Most ballparks smell like hot dogs, popcorn and beer. At Memorial Stadium, there is also the scent of mothballs.
But, the 44,646 fans who filled the stadium Friday night could smell only an Oriole pennant.
They don't even smell a rat....
Baltimoreans say, "You can't trust anyone from Washington." Yet, they trust Edward Bennett Williams. As the Big Bird, who dances on the Oriole dugout, put it, even a Washington lawyer is "innocent until proven guilty."
They are taking the man at his word. And Williams' last word is that he plans to keep the Orioles in Baltimore "provided they are supported."
"Baltimoreans are working people," said John Svehla, at the stadium in white tennis shorts, an orange terry cloth shirt and white and orange tube socks.
"They are a little naive. They trust their company, their unions.They believe whatever they say."
Memorial Stadium, like the people who fill it, is anything but slick. The executive offices look like a run-down employment agency. The sparklers on the center field scoreboard that ignite for every Oriole home run look like they were left from the original Independence Day.
But Memorial Stadium is also a place where fans can lounge on the grass outside the park waiting for the gates to open.
Try that in the Bronx.
The Yankees arrived tight-lipped and tense. They looked beat already.
"It just isn't much fun beating the Yankees anymore," said Wild Bill Hagy, sedately nursing a beer before the game. "It's a tragedy - Munson."
Hagy, 40, has become Baltimore's leading media event by leading Oriole cheers from his perch in Section 34 in the upper deck. Fans echo his Bird cheers: "Come on Ken (Singelton) put in the pen." Away from Section 34, he is surprisingly soft-spoken.
Hagy does not believe the Orioles will move next season, or the season after that. "If Edward Bennett Williams moves them to Washington, he's either got no sense at all, or he's got presidential aspirations."
The two men have never met. "Ill let him come to me," Hagy said. "I'm not pushy."
Baseball has always been a game of geometry and statistics. Hagy believes that statistics show that Washington can not support a baseball team.
"Edward Bennett Williams saw a good thing happening here. There's a lot of money and people coming into the stadium and the city's being built up. He saw something in Baltimore everyone else already saw, and he's going to stay here."
Hagy was screaming at Oriole games for some time before someone noticed. "I used to come home hoarse," he said. "Now all I have to do is pantomime. I used to have to work at this. Now it just grows."
It is an hour before game time, and Hagy gets up to go. It takes him time to make his way to Section 34. He stops, pumping hands and kissing ladies.Already he is working the crowd.
Bessie Hagan, 68, who has kept score of every Oriole game since 1954, grabbed Hagy and said, "I was here when you were just half-born."
Hagy replied politely that he can't remember when this might have been and moves on.
Hagan, anxious to show off her homemade scorecards, opens a writing tablet labeled, "The Birds Will Shine in '79." They used my slogan in "74," she said "The Birds Will Soar in '74. They wanted to pay me for it but I refused. I was just tickled."
Hagan turned the page to the scorecard of a recent game. Scribbed in the margin was her inning-by-inning commentary. Down a run. "Let's go Birds." The Orioles score two runs. "Thank God." Another win. "God bless."
I'm not a great Christian," Hagan said. "But I think it's impossible to pray any more than I do for my Birds."
Right now, she's just praying that they don't fly the coop. She knows they're going to win this year.
Section 34 is full before any other. Hagy, a cab driver who does not own his vehicle, is flanked by his "chauffeurs," Derf Settan and Bob Willey. They lead the jeering as a guy with a Yankee helmet climbs past.
In New York, they pour beer on men like that. Here, someone offered him one.
The Star Bangled Banner began. Even the Yankee fans, who never sing, were on their feet. "The national anthem was written in this city," said Settan. "Everybody stands and sings, and we sing good, too."
Good and loud and in unison. When the organist paused, after "the rockets red glare," Section 34 counted, "one, two, three," and scramed, "ohh," turning "oh say can you see" into yet another Oriole cheer.
With that, the sun, which matched the color of Derf's bright orange "Keep the Birds From Flying Away" T-shirt, disappeared into the dusk.
It was time to play ball.
Donald Shields has hawked everything from beer to T-shirts in the 21 years he has worked at Memorial Stadium. He says this year's crowd is different. More people; more cheers; more sales.
"Last year was the first time I ever made $2,000 here," Shields said. "I've made $5,000 already this season.
"Last year, we only sold one kind of T-shirt, the plain Birds shirt, just for children. This year, we sell five different ones, for children and adults."
The best seller? "The Bird Will Fly."
The Bird has soul. As the Oriole black and orange plumbed rookie mascot made his way through the aisles, a little boy stuck out his palms. "Hey, Bird, slap me five."
The Bird obliged, and was led away by the beak of his bodyguard, Virgil Simms.
The pair made their way to the executive offices under Memorial Stadium, where Simms helped the Bird off with his head, Gregory Tull, 21, a student at Morgan State College, took a deep breath as Simms pointed a fan in his direction. The seventh inning dance on the dugout can be hard on the Bird, especially in the midst of a hot pennant race.
Tull was one of about 15 people to audition for the Bird role. It has taken him awhile to get used to his 18-inch spikes and to get his stirrups just right. "In the beginning," he said, "they were so low, the players just cracked. They said, "Hey, Bird, when you gonna get some socks?""
Will the Bird hang up his spikes if the Orioles migrate to Washington?
"I don't know," he said. The Bird was born on April 6. He's too young for this kind of an identity crisis.
On television, Mark Belanger crossed the plate with the last Orioles run, putting them ahead for good, 8-6.
It was the bottom of the eighth inning and the Bird excused himself to get ready for the evening.
In the upper deck, far down the right field line, a few cynical Bird watchers began debating the future of the club one more time.
"It's dumb to trust someone from out of town," said Bill Langville. "I've been an Oriole fan for 21 years. I've gone to all the World Series and playoff games, but I can't see a guy from Washington buying a ball club and not moving it.
"People around here don't support the Orioles and they never did. If we didn't have the gas situation, we wouldn't have the crowds here now."
Howard Sweltzer, sitting further down the row with his grandson, agreed. "Until the gas crunch came, we went fishing on Sunday, instead."
Still Sweitzer believes that Baltimoreans are too trusting, too good-natured. "Maryland was the only state that would give up part of its land to have a Washington, D.C. If they move the O's," he vowed, "I'll head the committee to take back the land."
His grandson, Billy Wiseman IV, age 8, who wants to grow up to be "either a baseball player, a mathematician, an airplane pilot or a scientist," appraised the situation coolly. More so than most of the adults around him. No, he didn't think Mr. Williams would move the Orioles, either.
But if he does, Billy said, he won't cry.
"Why is that," he was asked.
"Because," he replied, "It's only a baseball team. CAPTION: Picture 1, Jim Bechtell lets T-shirt made by girlfriend express his sentiments; Picture 2, No. 1 cheerleader, wild Bill Hagy, greets followers; Picture 3, Section 34 in upper deck at Memorial Stadium is infected with Oriole Fever; Picture 4, Bessie Hagan has scorecard for every Oriole game since 1954; Picture 5, Heart of the Baltimore Oriole fans arrive early for seats in coveted Section 34. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post