So far, Orioles fans are immune to playoff fever Calm pervades ballpark in season's final weeks

September 08, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

The traffic flowed smoothly. The lines at the ticket office were short. The fans, as has been their habit at Camden Yards, were orderly. Another -- yawn -- sellout would be in place.

If pennant fever has hit Baltimore, it's strictly low-grade.

"I think they're starting to feel it," Karen Kearns, a bartender at Bambino's Pub, said a couple of hours before last night's game between the Orioles and New York Yankees. "I think they're feeling cautious."

"The fans are responding to the team," said Orioles instructor Rick Dempsey, who has had plenty of time to observe the fans this year. "They're used to seeing miraculous things happen, and they haven't happened yet. I don't think they believe we're a winner yet."

From the club seats behind home plate to the bleachers behind right field, caution was the watchword. There was no sense of getting too excited, since the Orioles were still in second place, still looking up at the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.

But that could change.

"Once we hit first place, we'll start to feel it," said Kearns, who worked at Memorial Stadium during the 1983 pennant drive.

"It's too relaxed," said fellow bartender Buster Earl. "Even though the windows are soundproofed, you can't hear the roar of the crowd. It's going to change this month."

"I think the fans are really optimistic," Orioles center fielder Brady Anderson said after last night's 13-inning, 6-2 loss. "The fans I talk to say, 'You're going to win the World Series -- nothing less.' It's hard for me to say that anything's reserved about their optimism."

Earl, known to his friends as "Goof," has thought about ways of getting the fans fired up. One of his friends suggested getting dressed up as "The Yard Dog" and woofing his way through the stands like some sort of canine Bill Hagy.

Or, perhaps, Earl could do what he did last September. When Orioles owner Eli Jacobs and Gov. William Donald Schaefer were fighting over the name of the new stadium, Earl was the guy who went up on the roof in Steeltown and didn't come down until they agreed on one.

"The goof on the roof, that's me," said Earl, who was up there for 23 days.

Maybe Earl could camp out on the warehouse until the Orioles catch the Blue Jays. "It's only a matter of a couple of days," said Earl.

Not everyone in and around Camden Yards last night sounded so confident. The recently completely West Coast trip seemed to raise as many questions at the beginning and the end as it answered during the seven-game winning streak in between.

"It's going to be rough," said Fred Pound of Dundalk, a longtime season-ticket holder at Memorial Stadium attending his first game at Camden Yards. "The young pitchers haven't been through it before, and Toronto has."

"I think '89 got everyone up, and the fans aren't really sure because our pitching's been hot and cold," said Clay Cieslak, a South Baltimore native now living in Columbia. "That's really got to get us through."

Cieslak, a marketing director, has been coming to Orioles games since Opening Day at Memorial Stadium in 1954. He was there on Opening Day this season and thinks the behavior of the crowd is directly influenced by the team -- and manager -- it's watching.

"[Johnny] Oates has a lot to do with the subduedness," said Cieslak. "Earl used to get everyone fired up with the antics. There's not a lot of outward emotion. It also has to do with the newness of the stadium. At Memorial Stadium, there were real baseball fans. Here there are more people still coming for the novelty of the ballpark."

Cieslak was standing in one of the only rowdy sections of the stadium: the standing-room area behind right field, where fans mugged each other for batting practice home run balls. Everywhere else, serenity prevailed.

"It's a different class of people," said Mike Lato, in his 34th season as an usher at Orioles games. "You don't see anybody getting knocked around here like you did at the old stadium."

Dempsey had a suggestion.

"Maybe I'll have to go into the bullpen and stir things up," he said.

Better than going up on a roof.

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