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Baltimore Says Farewell to Stadium

December 14, 1997

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Ravens fans grilled sausages, drank beer and swapped stories about teams old and new Sunday before the final football game at Memorial Stadium.

``I’d better make sure I have my Kleenex,″ said Pennie Bailey, 75, of Shrewsbury, Pa., echoing the sentiments of many fans expecting an emotional farewell. ``I’ll need them. There’s lots of memories in this place.″

Bailey held season tickets to the Baltimore Colts for 26 years, paying $7 for her first season. That’s $7 for the entire season, some $13 less than it cost to park Sunday.

Like many fans, Bailey never got to say good-bye to the Colts, who were spirited off to Indianapolis under the cover of darkness in 1984.

``I spent many wonderful Sundays here,″ she said, dabbing tears from her eyes two hours before kickoff. ``My son started coming with me when he was 5; he’s 45 now. It kind of chokes you up to talk about it.″

Mark Engle, 36, of Arnold, Md., had similar memories of attending Colts games with his father. However, now that he’s a Ravens fan, Engle is ready to begin a new customs when the Ravens move into their new home in 1998.

``I’ll miss some of the history, but I think it’s time to go to the new stadium,″ Engle said. ``I’m excited about it _ I go out of my way to drive by it whenever I come into the city. I like to see the progress.″

Progress aside, there were plenty of memories of the old Colts in the parking lots across from the 43-year-old stadium before the finale against the Tennessee Oilers. Ironically, the Colts’ final game in Memorial Stadium was against the then-Houston Oilers.

Butch Ergott of the Reisterstown group wore two ski caps _ a worn Colts version, circa 1966, over his purple Ravens issue. Other fans hauled old Colts sweatshirts out of their closets. More than a few No. 19 Johnny Unitas jerseys were spotted among the revelers.

That brought back memories for former Colts players like Jim Parker, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle who played in Baltimore from 1957-67.

``We learned how to be a family,″ said Parker, noting the special relationship between players and fans. ``That was our tradition.″

``The players in those days made you feel like you were a part of the game,″ added Bailey.

Not everybody, however, was sorry to see the final game at Memorial Stadium.

``This place cost us a football team and almost cost us the Orioles,″ said John MacKenzie, 31. ``Just because it’s old and historical doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good place. It’s time to change.″

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