Baltimore Stadium’s Super Grand Opening

Posted on Sat, February 4, 2017

On Sunday, February 5, Super Bowl LI television broadcasts will feature aerial images of NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Snoopy One may not have been hovering over Baltimore Stadium (also called Venable Stadium) for the 1922 Army-Marine football game, but photographer H.C. Robinson captured an aerial photograph of the stadium’s inaugural event from 549 meters (1,800 feet) above.

Oblique aerial view from 549-meter (1,800-foot) altitude of the inaugural event at Baltimore Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland, Army 3rd Corps vs. Quantico Marines football game, December 2, 1922. Right wingtip of photographer's aircraft is visible in the extreme left foreground.

In years prior to December 2, 1922, the Army 3rd Corps and the Quantico Marines had played their annual game at Johns Hopkins University. The interest in the game had outgrown the location. Baltimore Mayor William F. Broening was determined to maintain the game in Baltimore. The Venable Park lot on 33rd Street was selected and the city built the stadium in seven months for under $500,000.

According to the Baltimore Municipal Journal, “The scene at the stadium was like nothing that had ever been seen before in Baltimore. In the seats, which had sprung up as if by magic before the eyes of frankly astonished beholders, were forty-four thousand spectators; ten thousand more were standing about the edges and about fifteen thousand were gathered outside to see what they could from trees and housetops.”

After a parade of 12,000 troops, the actual game began. Both teams featured former college football players. The Marines defeated the Army with a final score of 13-12. The Municipal Journal was most impressed that the stadium “was emptied of the vast throng in twenty minutes and the United Railways had carried the crowd away in thirty minutes.” Special traffic arrangements had been made for those driving and there were no accidents.

The Maryland Historical Society notes that the second game played at the stadium featured the Oorang Indians versus the Baltimore Professionals. Oorang featured an all Native American team, but their main draw was player and coach Jim Thorpe (who did not play in the Baltimore game).

Baltimore City began to rebuild the stadium in 1950 and, in 1954, Memorial Stadium opened as the home of the Baltimore Colts football team and the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. In their time in Baltimore, the Colts went to two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl V.

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