Is Capt. Fanicus Magic trick or treat?

BASEBALL JOURNAL

June 23, 1994|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Sun Staff Writer

Children often stare at the man in the orange wig and black cape with a look of wonder, or is it fear? Adults smirk in amusement, or is it derision?

Either way, the fellow who shows up to about half the games at Camden Yards in the Orioles/Halloween outfit gets noticed. This would appear to be his main point, to become as much a ballpark spectacle as, say, The Bird.

"I don't like when people call me a clown," says the man behind the duck nose and funny glasses who likes to call himself Capt. Fanicus Magic. "I equate myself with being a mascot. . . . I'm addicted to excitement. I love excitement."

He also apparently loves the hometown team. Chris Noel, an Apostolic Christian and longtime Orioles fan, lines up life's priorities like this: "I would say Christ is my first love, the Orioles are second."

To express devotion, Noel -- a regular at Orioles games since 1968 -- shows up to 40, 50 games a year in the trick-or-treat outfit, hauling a shopping bag of props gathered over the years from Orioles promotions and magic shops.

Sometimes Noel dresses like this even while driving to the park from his job as a medical laboratory courier in Rockville, or from LTC his home in Wheaton. He's the one heading up Interstate 95 in the orange wig and black top hat, the one getting waves and other signals of recognition from passing motorists.

Perhaps they've seen that hair somewhere before.

True, fans of Colombian soccer star Carlos Valderrama have been known to wear big red wigs as a display of their affection. According to the Los Angeles Times, police at World Cup games have been told not to be alarmed by mobs of red-wigged fans. But at Camden Yards, this sort of thing stands out.

"He's a well-known guy," says one fan, who declines to give his name. "He's a meshuggener" says the fan, using the Yiddish word for a crazy person.

"He's trying to be an O's mascot, but he'll never make it," says usher Luther Miracle, who has seen the act and apparently is underwhelmed.

"The kids love me," Noel says, "the adults, ehhhh. . . ."

On Opening Day, Noel unfortunately attracted the attention of a ballpark thief. Somebody apparently reached into his prop bag when he wasn't looking and stole his orange-haired troll and his rubber shark.

"I had to buy new ones," he says.

Usher Pat Wiskman says fans sometimes complain that Noel's antics are irritating and that he claps too loudly, but "most people think he's a riot. I have people now, if they know they're going to have an extra ticket, they say, 'Is Chris here tonight? Send him down.' "

"Chris might be loud and he might get on people's nerves," says usher Mary Torres, but at least he's never drunk or profane.

Noel usually sits on the first base side, around Section 19. He's the one in the orange sweat pants, orange T-shirt, Orioles batting gloves and wristbands, Orioles eyeglasses with thick black frames. He's covered with buttons -- buttons with pictures of ballplayers, with images of Camden Yards, with pictures of flying bats.

"The only thing I'm missing is earrings. I wouldn't wear earrings because I'm a Christian," says Noel, who never attends games Thursday or Sunday evenings because of his obligations at church.

His faith, however, does not preclude him from practicing a style of cheering that seems to have been fashioned after the Shakespeare play featuring three witches huddled over a caldron. He casts spells, waves a black wand, shouts such things as: "Suck the blood out of him," and "Come on, Bolton, barbecue him."

No religious conflict there, says Noel: "I think of it as having fun. I don't look at myself as practicing black magic. I don't practice magic as a hobby."

Hard to say what he's practicing during the 10th and 11th innings of a Detroit Tigers game last month. Noel -- unaware of a reporter sitting a couple of rows behind him -- pulls the following items from a clear plastic shopping bag:

* a magic wand, which at one point he waves at Rafael Palmeiro, then at the right-field wall. Palmeiro promptly hits a home run over the right-field wall, tying the game 3-3.

* a troll doll with orange hair, around which he waves the wand.

* a plastic rat.

* a plastic bundle of dynamite, around which he waves the wand.

* two orange flags, which he points at Mike Devereaux in the manner of a conjurer. Devereaux lines out to the shortstop.

* an oversized pair of plastic scissors, the kind used by public officials at ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

* an orange plastic horn, which when blown makes a noise like a rutting yak.

* a cellular phone, which he dials and points at Detroit's Travis Fryman, who doubles.

Despite Noel's grandstand sorcery, the Orioles lose, 5-3. And though he thinks he looks better than many major-league baseball mascots and says, "I don't think I'd mind being a mascot," he has yet to receive an offer from the Orioles or any other team. He managed to be named an official Yardbird in a promotion by a T-shirt company and radio station last season, but the arrangement didn't last.

Nowadays he's on his own, in the stands staking out a far end of the fan/exhibitionist spectrum. Somebody has to do it.

"Maybe I have a childlike spirit," he says.

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