I'm a little tardy in getting around to this, but with the passing of former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer, I'm reminded of my own brush with the charismatic politician.
I first came to Baltimore in the fall of 1982, hired at WCBM Radio to do afternoon sportscasts, Baltimore Colts pregame and postgame shows, and color analyst work for Baltimore Skipjacks American Hockey League broadcasts. It was a fun gig, and the hockey games were a big part of it.
Now I'd been to the old Baltimore Civic Center many times, and it was a never-ending source of wonder. Here's a building, built in the 1960s when they should've known better, that had so few decent seats it was amazing. Because there was a full-blown stage on one end, the seats were installed in straight lines down each long side and in the end zone. Therefore, you had many seats that only looked out onto other seats. There was no attempt to aim every seat.toward the middle, meaning that your neck would get an arduous workout, depending upon where you sat.
When I started hosting a nightly call-in show in January 1983, I couldn't help but make a number of comments about the inadequacy of the local sports arena. Nothing truly nasty, but pointed nonetheless. Anyway, my remarks got back to Schaefer, who called station manager Harold Deutsch and expressed his disagreement with my criticism, telling Duetsch, and I'm quoting here, "Tell that Washington guy that our building is as good as any in the country..."
Really? I found that hard to swallow. My station manager wasn't angry with me, but asked if I had any response he could relay to Schaefer. I told him to ask the mayor if he thought the Civic Center was as good as the Capital Centre in Landover. Schaefer's response: "I've never been to the Capital Centre, but I'm sure it is."
The Cap Centre had opened in December 1973, so at the time, it had been around for almost 10 years. But Schaefer hadn't been there yet? Not even for an ice show or the circus? Wow.
All these years later, and the Civic Center - now known as 1st Mariner Arena - still stands. The Capital Centre has come and gone. Schaefer, to his everlasting credit, did get the ball rolling on the stadium complex at Camden Yards, a direct response to losing the Colts and the potential loss of the Orioles. Prior to the Bob Irsay debacle, he'd been averse to any criticism of Memorial Stadium, but finally got the picture.
I'll always remember his comment upon returning from a tour of several out-of-town ballparks, before a design was selected for Oriole Park. "I hope they put in a fountain like they have in Kansas City," he said. "Those baseball games can get pretty boring."
Always the sportsman. RIP, William Donald Schaefer.