This jilted, jaded old town welcomed Reggie Jackson back tonight with a barrage of raw hot dogs thrown from the Memorial Stadium upper deck.
He and his resurgent team responding by whipping their Orioles, 9-6, for their sixth straight victory.
With a dozen of Esskay's finest link sausages scattered and broken around him in the batter's box, the New York Yankee slugger drilled the first pitch he saw on the ground into right field.
As the rain-soaked outfield grass grabbed the ball, Jackson turned on his 9.7 dash man's afterburners and bellyflopped into second base, skidding over it and into short left field.
That took care of demonstrating his savvy, hustle, speed and daring. Left was an illustration of Jackson's almost terrifying power. That came in the fifth.
Baltimore's Dennis Martinez thought he had made a good pitch, one that Jackson seemed to pop up into medium right center.
But secret winds blow at the altitude to which jackson drives balls. The awesome "can of corn" carried and carried - Oriole outfielder retreating a shuffle at a time - until the all landed in the Bird bullpen 400 feet away.
With the tow-run homer long gone, Jackson slowed his Cadillac trot to the slowest of strolls, traveling the last 30 feet to home plate in steps not more than a foot long. He doffed his helmet to the boobirds and received a royal Yankee welcome.
In those two at-bats jackson had transformed a routine ground ball and a routine fly into a double and home run. "Look what you poor Baltimore folks are missing," he might as well have said.
Thus does Jackson draw the baseball spotlight to himself with equal measures of talent, audacity and hot doggery.
One can see Jackson as he seems himself, as Buck Tater Man, the rifle-armed slugging champion with the blazing feet who looks apart of the strapping Yankee as few before him have.
Or one can see him the way his old Oakland teammate Darold Knowles did the day he said, "There isn't enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson."
It really makes no difference to Jackson. He wins either way, and he knows it.
When he came to bat tonight he was met with thunderous boos. But the stands were crowded - fuller tonight than they have been here since opening day.
When Jackson jogged to right field he was met with a hangling effigy of himself and a sign saying, "Reggie is a Bozo." But the same fans hung forward him, chanting "Reggie, Reggie" before the game and begging for his autograph.
Perhaps more than any player of his generation, Jackson has learned how to sell himself.
Despite a .267 career average and one of the three highest strikeout ratios in history, Jackson has negotiated a nearly $3 million contract and set up an almost ilimited future as an endorser and all-purpose celebrity.
Just as important to the total Reggie Jackson "package" as Buck Tater Man, the player is Jackson the ham actor, Jackson the consummate media manipulator. In short, Jackson the Superstar.
That word may mean more to Jackson than any other.
He wears his uniform like a star - tight, muscles bulging, top button of shirt open.He runs distinctively, bent forward, a picture of barely controlled power. He seems to carry a stage with him everywhere and he is never off it in public.
Whatever the cost to himself, Jackson is determined to be noticed and remembered.
"I know it takes time for people to like me" he said tonight. "My reputation preceeds me. Self-centered, they say."
Yet while the Yankees sat around their locker room tonight, rain washing out batting practice, only Jackson sat alone while the rest broke into groups for cards. When thunder could be heard outside, Jackson said, just loud enough for everyone to hear, "Is someone calling me?"
Jackson's biggest hurdle with teammates is his lust for the limelight. Other athletes avoid interviews, dodge contoversy. No Jackson.
"I made my bed," says Jackson of his choice to come to media-crazed New York in the re-entry draft. "Now I'm going to try to sleep in it."
No baseball player knowns better what interviews want to hear.
"I know how to answer questions," says Jackson. "I know how to tell the truth, but not hurt too many feelings . . . I can recognized a colorful quote . . . I don't think ballplayers understand the trouble they could save themselves if they paid attention to how to give an interview.
"For instance, on this team, we don't seem to understand that we're a store-bought team with Billy Martin for a manager, George Steinbrenner for an owner and me for a free agent. Everybody hates all of that. You must accept that the hunters are out after you. When you mess up, say, "I blew it."