Royals visit the players at the park NO STICKY WICKETS

May 16, 1991|By Patrick Ercolano and Carl Schoettler | Patrick Ercolano and Carl Schoettler,Evening Sun Staff

So Queen Elizabeth II dropped into Baltimore for a couple of innings of baseball last night but she didn't look excited enough by her first ball game for the Orioles to figure her to be a season ticket buyer next season.

Don't look for a Royal Box at the new stadium.

The queen did take off her gloves at one point, which may be an indication of royal emotion. But generally speaking, she watched the O's-Oakland game with the bemused expression of a doting mother whose kids have taken her out for what they think is an evening of fun.

She maintained a diplomatic neutrality, neither booing the call when Oakland's Dave Henderson crashed past Oriole catcher Chris Hoiles in a close play at home, nor objecting when Randy Milligan lost a home run when an umpire called his long hit to the right field stands foul.

The queen no doubt heard the fans yell a familiar ballpark epithet presumably never used at the Court of St. James's or printable in this newspaper. But she remained unruffled. The queen's profession consists in part of maintaining a sober demeanor during these episodes of colonial unruliness.

At Memorial Stadium, the queen sat in Eli S. Jacobs' owner's skybox with her husband, Prince Philip, President and Mrs. Bush, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney and his wife, baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and Mrs. Hurd and Gov. William Donald Schaefer, the only hometown boy in the box.

At a pregame reception for the Queen, George Will, columnist, Oriole fan, anglophile and part-time baseball philosopher, was among the guests too numerous and famous to mention.

"Will Will explain the game to her?" Larry Lucchino, Oriole president, was asked.

"No, the president will," Lucchino said. "He's sitting next to her."

The queen did occasionally look perplexed and both the President and Mrs. Bush seemed to be explaining the action to her now and again during the two innings or so she was at the ballpark.

The queen, the president and their spouses greeted both teams in the Oriole dugout. The queen shook hands and uttered various pleasantries with a display of discreet royal animation. Prince Philip looked faintly distracted, as if he might have preferred to be shooting grouse.

Reggie Jackson, the erstwhile slugger who once played a would-be assassin of the queen in a movie called "The Naked Gun," took off his cap and said, "It's nice to meet you, your royal highness.

"She's a lady, a lady of the world," Jackson said of the queen.

"What'd she say to you?"

"I don't remember."

Hometown pitcher Dave Johnson laughed when he was asked, "How's it feel for a boy from Middle River to shake the queen's hand?"

"I like this guy," he said to his teammates. "He knows where I'm from. I thought he was going to drop a Dundalk on me.

"It was pretty nice," Johnson said. "I'd never get an opportunity to do something like that if I wasn't with the Orioles."

Randy Milligan wanted to talk to the president a little but the line kept moving him along.

"The queen? She was nice. She didn't say much. I think I got a 'Hello.' It was nice."

"Do you think this will make you guys play any better?"

"We'll see, won't we?" Milligan said.

He did just fine, hitting two home runs and maybe getting robbed of a third. The team, of course, remained uninspired even Her Majesty.

But nevertheless, Juan Bell, the utility infielder, vowed never again to wash his hand.

"I've been touched by the queen," he said.

Her hand-shaking duties done, Queen Elizabeth stepped onto the field and gave the crowd her little bit of a royal wave. The crowd gave her a nice cheer. You could of thought she hit a game-winning home run.

Not everyone was cheering her.

About 150 anti-British protesters -- members of such pro-Irish groups as the Irish Northern Aid Committee, the International Community for Justice in Ireland and the Ancient Order of Hibernians -- gathered in a block of seats in section 29, the right field bleachers.

They booed the queen while she shook hands, waved green, white and orange Irish flags and chanted "Hey, Hey, I-R-A."

The IRA -- the underground Irish Republican Army -- fights for the independence from Britain of Northern Ireland. The IRA is banned in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the British call them terrorists.

"I guess we're all here to let the queen know that we're aware of the human rights abuses committed by English forces in Northern Ireland," said Paul Fiolkowski, who came on his motorcycle all the way from Haddon Heights, N.J. He belongs to the South Jersey chapter of the Irish-American Unity Conference.

An earnest-looking chap with short-cropped red hair, Fiolkowski said: "Maybe our presence here won't change anything, but we want to let people know that English democracy is not all it's cracked up to be."

The protesters were a good 400 feet from the queen's skybox and it's very unlikely she heard any of their chants or, in fact, could read their banners.

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