Through streaks and skids, Maryland supporter's steadfastness stands out

Dan Steinberg
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In September 1962, the Maryland football team opened its season against Southern Methodist. After a scoreless first half most memorable for a concussion that sent an unconscious SMU reserve to a local hospital, the Terps scored on a Dick Shiner run in the third quarter, and held on for a 7-0 win. "Mustangs Alert But Terrapins Boss the Game," read The Post headline, with the story reporting the Terps paraded "up and down the field today before a near-capacity crowd of 33,000."

One of those 33,000 spectators was a first-year Maryland student named Bob Baker, who had never before been to a Division I football game. He liked what he saw that day, and decided he'd keep coming back as long as he could.

So after he finished his time at College Park, Baker would return to the school for football games. He got married, bought a house in Fallston, and kept coming back, eventually with a bit more disposable income.

By 1976, Baker decided he was ready to join the Terps on the road. He hasn't missed a game since.

That means he traveled to Birmingham in 1977, landing in Atlanta the day of the game, driving to the stadium and back, and sitting up in the airport all night. It means he traveled to Clemson the day after Hurricane Hugo made landfall in 1989, enduring repeated cancellations and finally renting two cars to drive back to Maryland. It means he went to bowl games in El Paso and Orlando, Honolulu and Shreveport, Pontiac and Boise.

People would always ask Baker about his streak, and he would dutifully count up the current number and then lose track again. So over the summer, he finally put every game into a spreadsheet, calculating that last month's trip to Boston College would be his 400th straight. That milestone passed, marked by a small news release issued by the school. Last week's win over Wake Forest was 401.

"Every now and again you'd have a sense you may be getting near some sort of milestone," said Baker, a longtime engineer who's now retired and living in Delaware. "I guess there's a point where you just say you're too damn old to do it anymore, but I haven't felt that yet."

Baker is sure he has the longest consecutive streak among Terps fans. So who's second on that list? Probably his wife, Carol, who just saw her 285th straight Maryland game. She's been to 399 of the 401 games on Bob's streak - missing two because of teaching commitments to her third-grade classes - though she hasn't skipped a game since 1986.

"I guess you could say that I didn't know too much about it to begin with, but he was a patient teacher, and I developed an interest as we went," Carol told me this week. "As long as it's exciting for us, I think we'll continue to go."

There were plenty of words written about Maryland's home attendance this week, and why it isn't higher for a 6-2 team that's contending for an ACC crown. Bob - a past president of the Terrapin Club - said he understands the current economic situation, understands complaints about ticket prices and all the rest. He remembers bad seasons "when I thought 'What in the hell am I doing this for,'" cold and rainy Saturday mornings where he asked the same question. But he keeps going back, not out of loyalty to his streak, but out of loyalty to a team he's followed for nearly 50 years.

"I never did it to have a streak, you know what I mean?" he said. "We just did it because we enjoyed it, we enjoyed the camaraderie. If something happens and you miss a game, it won't be the end of the world. Life will go on. But it's kind of remarkable that we've been able to go as long as we have."

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