I can’t have it anymore. He had the game on the radio EVERY night, he had Orioles posters and pennants and schedules behind the oven (probably a fire code violation!) and he’d stay open a little later knowing that people would be getting off at the end of the bus line in front of Zang’s Bar. He had this amazing yodel in his Italian voice. To this day I can emulate him, hear his voice, see his face.
“Daaaaa, Oooooooodddiooos,” he would shout. “Deeeey a NOOOOO goooowddd! Paaaalllma….ahhhh, yaahhhh, yahhhh…Weeeevaaaa, he a NOOOOOO goooooowddd! Ebbbbbaaaareeeeebooooody lovvvvvaaah daa Oooooooooodddios!”
What a character! And man could that old man spin a pizza!
There was this crazy great candy store on Conkling Street in Highlandtown that had all sorts of goodies, kinda like the candy store in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” It always made me want to break into a chorus of “The Candy Man” and look for Gene Wilder around each corner in Highlandtown.
Or sometimes — but very rarely — we’d go to Gino’s on the corner. That was ALWAYS reserved for nights when my parents and I piled onto the No.10 bus on Eastern Avenue en route to the WWWF matches with Bruno Sammartino and Superstar Billy Graham and Bob Backlund. Wrestling and the NFL were without question my other loves, but there was nothing but baseball and Memorial Stadium and the Orioles from April 1 through my birthday, when the LCS was ending or the World Series was beginning.
And those days were awesome!
I would literally run up my street from the bus stop on the days when the AL and NL Championships Series were being played at 3 p.m. in the late 70’s when the Yankees, Royals, Phillies, Reds and Dodgers were always playing tight, well-played games.
Look I could sit here all day and recount Memorial Stadium memories.
We all can.
I think that’s the point.
The night Tippy picked off three. Something special that happened during “Why Not?” in 1989. The Fan Appreciation Miracle Night from 1988 that we’re trying to somehow, someway, reenact at The Rally on Sept. 21 at 4:05 against the Detroit Tigers.
Thanks Brooks Day (I was there, Sect. 16). Thanks Palmer Day (I watched on TV and listened to Barbra Streisand!). Thanks Earl Day, which was one of the worst days of my life after seeing Don Sutton beat Jim Palmer for the 1982 AL East title. I watched that one on TV from the Bolk’s house across the street because I couldn’t get a ticket and my Pop was not the kind of guy who could ever afford a scalper ticket!
He really did enjoy the games on TV and radio every bit as much as going to the game, and it was free and easy. It wasn’t a loyalty issue — he loved the Orioles all the same as long as he could follow the game and keep score.
Whatever your “special” day was in Memorial Stadium lore, today is a day to think about it and what baseball means to us — all of us as a community.
But before I go, just to prove that I’m from Dundalk and that I’m a crass, ignorant creep, I’ll leave you with a funny story about my adolescence and 33rd Street.
As soon as a bunch of us were old enough to take the bus out to the games, we began leaving “parental influence” behind. It was probably around 1981 or 1982 when the hijinks began.
One of our friends — I won’t give his name up so he can skirt anonymity, but I won’t ever totally out him — liked to appall women. It was just his thing. And he was effective and tenacious in a way that makes me proud to say I’m from Dundalk!
So, he’d troll the concourse near home plate and the Leaning Tower of Pizza (with that delicious salty, gooey, garlicky concoction they used to serve up!) and came upon a group of similarly aged girls who were clearly ditching their “much-wealthier-than-ours” parents.
He walked right up to them in that uncomfortable, awkward 13-year old Dundalk boy -acting-cool-kinda way and his icebreaker was this: “How about your friends and my friends get on the bus after the game and go back to our place for pizza and oral sex (he used a widely-regarded profane euphemism instead)?”
Afterward, the girl would either slap him, chase him or make the most distorted, disdainful face this side of bitter-beer face.
When that sour face came, he would then deadpan: “What the matter? You don’t like pizza?”
What can I say?
I had some classy (and VERY funny) friends and some great memories at Memorial Stadium!
We want to create one more great memory and make a grand statement about Baltimore baseball in 2006 and what we’re going to tolerate and accept and demand for our community.
I hope you’re circling Sept. 21 on your calendar and I hope we get to say hello one more time as a community downtown.