Monday, August 20, 2007

RIP: 'Wild Bill' Hagy

I spent a significant portion of the my summers during high school and home from college ('76 to '83) at Memorial Stadium, going to Orioles games. Actually, I was a Jr Oriole starting in 1968 but was obviously not able to drive myself to Memorial Stadium until years later. The O's were a force to be reckoned from 1966 until 1985, with a small resurgence in 1996 and 1997. They were one of the elite teams, and notorious Yankee killers.

On many a summer evening, my friend Porkface (aka. Fran) and I would go purchase $3.00 GA tickets, fill a Coleman Jug with the contents of a case of Busch Beer, and drag our little brothers, and/or his cousin "Sweaty" Freddy to the stadium. There was only one place to sit, Section 34!

For years, a drunken fan named 'the Big Wheel' had been spelling out C-O-L-T-S with his body, during football games at the stadium. Somewhere in the late 70's this bled over into the Baseball games, when a cab driver named 'Wild Bill' Hagy started doing the same thing by spelling out O-R-I-O-L-E-S. Wild Bill was the King of Section 34 and led us all with his battle cries. He would usually make a good show of winding up for a cheer with exaggerated arm movements, waving his Cowboy Hat, demanding that we get our asses off the seats, and followed by a quick call of Let's hear it for the Ball-team, before launching into his dance. He was usually egged on by the other denizens of the Section.

By 1979, it had become the "in-thing" to go to an "O's" game. For about a decade, it seemed that baseball had unthinkably reached an equal footing with football, in Baltimore. To this day, a Baltimore crowd can not listen to the National Anthem w/o embellishing the "O" ala Wild Bill.

Those were the days. The Skankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Indians, Tigers, and Blue Jays were all in our division. (There were only 2 divisions per league back then and Milwaukee was still in the AL!) Names like Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Scott McGregor, Steve Stone, Sammy Stewart, Rick Dempsey, Elrod, Disco Dan Ford, Brother Low-low, Rhino, DeCinces, Ed=E Murray, Marc Belanger, Cal Ripken, Benny Ayala, Rich Dauer, Tippy, Dennis Martinez, come to mind. Rex Barney on the PA, play by play with Chuck Thompson, and the recap the next morning with Charlie Eckman.

Unfortunately, there has not been much to cheer about since Game 5 of the 1983 World Series. And of course, OPACY (Oriole Park at Camden Yards) never had the right feel for me. 'Wild Bill' was one of the common, blue-collar people of Bawldy-more. He seemed like he had stepped out of one of Barry Levinson's or John Waters' movies. He (and I) belonged in Memorial Stadium. If only something would convince Angelos to sell the team now, maybe the Orioles could climb out of the grave they fell into.

RIP: Wild Bill. I'm going to see if I can find a 6 Pack of Natty Boh tonight, and drink in your honor.

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