to about 1982), I told him that the Orioles were going to lose. Not only was my Pop subjected to a one-hour rain delay — and I, to this day, STILL despise rain delays — the Orioles also lost that night. He took our neighbor Mark Elliott, who was a frequent companion of ours at O’s games (but my Pop would take any kid to the game as long as they had their parent’s permission). They both suffered their first loss of the year and I rode it out another two months before I fell.
But the memories are still etched in my mind, everything about that season. There was the night my Junior Orioles name was picked to go to the Hit and Run Club to meet and get an autograph from the biggest star of the game. Turned out Kiko Garcia got the game-winning hit against the Red Sox and I still have the autographed little 3X5 card. I was actually a two-time winner through the Junior Orioles — I once got to sweep the bases in 1975 when the Texas Rangers were in town and Frank Lucchesi gave me a hard time and chased me on the field. I got to keep the broom. It had a long orange handle and black bristles and it was the same ones the sexy ballgirls used to sweep the bases on other games.
I was never a big autograph hound as a kid, but I did get a name scribbled sometimes when the mood struck me. I’ll never forget my first football autograph, signed by the great Joe Ehrmann at J.C. Penney’s second floor sporting goods shop in 1977. He came out on a weeknight, shook my hand and still does whenever I see him.
My first baseball autograph was, of course, Brooks Robinson, also at Eastpoint Mall at the sporting goods store at Hochschild Kohn’s on the second floor (I think the store was called the Brooks Robinson store!). He signed his book, “Third Base is My Home,” for me one Saturday afternoon. I must’ve been about 6 at the time and I still have that book.
The only autograph I remember my Pop getting was that of Scott McGregor, who also signed autographs at Eastpoint Mall at the Games store. McGregor, without a doubt, was my Pop’s favorite player of that generation of the Orioles and it made him doubly happy No. 16 was on the hill when they finally won the World Series in Philadelphia in 1983. But 1979 was MY summer. The memories still flood back to me 27 summers later.
The night John Lowenstein did his best faux-World Cup injury move, reaching skyward with the thumbs up from the stretcher. My Pop and I were there.
The night Doug DeCinces hit that famous Charley Eckman-called home run against the Tigers in Game 1 of the doubleheader. My Pop and I were there.
The night that that players all came out of the shower — Dennis Martinez and Doug DeCinces were in street clothes — and did the “Wild” Bill Hagy O-R-I-O-L-E-S cheer from the home plate area led by Rick Dempsey. We were in the house!
The many nights Dempsey went crazy in the bullpen with the towel. That rocking, jolting bounce the whole building got when Hagy led us! The “Roar from 34″ would literally hurt your ears. I always thought it would have been so cool to live in the neighborhood around the stadium. I always begged my Pop to move into that neighborhood, because there was really never a game I didn’t want to go to.
We got to the ballpark early every night, watched batting practice and absolutely TORTURED the visiting leftfielder once the game started. Most nights my older neighborhood pal Charles Pearcy (he was kinda the white Fat Albert of our neighborhood — great guy, loved by all, loved baseball) and I had insults for Lou Piniella, Bombo Rivera and Willie Wilson that would have made Robin Ficker’s ears bleed.
Even though “Rhino” was my favorite Oriole in that “Magic” summer of 1979 — I only had two autographs on my Tom Seaver-styled Rawlings glove — Mrs. Debbie Roenicke and “Wild” Bill Hagy.
The teams that came into Memorial Stadium were always so exotic and so faraway feeling.
Those early 1970′s Oakland A’s teams with white shoes, yellow polyester pullovers and all of those star players — Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, John “Blue Moon” Odom, Ken Holtzman, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris and Rollie Fingers.
They were the first team I was ever willed to hate! I remember the pain on my Pop’s face when he bought me an A’s batting helmet (remember those crazy little plastic hats?) to complete my collection. The guy actually charged MORE for the hat: first, because we bought it and it was almost treason, and second because everyone wanted that disco-looking