Fun Archives

April 15, 2004

Digressions: Beats & Eats

Lest the rainouts of the last few days (and my stat-heavy blog entries of the last few weeks) weigh you down, here's some lighter fare for Orioles fans out there.

Latin-lovin' O's?

Last week, Kevin Cowherd wrote a whimsical column in the Baltimore Sun about the Orioles that touched on some personal aspects of this year's squad. Among his observations:

Continue reading "Digressions: Beats & Eats" »

May 6, 2004

Conine's travels

A bit of trivia: Jeff Conine, an Oriole from 1999-2003 who was traded to the Florida Marlins last August, is the second-most traveled player in the majors, having visited 38 different stadiums in his career. By my count, that total should reach 43 this year as he plays his first games in the new parks in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Arizona, and San Diego. Only Robin Ventura has played in more ballparks (he's expected to reach 44 this year). Gary Graves of USA Today caught up with Conine recently for a brief, light-hearted chat about his journeys, recounted in "38 parks down, 4 more on tap for vet Conine." A snippet:

Q: What does playing in 38 ballparks say about your career?

A: It means I'm old. Obviously I came into the big leagues at a time of aging stadiums and now I get to see the advent of all the new ones.

Conine is a wise old head who knows what he's talking about. Since breaking in with the Royals in the early 1990s, he has spent an almost equal amount of time in each league, during which he has witnessed the ripple of neoclassical (so to speak) ballpark construction that started with Baltimore's Camden Yards in 1992. Although he is not quite ancient enough to have played in Memorial Stadium (put to rest in 1991) or the old Comiskey Park in Chicago (1990), he was around to play in Cleveland Stadium and Arlington Stadium before they were retired, as well as Mile High in Denver, which the Rockies called home before Coors Field opened.

Q: Your favorite park?

A: Camden Yards (in Baltimore, where he played five seasons for the Orioles).

They may call him Mr. Marlin, but the man has not lost his sense of taste.

July 12, 2004

Miggy joins Raffy on AL's longballing squad

Miguel Tejada, the Orioles' lone All-Star this year, has been selected to replace Jason Giambi in tonight's Home Run Derby after Giambi pulled out due to lingering effects of his intestinal illness. Tejada will join the Birds' Rafael Palmeiro, the Rangers' Hank Blalock and the Red Sox's David Ortiz as the American League slugging representatives. They will join a formidable National League contingent of Barry Bonds, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, and Lance Berkman (Berkman was named as a late replacement for Ken Griffey Jr.).

Tejada is not a predictable choice to fill out a homer-hitting team—he has never finished among the top five in the league in round-trippers, and his fifteen taters this year are tied for 15th in the AL—so I guess that other All-Star mashers like Manny Ramírez, Alex Rodríguez, and Vladimir Guerrero turned down invitations to join the contest. Tejada should be able to hold his own because he has more than enough bat speed to hit the ball out of the park, but he has a natural line-drive swing that does not usually impart a lot of lift to the ball. I would give Palmeiro a decent chance in this exhibition because his swing naturally results in a lot of fly balls (0.80 G/F career), but Bonds has to be the favorite.

Stars that never faded

My favorite All-Star memory is Cal Ripken, in the midst of his 1991 MVP season, winning the Derby with a phenomenal 12 homers in 22 swings, then crushing a three-run tater in the All-Star Game to claim the event's MVP award.

Cal's last All-Star appearance, in the 2001 game, was also heart-warming. A-Rod graciously allowed Cal to take his old spot at shortstop for an inning, then Cal earned another All-Star MVP by smacking a four-bagger off Chan Ho Park.

I also recall the 1993 classic at Camden Yards, when Griffey reached the B&O Warehouse on the fly during the Derby. Late in that year's game, partisan Baltimore fans heckled AL manager Cito Gaston for not inserting Mike Mussina, and Mussina fueled their anger by conspicuously getting up in the bullpen to purportedly do some between-starts throwing. Gaston was persona non grata in Baltimore for several years after that incident.

Update (July 13): Against all expectations, Tejada claimed the Derby title with a standard-setting performance. He notched the most homers ever in a single round, with 15, and ended with the record for the most homers overall, with 27, and he could have added to that total had he been allowed to continue after outdistancing the Astros' Lance Berkman with five outs remaining in the last round. Tejada even finished with the longest homer of this year's competition, a 497-foot torpedo that cleared the left-field stands and landed on Crawford Street beyond. Not bad for a 5' 10", 210-lb. shortstop who was contending with some of the giants of our time.

July 16, 2004

The Corked Bat Caper, ten years later

This is only peripherally related to the Orioles, but I thought some of you might find it interesting. Recently I ran across an article by Paul Sullivan on the Chicago Tribune site (subscription required) titled “Mystery over Belle's lumber still a corker.” It so happens that yesterday, July 15, 2004, was the ten-year anniversary of the corked-bat incident involving Albert Belle, who at the time was starring for the Cleveland Indians (some four years later he would join the Orioles as a free agent). For those who don't have or want a subscription to the Trib's site (I believe if you have an account on the Baltimore Sun's site, your username and password will work on the Tribune site because they are owned by the same media conglomerate), here's my summary of the story.

That day the Indians were playing in Chicago's Comiskey Park. The race between the two teams was tight that year. Early in the game, White Sox manager Gene Lamont, acting on a tip, asked the home-plate umpire to check for evidence of tampering in Belle's bat. The umpires saw nothing unusual with the bat on initial examination, but they exercised their right to confiscate it and locked it in the umpires' office/dressing room at Comiskey, from which it was to be sent to the league office in New York for X-ray inspection.

During the game, someone stealthily squirmed through the overhead crawl space connecting the visitors' locker room and the umpires' room, lowered himself into the umpires' room through a displaced ceiling tile, and switched the confiscated bat with a "clean" bat from the cache of Cleveland first baseman Paul Sorrento. The umpires noticed the switch after the game (not to mention pieces of broken ceiling tiles), demanded Belle's bat back, received it and sent it to New York. League officials found cork in the bat and suspended Belle for ten games (later reduced to seven on appeal).

The story doesn't end there. Five years later, the mysterious bat switcher finally revealed himself to the New York Times's Buster Olney. Who was it? Current Oriole reliever Jason Grimsley. Grimsley was a 26-year-old spot starter on the Indians in 1994, but had become a Yankee reliever in 1999 and felt that enough water had passed under the bridge to put the truth on America's so-called paper of record.

Tribe shortstop Omar Vizquel corroborated Grimsley's story in his 2002 memoir. He added that Grimsley had to replace the corked bat with a Sorrento model because “all of Albert's bats were corked.” Belle promptly denied this allegation, but Vizquel's version seems at least partially credible. If Belle had possessed just one or two corked bats, it would have been much simpler to use one of Belle's undoctored bats as a replacement. But if most or all of Belle's bats were corked, then the substitute bat would have to come from another player. Of course, Grimsley could not fix the difficult matter of Sorrento's name being on the replacement bat, so his risky work went for naught.

Other ex-Orioles litter the storyline, although their participation is more incidental. Mike Hargrove was the Indians' manager in 1994, five years before he took the same job in Baltimore. Although he apparently did not approve of the bat swap, his visiting manager's office at Comiskey was the starting point for Grimsley's overhead passage. John Hart was Cleveland's general manager, less than six years removed from an apprenticeship in the Oriole organization as a minor-league manager and major-league coach. He, too, did not condone the bat switch, calling it “more of a misguided sense of loyalty with a teammate than anything else.” And Grimsley's confessor, Olney, covered the Orioles for the Sun in the mid-1990s before moving to the Times and ESPN the Magazine.

What we learn from this story is that Grimsley is an exceedingly loyal teammate who will go to great lengths—and sometimes illegal ones—to help his team. But at 205 pounds, he is a good amount bigger than his 180-pound self of ten years ago, so crawling through cramped passages may not be a part of his skill set anymore.

August 2, 2004

Bird songs revisited, arguably the Internet's best (and unfortunately, most bloated) source of general sports information, has posted a Page 3 feature on the at-bat songs for every American League team, including the Orioles. Songs for all MLB teams are to appear in the near future.

The topic of player-selected intro songs came up in an April post here, and the page adds a few more to that list, along with a couple of song changes since then:

Brian Roberts: "Shake It Fast" by Mystikal
Miguel Tejada: "Hit 'em Up" by TK
Rafael Palmeiro: "California Love" by Tupac
Jay Gibbons: "Sweetness" by Jimmy Eat World
B.J. Surhoff: "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits and "Evenflow" by Pearl Jam
Jerry Hairston Jr.: "Hot in Herre" by Nelly
John Parrish: "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes
Eric DuBose: "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Buddy Groom: "Takin' Care of Business" by Bachman Turner Overdrive

Other teams' selections reflect a high proportion of recent popular hits, including a healthy dose of hip-hoppers and hard rockers. Many Latin-American players select music from their native culture. Some players specifically request that no music at all be played before their game entrances.

A few observations:

Ex-Oriole David Dellucci, an Italian American outfielder now playing for the Texas Rangers, chose the theme to The Godfather. Lee Mazzilli must like this guy.

Another guy who once toiled in obscurity for the O's, Seattle manager Bob Melvin, is allegedly a master at identifying rock tunes. Now if only he could figure out how to turn around that team he's managing...

May 5, 2005

O's on "The Move"

With the Orioles off to their best start since 1997, there have been plenty of wins to celebrate in this young season—eighteen, to be exact, against just nine losses. And the Birds' on-field leader, Miguel Tejada, has introduced a unique, intricate mode of celebrating those wins with his teammates. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about: immediately after each Oriole win, Tejada greets infield-mates Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora with a dizzying routine of hand- and back-slapping that ends in an embrace or a macho pose.

Gettin' Miggy wit it

Columnist Kevin Cowherd of the Baltimore Sun examines this phenomenon in a story today entitled "The Move." The headline comes from the name of the ritual employed by Tejada and Cowherd in the story. Actually, Cowherd takes Tejada's unimaginatively generic description and elevates it to quasi-official status:

That hand-slap, hug, gangsta-pose routine - you have a name for that? we asked.

"No, we don't have a name," says Tejada. "We just call it a move. The move. Sometimes maybe somebody hits a home run, and we say: 'Let's do the move.'"

OK, well that's a name, isn't it?

The Move?

Tejada nods and smiles. Sure, why not?

So now we have a name for it: the Move.

To me, "the Move" is not descriptive enough a name for such an elaborate practice. I have decided to call it "the Miggy," after Tejada, who authored the ritual. Again from Cowherd's article:

As for the back story, here it is: The Move is the artistic creation of Tejada, a native of the Dominican Republic, who first saw a version of it while playing winter ball in the Caribbean.

He started orchestrating it after O's wins last season, his first in Baltimore after arriving as a free agent and signing a zillion-dollar contract.

I'm not sure whether, in that last sentence, Cowherd is trying to make a causal link between Tejada's contract and the development of the ritual. Did Tejada want to give fans a little something extra for their money, as if his fine hitting and glovework weren't entertaining enough? Well, more likely Miguel's effervescent personality felt stifled by the muted way that baseball players usually celebrate wins: a handshake or a fist-bump here, a back-pat or a butt-slap there. And so he invented his own victory dance, giving us the Miggy.

Continue reading "O's on "The Move"" »

September 15, 2005

Bird songs: an update

Although I have written about Oriole intro songs a couple of times before, the information in those articles and their follow-up comments is in need of an update.

A couple of visitors to the site have asked about the song that introduces Melvin Mora's at-bats. It begins with a catchy, in-your-face, up-tempo horn riff. The Camden Yards deejay usually cuts off the song before the vocals start, though, making identification difficult.

Not being an avid Latin music listener, I didn't know what the song was at first. But knowledgeable people have stated in various places that Mora's at-bat song is "La vida es un cárnaval" ("Life is a Carnival"), as performed by the legendary Cuban singer Celia Cruz, the "Queen of Salsa," who died in 2003. After hearing the song in its entirety, I'm fairly certain that their attestations are correct. "Cárnaval" is one of Cruz's signature songs and an outstanding example of the salsa music that Mora loves. The lyrics to the refrain:

Ay, no hay que llorar
que la vida es un cárnaval
y es más bello vivir cantando
Oh-oh-oh ay, no hay que llorar
que la vida es un cárnaval
y las penas se van cantando

A rough English translation:

Ay, no need to cry
for life is a carnival
and it's sweeter to live while singing
Oh-oh-oh ay, no need to cry
for life is a carnival
and singing relieves the sorrow

The rest of the lyrics are similarly upbeat.

Continue reading "Bird songs: an update" »

June 3, 2006

Revisiting Jeffrey Maier: Forgive that swine?

I remember Jeffrey Maier. Not fondly, I'm afraid.

On October 9, 1996, I was watching Game 1 of the ALCS on TV with a bunch of Yankee-rooting friends (don't ask) and was struck with disbelief, then rage, when the long arm of Maier reached over the right-field wall at Yankee Stadium, turning a deep fly ball by Derek Jeter from a possible out into a home run. When the replays showed Maier's glove extending over the wall into the field of play and pulling the ball into the stands — clearly a case of fan interference — none of the Yankee fans in the room denied that the umpire, Rich García, had made the wrong call in crediting Jeter with a game-tying homer. One of them said, "Well, too bad. That's the way the ball bounces." And then Bernie Williams hit a home run in the 11th to give the Yankees the win, making for a lot of smug faces in the room — and one glum one.

Yesterday, Washington Post baseball writer Dave Sheinin served up an underhanded story about Maier, the kid who helped steal a World Series appearance from the Orioles ten years back. In the article, Sheinin catches up with Maier, now 22 and a recent graduate of Wesleyan University with a degree in government and economics, and gets reflections on the incident from Maier and members of both teams who were at the scene of the crime ten years ago.

Ordinarily that's where the story would end. But it turns out that Maier had a standout career as an outfielder and third baseman on Wesleyan's Division III baseball team. So Sheinin can't help but suggest the outrageously ironic possibility that Maier could be drafted by the Orioles in the upcoming amateur draft and wind up playing for the very team he once robbed of a crucial playoff win. Or, he could be selected by the Yankees, his hometown team (he's from north Jersey), and continue to torment the O's with his glove and his bat. Never mind that few Division III players get drafted, and almost none advance to the majors. Talk about journalistic license — the lengths to which writers will go for a good story! Maybe Sheinin should write sports-themed novels instead.

Continue reading "Revisiting Jeffrey Maier: Forgive that swine?" »

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Orioles Warehouse in the Fun category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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