Sometimes I don't check messages like I should. I get home, tired, and just ignore the blinking light on the answering machine. Did it last night.
When I finally listened to the machine this morning I found that one of the calls was from recently re-assigned N&R reporter Matt Williams. Matt has been moved to cover city government replacing Mark Binker, who has gone to cover the infinitly more entertaining bunch over at Guilford County government. Alex Wayne, who had the County beat is now.... not covering the County beat... I'll have to call and see what he's doing... anyway...
I have been on the "A" list for some time as a source for comments on anything having to do with Greensboro's War Memorial Stadium (WMS) and it looks like I missed my chance to add my two cents on a story that Matt is working on. I hate that I didn't listen to his message because I have a lot to say.
The demand for the 6500 (give or take) seats has simply evaporated with the impending departure of our minor league Bats who will be in new digs (maybe) in 2005.
I keep hearing that the all we need to be concerned about is the old stadium's facade but I disagree. The history of and importance of any historic structure is not just about the structure's face, but also it's innards.... the place.
When you walk through the ancient mezzanine of WMS you can actually feel what has gone on before.... which is a lot. Bob Hope entertained troops there, my three children watched their first baseball game there, baseball greats played there: Robinson, Mantle, Jeter, Bouton, Ripkin Sr. and dozens more but... let me tell you about Ripkin.
Back when we in the Aycock Neighborhood were trying to gain ammunition to make the rest of you understand why we thought professional baseball should remain at WMS we contacted the National Trust for Historic Places in D.C. for some help. The head of property acquisition at the Trust related a story that we could never get confirmed and publicized, but I thought you should know about it. Cal Ripkin Jr. took an interest in old baseball stadiums some years back. His foundation contacted the Trust to see how they could help and related this story about WMS.
Ripkin Jr. was 13 and came to Greensboro to watch his dad play an exhibition game at War Memorial. Cal recounted that the atmosphere and crowd at the old stadium was electric and he became starstruck with the experience. After the game he went to the old locker rooms and stated to his father that he had decided, then and THERE, to pursue a career in baseball. The rest, as they say, is history.
This piece of history, and all of the other incredible event's that have occured at the old stadium, didn't happen in the parking lot while someone was staring at the facade, they happened in the PLACE. If we lose the structure, we lose the place.