Flashback: 1989

(cont'd)

So, no live music anymore. Meanwhile, folks from the neighborhood started moving out to the suburbs. That was OK for a while, since they still came back to the old homestead to see their friends and keep up to date but then, as the police started tightening up on DWI's, folks stopped coming by."The sports scene fell on lean times two. "The Colts and Orioles help to keep this area in tact," Gibson says. "But the football fans decreased when Irsay came along. There were a few diehards in here — every game they do come by bitch and complain. But then, the team was gone."

When the Orioles leave, Gibson says he might be forced to make unwelcome changes of his own. "In the old days, I guess that my percentage of sales were 10 to 20 percent of my business," he says. "Today, it might be percent. When the team moves, if the neighborhood goes down I might have to put up the glass over to more of a package–type business. That'll make it hard to keep the place the way it is."

Today, the northside regulars consist primarily of the last, graying holdouts from the old crowd, plus a strong contingent of young Orioles fans. One group in particular from Washington D.C., comes before and after every home game, Gibson claims.Arthur Linde, A Washington developer who attends "20 or more games every year," by his own account, is of that crowd. "This bar is unbeatable," he insists after a recent Orioles victory. "Just look at the place—the door is open, beer for under a dollar, the same faces back every night. This is what I show my friends who want to see the best parts of Baltimore, what makes it a cool American town. There aren't many places like this."

He's right. The Christmas wreath and it's blue–and–red electric lights stay blinking and buzzing in the middle of summer. The plastic crabs dance along a fishnet draped over the bar. The open door. The ceiling fan. I'll make the Northside seem more like your grandparents' comfortable living room then a commercial bar. Asked for the opinion of the plan to shift to hey downtown stadium, Linde and his friends are wrapped with a course of expletives. "Jesus H. Christ! How can you improve on this?" He demands.

It's ironic, Linde says, The Orioles' brain trust dreamed up the move in part to make life more convenient for fans like himself, who make the trek into the city from the south on I-95. "I know I'll keep going to baseball games," he says. "and I probably won't come back to the Northside real often, which is too bad. It seems like downtown Baltimore mostly has those enormous places like Balls. They're all right in a way but there sure is hell not neighborhood bars I'll miss Greenmount."

Such sentiments are not what Geri Freydenberger wants to hear. Freydenberger, Who operates the stadium lounge with his son Paul, is in summer specs the keeper of the local sports history flame for 12 years the Freydenbergers have owned the bar that, since 1947, has been a primary meeting spot for Baltimore fans.

The bar first opened when the Colts were still members of the ... moribund All-American Football Conference and the Orioles played Rochester in Syracuse and the AAA-level International League. Memorial stadium was a single – decker earth and mound with bleachers. Over the years, however, the Stadium Lounge, with its namesake visible just blocks away, it has remained a constant.

Facing Greenmount, the bars front is still painted blue and white, with a horseshoe helmet and huge "Go Colts!" Lettering. The side of the building is the orange and black of the Orioles. Inside, the loyalties and sentiments of management and patterns alike or obvious: Orioles penance, with black–and–white snapshots of baseball old–timers mounted next two glossies of this year's players. National Premium is still a big seller, and a wall–sized painting of Unitas and the championship Colts of the 50s faces the men's restroom, which is officially christened after Jim Irsay to reaffirm Baltimore's ... opinion Of the man who engineered the Colts' decay and exit.

"Two and three generations of fans have come by this bar," says the elder Freydenberger. "It's been everything to them—a Sunday party, a barbecue outback, a place to get away from the wife—but it's always been a sports bar, and it'll always be a sports bar." There are no plans, he says, to switch identities, even after Memorial Stadium itself is a memory.

This will still be the only place ... to watch a game. It's like that now when the O's are on TV for Monday Night Football," Freydenberger says. Making fans feel at home, excited, part of the event, is the Stadium Lounge's strength, " he continues. "that was easy when the games were played just up the road."

"It was like a block party," he recounts. "Folks from all over Maryland, D.C., Pennsylvania, West Virginia—they all came here first. Hell, I've had fans that leave their tickets in the bar, don't go to the game, saying they'd rather stay here."

The success of Baltimore's teams, coupled with the renown of his tavern has won the stadium lounge a national following, he asserts. "I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico plans, checking into a hotel," he says. "The guy at the desk asks me where I'm from. I tell him and he says, 'oh, Baltimore, yeah, there's this great bar there near the ballpark…' and he describes it. 'That's my bar!' I tell him. We're the only one in the neighborhood with that national reputation."

Regular customer Gary Davison resident of Fork, Maryland, agrees.

(cont'd)

Make your business stand out from the crowd.
Contact Tyler Hahn thahn@baltsun.com or 410-332-6788