Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wild Bill and Me

Dundalk cab driver-turned-Orioles superfan "Wild Bill" Hagy just died at age 68.

I happened to be at the same game that the above article cited:

Many trace the birth of "Orioles Magic" to June 22, 1979, the day a Doug DeCinces home run gave the eventual pennant winners a come-from-behind victory over the Detroit Tigers. Mr. Hagy cheered that moment and many more.
I remember Ken Singleton hitting foul balls deep to left and right field of venerable Memorial Stadium, and then he split the difference and hit one out to deep center. Then I thought Doug DeCinces' dramatic game-winner was going to be caught for the final out, but instead it carried out of the park, and a wild celebration began.

That was when it was fun to go to Orioles games, and Wild Bill was a huge part of it. He'd lead cheers of all sorts up in Section 34. For Singleton: "Let's go Ken! Put it in the bullpen!" For Benny Ayala: "Ay, yi yi yi, Ben-ny Ayala! Hit it over the fence to the parking lot and hit a Chevy Impala!" And for visiting players like Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield . . . well, I won't repeat them here.

And of course, the spelling bee: "O-R-I-O-L-E-S!"

Hagy's height of popularity was the two World Series in which those Orioles appeared: 1979, a bitter loss to the Pirates in which the O's blew a 3-1 game lead and I was left weeping in my bunk bed; and 1983, when the O's righted themselves in Philadelphia and swept the Phils at the Vet. He frequently appeared atop the Oriole dugout for the chants. He also almost singlehandedly willed the Orioles to catch the Milwaukee Brewers at the end of the 1982 season, but Robin Yount saw to it the Birds finished one game short. But the after-game ovation, led largely by Hagy, won't be forgotten; it stunned Howard Cosell (why isn't that on YouTube?).

I was a vendor in 1983, and I actually stayed away from Section 34; they pretty much didn't want anyone who wasn't a beer seller. Hagy's 34 was anything but the family-friendly area of Memorial Stadium. But at least he wasn't pretentious.

Once he could no longer bring beer, and after the Orioles left the blue-collar Memorial Stadium for the swank of Camden Yards, Hagy became a non-entity . . . which it seems he preferred.

Wild Bill stood for the Orioles team I loved when I grew up, and not the poor excuse for a franchise that Peter Fish Lips Ambulance Chaser Angelos runs now. Rest in peace, Wild Bill.

UPDATE: And only two days later, the Orioles lost to Texas 30-3. No, that's not a Cowboys-Ravens score. Wild Bill is still dead, of course, but I bet he must be finding a way to have beer in his casket.

UPDATE 2: Nice article about Wild Bill by the Washington Times' Dick Heller.


4HisChurch said...

Thanks so much for that post. I remember Wild Bill. I also remember when the Orioles were a real team. God rest them both...

BigBro said...

I took Dad and Pop-Pop to that game for Father's Day that year. I tried to get box seats in the first row, but had to settle for second row seats on the third base line. We were behind the ball girl. Pop-pop said that was why i got the tickets. And the price of those 3 box seat second row seats...$21, total. Oriole Magic...priceless. Where did it go?

4HisChurch said...

"Where did it (Oriole Magic) go?"

The existential question of the century, no doubt.