Wild Bill Hagy … give that fan —

August 21, 2007 | Drew Forrester

— a spot in the Orioles Hall of Fame.

I know the team is going to honor Wild Bill Hagy with a moment of silence tonight. And that IS a nice gesture. But, I’ve been racking my brain all day, trying to think of what the team SHOULD do to honor his memory, yet not make any revenue off the gesture.

The answer is so easy, even a dummy like me can endorse it.

Put Wild Bill Hagy in the team’s Hall of Fame. Broadcasters are part of team’s Halls of Fame all the time — and they never make a play, kick a field goal or score a goal. If broadcasters can be enshrined, why can’t the best fan of all time?

In Hagy’s case, it wasn’t that he was the MODEL fan — after all, anyone who got within a section or two of “34” in the ’70s and 80s might have thought they were at a Grateful Dead concert instead of a baseball game. I attended over 300 games in my youth/young adulthood and I probably sat in the upper deck, right field side at least 80% of the time. It was, for any of you who recall, a “happening” unlike any other at Memorial Stadium. Sure, there were some funny cigarettes passed around and there was A LOT of beer consumed up there, but those folks in 34 did something even more excessive than party. They cheered. And rooted hard. And no one made it a happening like Wild Bill Hagy. He was, without question, the ringleader.

When’s the last time you went to a baseball game and your entire section had a great time? How long has it been? Some of you might say Free The Birds last September 21 … and yes, the left field upper deck did slightly resemble “the good old times” of Section 34, minus the uh, cannabis, although I’m sure a few of you might have even honored Wild Bill in your own special way last September 21 when we all got together.

It’s been so long since the baseball stadium in Baltimore was “the place to be seen.”

But this blog and my discussion tomorrow morning won’t center on why OPACY is no longer a happening. I’m not chasing that ghost anymore this season.

This blog is all about Wild Bill, the memories and what the team could do to honor the man who, practically, brought people to the stadium with his energy, enthusiasm and love for “dem Os”. He was one of their best marketing tools ever.

He belongs in the team’s Hall of Fame. As fans go, is he — or is he not — a “Hall of Famer”? Yes or no? Of course he is.

You’ll hear a tepid response from the team — maybe. Something like, “While we appreciate the memories that Mr. Hagy created back in the 1970s and 1980s, we believe the Orioles Hall of Fame should be reserved for playing personnel and members of the team’s front office only.”

Half of those people in the front office owe their careers to Wild Bill Hagy, truth be known.

Here’s a personal Wild Bill story that I can finally share. In the 1992-93 indoor soccer season, I had Charley Eckman contact Hagy for me and offer an introduction. I got on the phone and asked Wild Bill to come out to one of our games against an archrival, the Cleveland Crunch. Hagy said, “I don’t know nothin’ about soccer, Drew, I’m afraid I wouldn’t do a lot of good for you.” I said, “Wild Bill, we’re the team in white … anytime we do something good and people get rowdy, you lead the way.”

He agreed to come out and do a cameo appearance for the Spirit vs. Cleveland game. I asked him what his fee was and he said, “I’m not charging you anything since you know Eckman and he says you’re a right guy. But if anyone asks you how much I charge, tell ’em I asked for $500 …” I thanked him and he said, “you will have free beer for me, right?” Of course, we did.

He came out that night and, like he half-predicted, he wasn’t really in tune with the game and certainly didn’t have anywhere near the impact he did in the baseball business. But we brought him down to the field, let him kick out the first ball and, for a night, Wild Bill was a star again and the 11,000 in attendance that evening got to shower him with applause and a standing ovation. There were tears in his eyes as he walked off the field. We were televising the game that night and Eckman was in the booth. I mentioned to Hagy that Eckman was waving at him and Wild Bill took off his hat and waved it at Charley in the press box.

The Orioles should take off their hats and wave them at Hagy as well.  And then, maybe a little too late, but certainly it’s better late than never, they should wave Wild Bill into the Hall of Fame of Baltimore Orioles baseball.

If I had the time, I could probably think of 34 reasons to let him in.

But there’s really only one reason.

He made baseball in Baltimore fun.

There’s a generation of us out there tonight who can’t say “thank you” enough.