Baltimore: June 2015

by John Delach

Mike Scott and I yearned for a trip leading us to develop plans for one to Baltimore for the spring once Major League’s 2015 schedule was released. We picked early June when Mike’s Red Sox would be in town. As if by magic, Mike received an offer from Hotwire for the Holiday Inn Express-Baltimore Downtown for an outstanding price of $100 per room per night. He reserved the hotel for two nights and used StubHub to acquire tickets to the Red Sox – Orioles outing on June 9th. We each booked round-trip passage on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains and put this aside.


Unfortunately, then came the trouble in Baltimore that developed into serious disturbances. In my normal grab-ass manner, I sent Mike the following e-mail: “Just who the f*** picked Baltimore for our trip?”


Things only got worse when Amtrak suffered a deadly crash when a train derailed in North Philadelphia about a month later prompting my second question: “Just who the f*** put us on Amtrak?”


Regardless, we pressed on. The trip down went without a hitch until the immigrant cab driver in Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Station decided to put his Prius into gear before my both legs were in. A, “Whoa, whoa, whoa” shout bought that drama to a halt.


On arrival, our location seemed unfamiliar compared to my other stays in town. But the building was charming. The Holiday Inn is located in the former headquarters of The Old Town National Bank, an eight-story, granite faced, handsome building erected in 1924. The hotel opened in 2009 and is in great shape with a restored, high-ceilinged lobby featuring large, comfortable rooms.


BUT, the location, 221 North Gay Street, sucked. It’s on a seedy street with the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center diagonally across the street and in sight of a small tent city on an embankment for an entrance to an elevated highway a block away.


Fortunately, the Holiday Inn provides van service to most parts of the city enabling us to avoid recon foot patrol missions. After checking in we boarded the van for the Inner Harbor. I asked our friendly young Black driver his name. “Dominic,” he replied.


“Dominic, aye now, you could have fooled me, I didn’t suspect that you are an I-talian.”


Dominic shot back, “Where are you from?”
When we replied, New York, without hesitation, he noted, “That’s great. You guys are the best tippers.”


And so we were, because he was a great driver.


Mike hadn’t seen the Inner Harbor so we grabbed the water taxi for Fells Point. I insisted our first stop should be The Horse You Came In On Saloon for obvious reasons. A couple of beers later, we moved on to Riptide by the Bay for crab. A young group; two girls and three boys spontaneously adopted us for a while. One girl who called herself, “Chino,” was wasted, the other cold sober. Two of the three boys were also well on their way. They did shots, we didn’t. It was starting to wear thin when a chap from management arrived convincing them to leave. This was done quietly and with superb efficiency that impressed the two of us. So did Dominic who returned us to the hotel despite a raging rain storm that swept in that night.


Midday Tuesday, we visited the B&O Railroad Museum; an excellent find. They have a top notch collection and two guides, Lou and Jack, were all too happy to take us around as we had the place to ourselves. To go further will bore all but steam engine aficionados so I’ll limit our impressions to their pride and joy, locomotive # 1604; a C&O Allegheny articulated Mallet locomotive used to pull coal drags over its namesake range. For the record, the wheel arrangement is 2-6-6-6 and the tender sits on fourteen wheels. Built by the Lima Engine Works in 1941, they rival Union Pacific’s 4-8-8-4 Big Boys for the claim as being the largest locomotives in the world.


From the museum, we walked to Oriole Park at Camden Yards where we ate in air conditioned restaurant, Dempsey’s, before taking our seats on the Club Level in Row 1 of Section 212 out toward right field. More of a feeble hitting night than a pitcher’s duel, Mike had to suffer through a 1-0 loss that the Orioles scored on a wild pitch thrown by Sox rookie reliever, Matt Barnes! In the process, we ducked several line-drive foul balls that cascaded into 212 and surrounding sections. Dominic had almost a full load of Sox fans for the return ride.


Next morning, a final van ride back to Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Station started us on our way. No Dominic, so the tip was not as good as his would have been.


We talked about a trip to Pittsburgh for next year. Mike won’t fly but that’s ten hours each way via a slow Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian. Still…