Saturday, August 13, 2011

A History of Baltimore's Memorial Stadium Scoreboards

There have recently been some great photos that have been auctioned from The Baltimore Sun's archives which show the how Memorial Stadium's scoreboards have changed over the years. Looking through these photos gave me the idea of putting together a pictorial history:


This photo shows the new scoreboard as it looked in May of 1954, as the Orioles began their first season in Baltimore. According to the information on the back of the photo


at the time, this was the largest scoreboard in the world. Gunther Beer (a Baltimore brewery) was the sponsor, which is why the information reads "Gunther presents the world's largest scoreboard to citizens of Baltimore".

This news item also indicates that the board will be the world's largest:

Here is a shot showing how the scoreboard looked out in right field during a day game


and another shot taken at night:


The scoreboard originally had a bottle cap in the top left corner (which read "Whats the Good Word"), which was replaced by a bottle by the late 1950's as seen in these photos:

1959 Orioles Team Photo:


The 1959 NFL Championship Game (from a photo taken by my father in the upper deck):



Here is a closer cropped shot of the scoreboard from that picture:


It appears that for a period of time the message to the left of the bottle read "What A Wonderful Beer", but for another period of time it read "Happiest Hit in Beer"


with the word "hit" possibly used to distinguish a hit from an error.

In 1960, Hamm's Brewing Company bought Gunther Brewing Company, and the scoreboard reflected this change.

This photo from The Baltimore Sun from August 1964 shows the Hamm's advertisement on the scoreboard



which also made it on to this 1965 Topps ERA Leaders card in the background behind Dean Chance:


Thanks to Kevin from Orioles Card "O" the Day for pointing out that the scoreboard also appeared on Russ Synder's 1962 card in his post about the card which includes some great memories of Baltimore.

Here is the original negative for the 1962 card:


Hamm's then sold the Gunther brewery to Schaefer Beer, and the scoreboard advertising changed again in late 1964 as this October 1964 picture from a Colts game against the Packers shows:


Schaefer remained the sponsor on the scoreboard for the remainder of the 1960's




which means Schaefer was the sponsor for the 1966


and 1969 World Series



The Schaefer ad even made a sneaky appearance on Dave McNally's 1967 Topps card:

By 1970, the scoreboard needed to be replaced, and work started in 1970 for a new scoreboard in left field



As the information on the back of the photo indicates, the scoreboard was to make its debut on August 21, 1970.

While work was being done on the new board, the Schaefer ad was covered up with a message reading "Watch for completion of your new scoreboard now under construction in left field" as seen in this photo of Paul Blair from what appears to be Picture Day:


Fortunately, we have another shot from that same day of Merv Rettenmund which shows the new scoreboard:


One thing I would like to see is a shot showing both the old and new boards together in one picture.

With the change in the scoreboard, there came a change in sponsor, as National Beer took over.

An interesting side note is that the Orioles were owned by the President of the National Brewing Company Jerry Hoffberger starting in 1965 when he gained a controlling interest in the team, but another company's beer was prominently advertised on the scoreboard until 1970. I'm guessing that is because Schaefer owned Gunther who sponsored the original scoreboard, and since the city owned the stadium, and not the Orioles, perhaps there was nothing Hoffberger could do until a new scoreboard was built.

This is the scoreboard that would have been seen in the 1970 and 1971 World Series broadcasts from Baltimore:


as well as during Johnny Unitas' last few seasons on the Colts:


The new scoreboard was smaller than the original, and did not have room for things like out of town scores. It was a very bare bones scoreboard, which was mainly the result of cost concerns.

At the time, even though the Orioles had been in 2 World Series in a 4 year period, the club was still struggling to draw fans, so there wasn't a lot of money available for a fancy state of the art scoreboard.

However, in spite of that fact, it is the scoreboard I remember seeing every time I'd go to Memorial Stadium as a kid, and as such, still remains one of my favorite scoreboards as seeing pictures of it instantly takes me back to 33rd Street.

Fortunately, the entire scoreboard made an appearance on the 1973 Topps card of Tom Matchick:


As the 1970's went on, the National Beer sign on the top of the scoreboard changed to National Bohemian (Natty Boh)



This version of the scoreboard snuck into Mark Belanger's 1978 Topps card:


As the 1980's rolled around, Jerry Hoffberger no longer owned the team, and National Bohemian was replaced by Busch Beer:



One bit of interesting irony is that fact that the only Topps card I have found that has a shot of the Busch scoreboard is John Elway's 1984 Topps rookie card:


The irony, as any Baltimore Colts fan will tell you, is that Elway refused to play for the Colts who are the team that drafted him, but were forced to trade him as he threatened to play baseball for the Yankees rather than play for the Colts. Colt fans still wonder what might have been had Elway not maneuvered his way out of Baltimore. Even though he never played for the Colts, his rookie card shows him in Memorial Stadium.

Fortunately, Fleer produced a great shot of the scoreboard in their 1981 Football Team Action set:


In 1985, Memorial Stadium added a Diamond Vision board in right field where the original scoreboard used to be. This allowed fans to see video highlights.



Also interesting to note is that the scoreboard no longer had a beer sponsor, as Toyota now had its name at the top of the scoreboard. Budweiser was a beer sponsor on the Diamond Vision board.

1991 was the last season the Orioles played in Memorial Stadium before moving to Camden Yards,


and in 1992, the Diamond Vision board was removed from the stadium.

When the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens, they played at Memorial Stadium for 2 seasons (1996 - 1997) and Budweiser was the sponsor on top of the scoreboard:



After the Ravens moved to their new stadium, Memorial Stadium was no longer being used, and fell into disrepair.



Unfortunately, the scoreboard, along with the rest of Memorial Stadium was eventually demolished in 2001.

Even though the scoreboard and the stadium are gone, seeing pictures of the various scoreboards takes me back to a time when the Colts still played in Baltimore, and the Orioles were one of the class organizations in baseball.

22 comments:

Stormy said...

Fantastic stuff! Thanks!

Commishbob said...

Awesome work. You brought back a lot of great memories for this old O's (and Baltimore Colt) fan. Thanks!

Fleerfan said...

Commishbob - not sure how far your history as an O's / Colts fan goes back, but do you know if they sold both Gunther/Hamms/Schaefer and National Beer at the Stadium at the same time?

Since Gunther/Hamms/Schaefer sponsored the scoreboard, I would assume their product was available, but given Hoffberger being President of National and National being prominently featured on the programs, I'm wondering if both beers were available at the stadium at the same time.

Albert said...

Very nice piece of work, Jon. Glad that something like this is on the Internet now for fans to enjoy and learn from. Well done.

1969PilotsFan said...

Wow! You have quite the archives! Very cool and well put together. I love history like that.

Cooler Brian said...

Awesome post.

Commishbob said...

Fleerfan: Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I didn't know the answer to the beer question. I simply wasn't much of a beer guy in the years before I left Charm City for good. But I figured my uncle would know. He said that he recalled them both there at the same time. He said he believes he was able to get his brand (National) even when the Schaefer board was up.

doublenoughtspy said...

Great research, great article. A couple shots of the scoreboard in the Wild Bill Hagy gallery from The Sun: http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/bal-hagy-pg,0,6151293.photogallery

Gotta love Wild Bill!

Fleerfan said...

Commishbob - thanks for the followup on your uncle's recollections. It would make sense that both would be sold if both were sponsors at the time.

Anonymous said...

The book "The House of Magic" has a TON of scoreboard pictures.

Anonymous said...

Here are a couple of scoreboard pics I found. One football. One baseball. http://ataxia.net/posts/date/2009/05
http://www.baltimoresun.com/topic/bal-bs-wb-leroy-merrik-c20090325105248,0,270090.photo
http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/high-school/bal-bs-wb-city-poly-59-b20091124100552,0,7432829.photo
http://www.kilduffs.com/American_Brewery_Baltimore.html

Fleerfan said...

Thanks for the links to the scoreboard pics!

John Baker said...

'59 Championship post-game. http://www.paultravers.com/p7hg_img_2/fullsize/fans_linger_fs.jpg

John Baker said...

'59 Championship postgame. No goal posts. http://www.paultravers.com/p7hg_img_2/fullsize/fans_linger_fs.jpg

Fleerfan said...

John - thanks for the link to the great picture!

Dan Clarke said...

When an Orioles player hit a home run, didn't the Natty Boh sign's lights (which encircled the text) light up in a random pattern?

Fleerfan said...

Dan - you are correct! The red oval around the Natty Boh sign did have lights that would flash after an O's home run.

Anonymous said...

Hey, check out this ebay auction... http://www.ebay.com/itm/LUIS-TIANT-Rare-70-Twins-Photo-Red-Sox-Indians-Yankees-/130737385663?pt=Vintage_Sports_Memorabilia&hash=item1e708e30bf

Luis Tiant as a Twin in '70 in front of the scoreboard when it had that "watch for completion of your new scoreboard" sign.

Fleerfan said...

Thanks for the link to the Luis Tiant picture! Its great to see a color shot of the old scoreboard with the message about the construction of the new scoreboard.

Anonymous said...

On the beer question, my father worked at a concession stand in the 50's. He said that they sold Gunthers, American, Arrow, and National. Since Gunther was the sponsor, he was supposed to serve Gunther if you just asked for 'a beer'. Sometime, a rival sales rep would leave him a buck, and ask dad to "take care of him". It's also interesting that it was bottled beer poured into a cup. No drafts. BTW, Dad said he never liked Gunther, and in that era National was the most popluar brand.

Jim V said...

Thanks for the look back at Memorial Stadium. I went to a few Orioles games in the late 80s and early 90s and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You forgot to mention the Baltimore Stallions of the CFL. Here's a link to a picture that shows part of the scoreboard:
http://soudogsports.net/Stadia/baltmemint.jpg

Anonymous said...

Great walk down the memory lane of Memorial Stadium scoreboards. A few comments: The shot of the Gunther board at night shows the final score of an O's 5-4 walkoff win vs.the Yankees on September 19, 1958. The O's scored 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th to erase a 4-run deficit. This game was one night before the O's blanked the Yanks on September 20th, behind Hoyt Wilhelm's no-hitter, the first no-no in O's history.
The shots of the board in the 60's are also classics. Post-game of the Colts and Packers, with Johnny U. shaking hands with Bart Starr, the two greatest QBs of the decade. The lower photo is taken the day Steve Barber and Stu Miller combined to pitch a no-hitter vs. the Tigers in 1967 but lost the game, 2-1. You can see O's catcher Larry Haney chasing after a Barber wild pitch while the Detroit hitter waves in the runner from third. Barber is running in from the mound to cover home plate.
Finally, John Elway at Memorial Stadium in his rookie year, Sept. 1983. I was there in the 95 degree heat at 4pm. I have never heard a louder chorus of boos for a visiting player. Elway was pulled later in the game for Steve DeBerg, who led the Broncos to victory. There was a moment of silence before the game for the lives lost in the incident where Russian fighters shot down a Korean Air Lines jet just days before. Jeers of "Elway Sucks!" quickly turned to "Elway's a Russian!!"... Great memories!!