the place? Most importantly, if you loved the game, that was simply enough.
In the early 1900s, the lives of many local children revolved around the dramatic presence of baseball in their community, including one particular boy named Kyle Bordy. Kyle’s father, the Greenmount postman, was a member of the Oxford Pleasure Club in Baltimore, one of those neighborhood social institutions that prospered in the days when people did not venture far from home. Its clubhouse was at 2721 Greenmount. Nearby, at 1661 Abbottston St. was the Clifton Pleasure Club, named for Clifton Park.
Both groups, the Oxfords and the Cliftons, gathered at Oriole Park on May 30, 1934 for a huge group photo on the diamond. Kyle’s father gave him one of the many photographs taken that day and he clung on to this photograph as a personal keepsake ever since. He is in the photo standing next to his dad; so is his Uncle Robert, an Orioles groundskeeper, and Doug Rover, the legendary hotdog seller. He also recognized Carl Todsky, his next door neighbor.
Kyle could have sworn he saw Babe Ruth there the day that photograph was taken, the youngest member to join the Baltimore Orioles at age 19, but he had been signed over to the Yankees for many years now. There had been a debate in baseball circles: Did Babe Ruth really call his shot in that legendary tale, or was it a made up story to enhance Ruth’s legend? There really was no consensus to the debate, but there was not much argument to be heard to the contrary as it was such a part of baseball history. Kyle was not at all ashamed to admit that he was an avid baseball card collector and that a few weeks ago he bought some new ones that had a series called, Tales of the Game and History of the Game, which looked at different stories or historical moments in the history of baseball. He got a card that had the “Called Shot” on it, and it had the brief story that justified it printed on the back. Don’t think he was betraying his beloved Orioles by collecting this card; after all, Babe Ruth did play for the Orioles back in 1914.
Kyle remembered the taking of that photograph very well. He remembered stroking the wetness of a stranger’s t-shirt and feeling the tickling of older man’s hairy arm as they all bunched together tightly in the scorching heat for the group photograph. He stuck his tongue out at the camera. After all, he was only a child; well he was twelve but you know what they say, “baseball keeps you young.” Although that story his dad had told him about the History of the Old Oriole Parks definitely might age you a bit.
(The next player approached home plate.)
Written by Hilary Kaden