There will be a lot written and said about the honorable William Donald Schaefer today in Baltimore and throughout the state of Maryland. I can honestly say that I knew the man a little and as a kid who grew up watching him shape the landscape of my beloved hometown and later knew him in the “real” world, what you saw was what you got: he loved Baltimore and he loved Maryland and he literally put the “public” in a phrase that has now become trite: public servant.
Schaefer served us all, especially those of us who love sports.
I’m not sure Schaefer could recite the statistics of the 1958 Colts or the 1966 Orioles, but he could recite the statistics for what the economic impact and loss of the Colts did in 1984 and the value of the Orioles playing baseball in downtown Baltimore in 1992 and beyond. Every time I see a crowd like the pathetic one last night at Camden Yards, I think of what Schaefer would really think of the travesty the Orioles have become in terms of economic impact to stimulate the downtown business district. There’s no way he would’ve been Mayor and watched this decade-long debacle without having said something unlike these current administrations, who have “coughed” and looked the other way as the devastation continues and the tumbleweeds roll down Pratt Street.
If you love Baltimore sports — and in our era that means the Orioles and or the Ravens — you owe an enormous debt of gratitude and a moment of civic silence today to William Donald Schaefer, who died Monday night at the age of 89, just a few years removed from a final stint as Comptroller of Maryland and after four decades of work as our Governor and the Mayor of Baltimore and a mover and shaker in the City Council.
He was famously choked up at the loss of the Colts on March 28, 1984 and spoke for us all. I saw my Pop cry twice in his life and once was that morning but when the Mayor of Baltimore was doing the same thing on television it kind of made me understand just what a significant and momentous event this would be in my life.
When Edward Bennett Williams made not-so-silent overtures about moving the Orioles south to Washington, D.C. (ala our beloved NBA team, the Baltimore Bullets who became the Capital and then Washington Bullets), Schaefer was the one who moved to give his 1980 vision of the Inner Harbor a civic granddaddy a decade later with the insistence that the Orioles must play baseball 81 times a year downtown, where the economic impact would be the greatest for the local economy. His stubbornness would mean that Camden Yards would get built. Some wanted it near 33rd Street. Many thought Port Covington was ideal with the waterfront background. But, alas, that became a cemetery for a newspaper and the home for a Walmart.
Where many saw a rat-infested train warehouse, William Donald Schaefer saw a beautiful brick ballpark.
Schaefer had a “Shining”-like way about his ability