Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" blared over the loudspeaker. Lisa Rothe of Greenbelt plunged into her plate of nachos. And then, just as the sun took a convenient dip, Her Majesty, the Queen of England, her most prim, her most proper, stepped into Memorial Stadium to mix it up at an O's game.
She waved that little wavette of hers, and the crowd stood, whistled, cheered and, of course, pulled out cameras and binoculars that were more abundant last night than baseball caps.
"She looks kind of simple, not what I expected," said Pam Brown, a student at the Institute of Notre Dame. "She looks more common than I thought."
"She's short," said Don Colbert of Greenbelt.
"I wonder if she has the hots for Cal Ripken," wondered Ms. Rothe.
It was a night of charming contrasts and delicious incongruities: Ripkens and royals; vivid red carpets throughout the otherwise no-frills stadium lobby; limousines and T-shirts; fans carrying seat cushions in one hand, a bunch of mums for the queen in the other; and crowds who had been waiting for hours to get a glimpse of the royal guests pitted against Irish protesters there to denounce them.
Before the game, a large crowd had gathered and an aura of excitement was palpable.
"It's just more hectic; there's just more people coming than we expected," said Tim Snyder, a parking lot attendant. "It's a little harder to park them because Secret Service and police are taking up so many spots and the whole lot gets rearranged. He added: "I think it's great. There's more people here; everyone is making more money."
"It's something different!" said usher Nick Vicchio, a nine-year Memorial Stadium veteran. "We've had movie stars, we've had Joan Jett. But I think this tops all of them!"
"You can feel the excitement and the tension in the air," said June Kinnear, a volunteer at the Beers of the World stand. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With the queen comes the pageantry, and everybody's hyped up."
The crowd, often glancing up to the sky box for a peek at the queen, Prince Philip and the Bushes, seemed suitably well-behaved during the 2 1/2 innings the august visitors stayed. Even Irish Republican Army sympathizers, who shouted, "Hey, hey, IRA," outside the stadium before the game, stopped their cries once the game began.
There was the usual shout of "Oh!" during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- amid which Prince Philip turned to Mrs. Bush with a look of bemusement -- as 18 Bryn Mawr students sang the national anthem and Britain's "God Save the Queen." Student Julie Rubin, 18, said she didn't feel nervous at all. "I could probably do this in my sleep," referring to all the rehearsals that had taken place during the past two weeks. Jessica Wolf, 17, added, "It's pretty incredible."
Although many in the crowd said they'd planned to attend the game anyway, most agreed the queen's presence was an added bonus.
"I've been thinking about this all day at work," said Joan Gisriel of Arbutus, waving a Union Jack that she had just purchased at the stadium for $3.50. (Outside the stadium, Alan Walters offered a special T-shirt -- a picture of the queen waving atop Memorial Stadium with the inscription "I watched the O's play with Queen Elizabeth." But as of 9 p.m., the vendor reported that he had not sold a single one.)
Mildred Voss of Overlea came equipped with binoculars and telephoto lens, determined to get a look. "I think it's kind of thrilling. I hope the game isn't too boring for her. It's exciting for me, in any case. This makes up for the Orioles' disappointing season so far."
But others, who had nothing even remotely close to baseball on their minds, came to last night's game for one thing only.
"I really don't like baseball," said Julie Wise of Millersville, among the hundreds of royal watchers, some waving British flags, who stood outside the stadium awaiting the queen and her entourage. "To be honest, I'm not actually here to see the game. I'm just here to see the queen."
The Windsor family from Harford County hoped for the opportunity to tell Queen Elizabeth that they're most likely related to her. And Jane Katz of Baltimore, whose only interest at the stadium was a regal one, said she'd been practicing her own queenlike wave. "At work, that's all we do now," said the Johns Hopkins University employee.
Sarah Myers, an 18-year-old college student from Fallston, said that she was hoping to get the word to Prince Edward that she is available. "Put this in print so he'll see it," she said.