Warning: Watching Orioles may be hazardous to your neck

John Steadman

May 01, 1992|By John Steadman

That Baltimore's new $205 million baseball park represents a pain in the neck for some of the spectators is, indeed, a condition requiring serious attention. The time is now.

Seats from first base to right field and third base to left field are not pointed toward the infield, so ticket buyers have to turn their heads at a 45-degree angle for the better part of nine innings. Their bodies are located in seats that are comfortable but to observe the pitcher, catcher and batter, they need to rotate their necks to an awkward position.

Attorney Paul Harris said the person responsible for the gaffe ought to be arrested. We don't know if the mistake deserves such punishment, but the Orioles need to rectify the problem. Reporter Richard Irwin of The Evening Sun said his neck endured such trauma he had to take medication to gain relief. He also spent the better part of the following day, after watching the team's last home game, in what he described as a bed of pain.

Another fan, Raymond Loring, seated near where Irwin was located, was unhappy having to spend nine innings looking at the warehouse instead of the view afforded by the inner harbor. "If the team wanted to build offices in that old building, OK, but I think they should have put some kind of an opening in all that brick to eliminate the monotony it creates," he said.

Loring didn't incur a neck problem from his vantage point but says he heard numerous complaints. It has been suggested the Orioles engage a team of masseurs and masseuses to give rubdowns at the end of 4 1/2 innings. The intent would be to have them move through the first base and third base areas massaging the necks of anyone in need of assistance.

This would be a welcome public relations gesture. After all, a fan going to see the Orioles , win or lose, shouldn't have to risk the chance of leaving the park with a neck that won't turn properly. What can the team do to alleviate the problem and keep the customers happy?

Instead of staffing the ballpark with orthopedic specialists and medical attendants, the Orioles should be receptive to all workable suggestions. Simply, at the end of 4 1/2 innings, if fans down the left-field line could exchange places with those in similar seats along the right-field line, it would help maintain a physical balance, or a certain comfort, in each individual neck and possibly reduce some of the potential for pain.

Admittedly, it would offer problems in how to get the group from left to right and vice versa at the halfway juncture of the game. Yet there is a way. The Orioles might be able to bring back a dance that has lost favor in America. Why not the conga? Ex-Oriole Willie Miranda, the foremost conga dancer in the area, could be used for the extravaganza.

Two conga lines would work perfectly. They could conga from one side of the park to the other. It was Manhattan College which introduced baseball's seventh-inning stretch, a ritual that allows the crowd to stand, free itself of tension and enjoy a brief moment of relaxation.

Why couldn't Baltimore invent the baseball conga? The so-called "Baltimore Chop" is pure myth as any self-respecting historian can tell you. But doing the conga at the ballpark would be a worthy introduction, plus preventing the ache that accompanies a stiff neck.

Leaders of the conga line could be selected by a series of tryouts. It would be a momentous experience if Oriole owner Eli Jacobs and club president Larry Lucchino considered assuming conga line leadership. At least temporarily. The fans would, first-off, enjoy seeing them.

Both have a reputation of being somewhat shy. This way, they could break out of their shells, so to speak, and personalize their presence with the ballpark constituency. It would be an overwhelming public relations gesture on their part.

Had the late Bill Veeck, master ballpark host, conceived of establishing a conga line after 4 1/2 innings, to enable fans to trade places with those on the opposite side, it's reasonable to believe he would have implemented it with the major-league clubs he owned. The conga could be cued to an organ accompaniment that the new park, hopefully, may be adding. Another enjoyable aspect would thus be created. It also may lift some fans out of sedentary ways and prevent their going home with a pain-in-the neck, which they don't deserve.

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