Oh yes, you can see where this is going already, right? But guess what… forget it. We’re not going to even mention those knuckleheads that jumped on the field at Citizens Bank Park the past two nights and the criminal vomitter from a few weeks back. If there were a way to go back into a time machine and Photoshop them out of attendance at the ballpark, then yes, that would be infinitely better than taking a taser to their backsides.
Unfortunately there are no time machines except for in the movies and people can’t be Photoshopped out of existence. What a gyp.
Anyway, we try to focus on the positive here, so let’s just say that one has to work very hard to have a bad time at a ballpark or an arena. It happens sometimes, and based on the latest events reported out of Citizens Bank Park, it has been happening a lot. The shame of that is there are some really good fans that get out to games and it’s possible that the really good fans are being scared away from going to games.
And no, that fear does not come from the price of tickets.
I always relate going to games to the way it was when I was a kid. Frankly, there weren’t too many things that were more fun than the handful of games my family went to every year. Luckily, some of those games are burned in my brain like the time Larry Bird, at the height of his ability, dropped a triple-double on the Sixers at the Spectrum and used one ridiculous move that I hadn’t seen before or since.
Then there was the final game of the 1982 baseball season at Memorial Stadium where Robin Yount went 3-for-4 with two homers to overshadow a pitching matchup featuring future Hall-of-Famers Jim Palmer and Don Sutton. More notably, Yount’s heroics cinched the 1982 AL MVP Award for him and got the Brewers into the playoffs for the first time ever.
There were other events, too, like the beginning of the Red Sox swoon in 1978 that we saw from behind home plate at Memorial Stadium, which was the perfect vantage point to see a home run hit by Jim Rice that may have just landed. We were also there on a sun-drenched Sunday where Cal Ripken appeared in the very first game of his historical streak. The thing that made that day stand out was that Toronto pitchers Jim Gott and Roy Lee Jackson combined to one-hit the Orioles in one the most boring games I ever sat and watched. Rick Dempsey got a one-out single in the fifth, so there was no drama whatsoever. Worse, it was a combined one-hitter, which seems rather devious when you think about it.
Nevertheless, we were able to have fun at the games without being jerks about it. Sure, most of that has to do with the fact that we were really into the teams and the sports, but that didn’t seem so extraordinary at the time. We didn’t need dollar-dog nights or bobbleheads to get us out to the park. Maybe it was a different time or perhaps our senses weren’t numbed or dulled down by an over proliferation of media coming from all directions, but the game, a ticket stub and a program was enough.
Maybe because of our ability in interact or communicate with anyone (or anything), there is an attitude that the individual is part of the show, too. It wasn’t so much as we knew our place way back when, but maybe we had a little more respect for others’ property. The game and the field belonged to someone else and the only way to get the honor of running, hitting or shooting on it was by earning it.
True story: in 10 years of exclusively writing about baseball, I walked onto the actual playing surface just one time. It was to retrieve an errant baseball and then fire it back to the kid retrieving them, but even then I was told—under no uncertain terms—to get off the field.
That’s someone else’s work space, not mine.
From those days of going to games as a kid, there was one fan we saw as the ultimate booster of his team. He didn’t have a fancy job, or seats in a special box or anything, he was just a guy who liked to hang out with his friends in Section 34 at Memorial Stadium after finishing his shift as a cab driver in Baltimore.
Oh yes, we loved Wild Bill Hagy.
Wild Bill came from the Dundalk section of town and did nothing more than cheer for his team. In fact, he was so good at cheering for his team that everyone else followed his lead, which included his trademark of spelling out the world ORIOLES with his limbs and shouting, “Oh!” during the final stanza of the “Star Spangled Banner.” That was it. Wild Bill was just a fan—a genuine fan without any airs or pretension.
Better yet, Wild Bill didn’t have to run onto the field or break the law in order to get attention. He didn’t have fancy seats or have ins with any of the team’s brass. He was just a guy who liked the Orioles.
What’s wrong with that?