John Swope Keeps the Magic of Memorial Stadium Alive

Parkville, Maryland—The record book shows that the Baltimore Orioles played their final game at Memorial Stadium on October 6, 1991.  For many fans, though, twenty-five years have not dimmed the magic made on 33rd Street.
 
At the urging of a friend, John Swope took on the challenge of preserving those memories in a unique way.  
 
A talented woodworker who lives at Oak Crest retirement community, Mr. Swope is putting the finishing touches on a wooden replica of Memorial Stadium.  It’s a project he has worked on since May of last year.
 
“Ron Stokes, a fellow resident, approached me twice with the suggestion to do this,” said Mr. Swope.  “I was skeptical but decided to give it a try.”
 
Mr. Swope attended Orioles games when he worked in Hampden and lived in Middle River with his wife, Carol.
 
“Mickey Mantle was my favorite player, but my hometown loyalties go back to the old Orioles of the International League.  I enjoyed watching Howie Moss slug home runs,” recalled Mr. Swope.
 
Those memories, combined with photos of Memorial Stadium from the internet, served as the formula for his design.  He did not use a model kit for the project.
 
“A lot of trial error,” said Mr. Swope who typically does “two-a-day” sessions in the woodshop of Oak Crest.
 
Using hand saws and razor blades, he crafted basswood to form the foundation, field surface, lower bowl and upper deck.  He superimposed crowd scenes on adhesive paper to create the illusion of fans in the stands.  And he meticulously soldered medal to build the frames of the light towers that feature working LED bulbs.
 
Dozens of tiny “N scale” figurines used in model railroading were placed underneath the stands to simulate activity in concession areas.  This is where Mr. Swope received a valuable assist from fellow resident Claire Romano.
 
Ms. Romano, a New Jersey native, admitted that she “never set foot in Memorial Stadium.”  But her artistic talent put life into the replica.  
 
She painted the aforementioned fans—each just 3/16 of an inch tall—holding them with tweezers.  Ms. Romano also decorated the infamous brick and cast-stone exterior façade that dedicated the stadium to soldiers who died in World War I and II.
 
“I couldn’t have done it without her,” said Mr. Swope.
 
So far, those who have seen the reproduction essentially take a walk down memory lane.
 
“Many point to specific sections in the stands and say ‘I used to sit there.’  Others begin to reminisce about their favorite Orioles and Colts games,” noted Mr. Swope.
 
They also notice little details that only Baltimoreans can appreciate, such as the “Here” flag that flies over the left field bleachers to commemorate Frank Robinson’s home run that left the park.  
 
There’s still work to do.  A scoreboard will feature the old National Bohemian logo, but to this point, Mr. Swope is pleased with the results.
 
“I’m proud that people enjoy it.  Camden Yards is great, but there’s a part of all of us who wish they had never torn Memorial Stadium down,” said Mr. Swope.
 
The Memorial Stadium replica will eventually be placed in the Model Train Garden of Oak Crest.
 
Video:  John Swope does “two-a-day” sessions in the hobby shop of Oak Crest retirement community in Parkville:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UItk6lTEMu0
 
About Oak Crest:  Oak Crest is one of eighteen continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living.  Located in Parkville, Maryland the scenic 87-acre campus is home to more than 2,100 residents.  Oak Crest is the ideal greater Baltimore retirement destination offering a true sense of community, convenience beyond compare and a sensible financial structure.