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Remembering Memorial Stadium’s tomato patch

Baltimore Orioles

It must have been fun covering the Baltimore Orioles in the 1970s: the team had some characters on the payroll, including groundskeeper Pasquale “Pat” Santarone, who managed to cultivate a crop of tomatoes every summer at Memorial Stadium while embroiled in a mostly friendly feud with O’s skipper Earl Weaver over who had the best tomatoes. Here’s a look back.

Santarone and Weaver went way back to their Eastern League days when Weaver was a coach in Elmira and Santarone was the team’s groundskeeper. After Weaver was named manager of the Orioles, he asked that Santarone be named groundskeeper at Memorial Stadium in 1969.

After the Orioles won the World Series in 1970, Santarone made his mark in Baltimore by installing a tomato patch in foul territory down the left-field line. That tomato patch was a trademark of Memorial Stadium for the next 17 seasons, with Santarone planting seedlings in a mix of ground-up sod and infield dirt.

One thing about Earl Weaver: he’s one of the most competitive guys on the planet. And he decided that he could grow better tomatoes than Santarone. He did so at his home — working on advice from Santarone on growing better tomatoes. The “feud” lasted until Weaver’s retirement, and Santarone maintained the tomatoes until the Orioles moved to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, dealing with foul balls and stray beers damaging plants. Santarone retired to Montana, and that was the end to the tomato patch in an MLB ballpark.


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