Calling the Pen: A first-string Orioles fan after all - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Calling the Pen

Calling the Pen: A first-string Orioles fan after all

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

On a recent drive, my husband turned on the baseball game, and it sent me back in time: I am 6 years old and drifting off to sleep to the sound of an Orioles game. I am riding home from a cousin’s birthday party in our Volvo station wagon. In my hand, I hold my goody bag, which includes a candy necklace and a slap bracelet. I am nestled between siblings in the middle seat and as we ride over a bump, my head bounces on my sister’s bony shoulder.

I enjoy the rolling rhythm of announcer Jon Miller’s voice and the way it builds and peaks and steadies following the energy of the Orioles game.

In those younger years, the fact that the game was just soothing background noise sat fine with me. As I got a little older and more self-conscious, I started to think I wasn’t a real fan. My dad knew baseball inside and out, covered the Orioles, and generously shared his knowledge and stories with me. The problem was that little more than a few players’ names stayed straight in my mind. Meanwhile, my mom was a true fan who never ever gave up on the Orioles. And my grandma listened to every single Orioles game on the radio. Even my cousin just a year older than me could talk baseball confidently.

I tried to follow the Orioles – I really did. On a similar car ride at age 10, when the baseball game was playing on our way home from my cousin’s birthday party, I focused intently, wanting to understand it all. Bottom of the fourth. Bases loaded. Eric Davis is at the plate. Strike one. Ball one. Ball two … And then my mind wandered to the way I got my prize by following an orange string earlier that day.

Every year, my uncle would set up The String Game for his eldest daughter’s birthday. He would select one colored string for each child attending and weave it through the yard, over the playset and other obstacles leading to the child’s prize on the other end. The strings were intertwined and complicated to follow, and it created a fantastic maze. Lost replaying this memory, I forgot I was trying to stay tuned in to the game. I didn’t know if Davis ever brought in those runs. In moments like this, I resigned to being not much of a baseball fan.

When I was kid, going to an Orioles game was a blast. Going to an Orioles game meant going downtown on a school night. It led to finding your forest green seat and asking Mom to reveal her stash of peanuts.

I waited for the Oriole Bird to come shake his tailfeathers and tease the fans in our section. I was poised and ready to jump up when the wave came through. I was on the edge of my seat when the ball soared high into the outfield and players scrambled to get under it. I remember the way the crowd erupted when a home run was hit by the Orioles (and I loved how the roar echoed into the hallways when I happened to be seeking nachos at a concession stand during the play).

Every game, I hoped a foul ball would land gently in my lap while simultaneously fearing that a foul ball would hit me in the head – since one actually did hit my grandma.

Looking back on these memories, I am re-thinking my determination that I am not much of an Orioles fan. That kid who loved attending the O’s game because of the atmosphere and who loved listening to Orioles games because it lulled her to sleep – that kid was an Orioles fan. That fan is still inside me whether I follow the team or not. Maybe it’s time to go back to Camden Yards to watch the Orioles play, or rather to fully enjoy the atmosphere, the Oriole Bird, the excitement of it all.

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Kaitlin Glenn lives in St. Mary’s county tucked away in a pine grove with her husband, two children, and puppy dog. She works part-time in a physical therapy clinic and spends her other hours outdoors with her children, reading books, and taking deep breaths because life is full of hard things.

Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Calling the Pen, a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to Calling the Pen, send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    November 26, 2021 at 7:11 am

    Taking the high road, Happy Thanksgiving everyone…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 26, 2021 at 9:39 am

      Heading to Shambala?

      • JerseyO

        November 26, 2021 at 9:53 am

        I’ll bet he’s never been to Spain.

        • Buzz1979

          November 26, 2021 at 12:04 pm

          But I have been to Oklahoma!

    • Icterus fan

      November 26, 2021 at 10:02 am

      Oh gosh……just lovin’ it!
      We’re still a shambles, though….

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        November 26, 2021 at 11:21 am

        What does shambles mean?

    • Icterus fan

      November 26, 2021 at 11:46 am

      Pokin’ the hornets nest, are ya? You know he’s watching….

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        November 26, 2021 at 11:56 am

        It’s in my DNA.

    • CalsPals

      November 26, 2021 at 1:03 pm

      100 miles to Shambala?…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      November 26, 2021 at 1:30 pm

      Wash away my troubles & pain, please Mikey…go O’s…

  2. cedar

    November 26, 2021 at 8:21 am

    As a young child, it was Chuck Thompson who lulled me to sleep listening to his play-by-play. Thanks for bringing those memories back to me.

    • Icterus fan

      November 26, 2021 at 10:08 am

      Another vote for Chuck Thompson over here. Wow. The memories of those days with Chuck Thompson and Bill O’Donnel doing play by play will never diminish.
      Chuck’s deep voice and articulate descriptions were an art form for me, defining summers playing on the backyard and later working on cars in the driveway. The neighborhood would gather and listen to playoff games by the radio. I get goosebumps thinking about it.
      I miss that blue collar knowledge of the game, the vivid descriptions and the hometown feel. It felt genuine, not forced or “corporate”.

    • KGlenn

      November 26, 2021 at 10:09 am

      You’re welcome! Now we just need to get archives of these radio broadcasts to have on nights when sleep eludes us…

  3. BenSch

    November 26, 2021 at 9:28 am

    Chuck Thompson and Clay Dalrymple. Later, Joe Angel.

    Yeah, I find listening to a ballgame on the radio to be a really special, specific zone. Hard to define.

    I can remember, when living in Takoma Park in…. 1986, listening to an Orioles game on one radio and “Saturday Night Jazz, the Duke Ellington Hour” on 88.5FM, WAMU on another radio. Drove my roommates crazy but made sense to me.

    • KGlenn

      November 26, 2021 at 10:04 am

      You really painted a picture here! Layering jazz and baseball, I like it!

  4. dlgruber1

    November 26, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    While there is still nothing quite like being at a game, I admit I love listening to games on the radio. It sorta magically takes me back to my youth. Although Baltimore has been blessed to have so many great announcers over the decades I admit I always was a little jealous of Dodgers fans who had the pleasure of grandfathers, fathers and sons all raised listening to the incomparable Vin Scully. The only problem with listening to the game on the radio is if you’re driving, as I was when Delmon Young hit the bases clearing double, it can be very hazardous. Really enjoyed the article.

    • 33d St

      November 26, 2021 at 10:14 pm

      When you think about it radio was the main way most of us kept up with the O’s. It was a long time before most, then all, the games were on TV. I get the mlb radio app every year – best $25 I ever spend

  5. Buzz1979

    November 26, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    All sorts of baseball activity, but crickets at the Warehouse!

  6. Buzz1979

    November 26, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    Canha, a .244 career hitter, platoon player, getting 26.5 million over 2 years? WTF?!

    • dlgruber1

      November 26, 2021 at 10:28 pm

      Buzz, I gotta say, when I read your post I thought surely you were mistaken. Sadly it appears you’re correct. I’m sorry but the Mets just screwed things over for all the other clubs by offering that stiff that kind of money. I swear every year I’m getting closer and closer to giving up on MLB. How do smaller market teams compete for decent FAs when a team signs a very mediocre player to a deal like that? Thanks for ruining my night.

    • Icterus fan

      November 27, 2021 at 11:34 am

      Unfortunately this is where we are now. In general, the zeitgeist is overpay for mediocrity. And not just in sports.
      Hired a contractor recently? Interviewed any applicants lately? Checked the used car or truck resale values? Bought clothes, or goods/supplies recently? It’s insane, yet we go on.
      How are the O’s going to improve without opening the purse strings? No “real” FA will want to play here unless very highly (over) compensated.
      It appears the Mets are just trying to have an opportunity to be competitive, like it or not. I realize they are contributing to the larger “problem” by overpaying, but least they are not relying on Rule 5 prospects or retreads like another team we know.
      Heck, Canha has hit 89 HR since 2015. Wouldn’t you like to see some of those flying out of Camden Yard?

  7. 33d St

    November 26, 2021 at 10:12 pm

    St Mary’s County is the best. Love it there. If I ever move back to MD that’s where I’d go.

    Underrated memory and a great call on being on a concourse when a good play happens. You miss the play, sure, but that is a great sound – the roar coming down to the concourses from the stands. You know all is well even if you can’t see it. Reminds me of the plays i missed but still absorbed the fans energy when I worked in memorial stadium back in the day

    • KGlenn

      November 27, 2021 at 12:04 am

      Glad it resonated with you. You must have stories to tell from your time working at the stadium!

  8. CalsPals

    November 27, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    Since the Rays extended Wander, when are the O’s gonna extend Adley?…LOL…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      November 28, 2021 at 2:07 pm

      Actually MLB.com said they should extend both Adley & Cedric…go O’s…

  9. Raymo

    November 28, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    Orioles baseball! Orioles baseball!
    It’s you and your number one,
    in the lights or under the sun,
    havin’ fun… together.

    As a kid in Rhode Island I would listen to Orioles games on AM radio in the glory years of 1966 to 1971. But the voice I miss the most is Jon Miller who I listened to for years

    • Raymo

      November 28, 2021 at 5:52 pm

      … after I moved to the DC area in 1985. Nobody could paint a better picture with his voice.

    • Icterus fan

      November 28, 2021 at 9:04 pm

      Raymo, I remember that radio jingle very well. One line said “just a Father and son…having fun…together! Orioles Baseball!”
      Love it.

    • Raymo

      November 28, 2021 at 9:18 pm

      Yes! It was a catchy little jingle, and we still remember it after all this time.

  10. Buzz1979

    November 28, 2021 at 6:10 pm

    53 million for fat toad Garcia? WTF! Moves galore, but crickets at the Warehouse! Jon Miller could pass for Alan Hale,JR’s son!

    • CalsPals

      November 28, 2021 at 6:56 pm

      God bless the skipper…go O’s…

  11. WhyDoIBother

    November 28, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    Time to nix this segment IMO

  12. dlgruber1

    November 28, 2021 at 9:30 pm

    Gausman and Blue Jays agree to 5 year $110 million deal. Clearly the Jays felt the need to respond to the O’s picking up Cionel Perez.

  13. Buzz1979

    November 28, 2021 at 10:18 pm

    64-72 is now worth 110 million? That’s like a million and a half for each win, for a guy still recovering from Orioles bust status!

    • CalsPals

      November 29, 2021 at 7:48 am

      2.81 era, 227 K’s in 192 innings, I’m quite sure he earned this on his last two yrs, he should thank the Giants, tons of high dollar extensions going on, when the O’s gonna join the group…lol…go O’s…

  14. Mtairyordge

    November 30, 2021 at 12:15 pm

    I listened to Chuck Thompson and Bill O’Donell on a 9 volt transistor radio under the covers so mom and dad wouldn’t hear. Good times

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