Homeless men see the boys of summer Shelter residents cheer the Orioles

April 03, 1993|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer

The homeless men at yesterday's exhibition game cheered the good plays and criticized the errors, especially those made by players earning big bucks.

They imitated Camden Yards' announcer Rex Barney and skipped the peanuts and Cracker Jack but loaded up on foods that stick to the ribs, like popcorn and pretzels.

And, of course, they rooted for the home team.

In other words, they acted like fans.

Exactly, say Stephen Chaikin and Marc Iorio, University of Baltimore law students whose nonprofit group, Project Hunger, took about 20 homeless men to yesterday's exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"For one day, this is how baseball should be," Mr. Iorio said. "For one day, everyone's equal and having fun, rooting for the O's."

The homeless men, most of whom live in the old firehouse on Eutaw Street that is now a city shelter, are either out of work or can't earn enough to afford their own homes. They spend their afternoons waiting for the shelter to open or looking for work. The club level seats overlooking left field were a welcome change in their routine.

Denver Moten, 40, grew up in Northwest Baltimore, worshiping the Orioles. The last time he saw a game, Frank Robinson was playing.

He wouldn't go to his seat until he watched from the bleachers fence as Mike Devereaux singled, bringing Brady Anderson home for the first run of the game. Then, when he saw the field for the first time, he gasped. "This is so pretty," Mr. Moten said.

Pretty, perhaps, but also cold. A wet breeze numbed hands and noses within minutes. No problem for these men, who know how to dress for much colder weather. They wore hats and layers of clothes to keep themselves warm.

Loren Williams pulled out an orange floppy Orioles hat, the remnant of some forgotten giveaway on 33rd Street.

"I got it off the donations table," explained the 27-year-old, who had

never seen a major league baseball game before. "You know, I'm big on having the right gear with me."

Mr. Williams knew little about the game, less about the Orioles. He's a Redskins fan, but he had a few observations about the action.

"All I know is that Ripken is the guy over there and he makes a lot of money," he said, pointing to Cal Ripken Jr.

Marc Dozier, 29, and a former Junior Oriole, reminisced about the players of his youth: Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell. But he was up-to-date on the Orioles of the '90s, too.

After all, he had spent last summer working on the cleaning crew at Camden Yards, but the minimum-wage job wasn't enough to get him out of the shelter.

"I'm still trying to find work," he said. "What I want to do is drive trucks, but I'll try anything."

The game ended -- the O's won 6-4 -- and the homeless men headed back to the shelter.

"You know, I've never been before," said Kenneth Cherry, who grew up in East Baltimore.

"But I plan to go to some more. Yes, I do."

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