(Baltimore Sun file photo, July 4, 1960)
For some 50 years, from the early 1930s up until the ascendancy of the Inner Harbor, Memorial Stadium was the place to go for fireworks on July 4th.
Crowds as big as 55,000 would come to Memorial Stadium for the annual event, which was billed as “the biggest show of fireworks display in the entire nation.”
Some years, a baseball game would precede the fireworks – the Major League Orioles started playing at Memorial Stadium in 1954 — and in the Orioles’ lean years, the baseball game was considered a dull opening act for the real event. Always, politicians were considered to be even duller.
Baseball wasn’t really to blame for the fireworks fiasco of 1963, when pre-fireworks speechifying dragged on and on, delaying the very thing that everyone had come for.
“At one point, a large segment of the crowd booed Mayor McKeldin when he suggested that he tell a story about Gen. John Eager Howard, the Maryland Revolutionary War Hero,” the Baltimore Sun reported. “It had been a long ceremony and Mayor McKeldin sat down.”
(Baltimore Sun file photo, July 4, 1959)
The planning for the 1964 fireworks, which were sponsored as always by the Greater North Baltimore Association, addressed the speeches, which were to be kept to a bare minimum. But the sponsors also got the Orioles to agree that no inning would start after 8:15 p.m.
The July 4th game, between the first-place Orioles and the ninth-place Kansas City Athletics, began at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday evening.
It ended – at approximately 8:30 p.m. – after nine innings, with the score tied 6 to 6, when Jerry Adair flew out to center field, stranding pinch-runner Chuck Estrada at first. Technically, the game was called on account of curfew.
The game was not resumed the next day, a Sunday — or ever.
The Sun explained why the game ended, officially, in a tie:
“If the final regulation frame had not started, it would have been labeled a “suspended game” and been completed [the next day] … Under baseball rules, since nine innings were played, it is ruled a complete game.”
The O’s and the A’s would make up the game as part of a September double-header, which they split.
Individual statistics from the game, including Boog Powell’s 21st home run and Brooks Robinson’s 48th RBI, were still counted. (Robinson was the American League MVP in 1964, with a league-leading 118 RBI.)
New rules adopted in 2007 prevent a game ending in a tie. If those rules had been in place in 1964, the A’s and the O’s would have resumed the game the next day.
It wasn’t the last time the Orioles would play an official tie. The Orioles and the Brewers played to a 2-2 tie on June 16, 1982. On Sept. 30, 2001, the Orioles and Yankees were tied 1-1 after 15 innings when the game was called on account of curfew. The Brewers game was made up later in the season, but the Yankees game wasn’t.
Both games counted toward Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2632-consecutive game streak. The tie game with Milwaukee was game number 15 in that streak.
Back to 1964. How did the July 4th curfew go over?
Not so well.
“Announcement that there would be no overtime play was roundly booed by the season-high Baltimore baseball crowd of 37,922,” The Sun reported.