Character Lane was Dream St. for a sightseer FROM US TO YOU, A LAST HURRAH THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: THREE EVENING SUN COLUMNISTS SAY SO LONG

September 15, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

And then there was the time . . .

One night, a well-known pitcher for the Red Sox was apprehended on Charles Street for spitting on the sidewalk or something. Taken to a police sub-station, he was advised he could use the telephone once. Without hesitation, he called out for Chinese food.

* It was another one of those Eli Hanover fight nights at Steelworkers Hall on Dundalk Avenue and a couple of earnest light heavyweights were giving their all in the ring when a man slid up to ringside. He hollered to Wild Bill Hardney, "Party at Loretta's afterward." Bill nodded just as he took a right hand upside the head.

The punch was followed by a few more and Hardney needed a rest. He dived for the floor right above where a couple of reporters were sitting, winked and said, "At this rate, I think I might get to Loretta's before the party begins."

Wild Bill arose, won the fight and was the toast of the frivolity later.

* Of course, any compilation such as this stroll down Character Lane would have to include something on the red-faced owner of the old Colts, Bob Irsay.

It starts with "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" in Philadelphia, Sept. 29, 1975. After being named coach on Valentine's Day the year before, Howard Schnellenberger was off to a rough start the next season and Irsay had seen enough.

Late in a 30-10 loss to the Eagles in Philly, Irsay caught the express elevator to the bowels of Veterans Stadium while general manager Joe (Promise) Thomas was on the local. By the time Joe got there, Irsay poked him in the chest and said, "You're the coach, the other guy's gone."

Thomas, according to star back Lydell Mitchell, was "the greatest coach ever: He doesn't know how to run a practice and we're off the field in about 40 minutes."

Eight years later and after deep-sixing Ted Marchibroda, Irsay had the itch again, pulling the plug on Mike McCormack, who had coached two seasons.

Mike recalled he knew he was gone when Irsay started calling the plays. There the men sat in a dirty, smelly and empty Orange Bowl locker room, alone after another loss. Irsay was explaining the situation and slowly pitching forward, perhaps due to liquid influences, and every 30 seconds or so McCormack would reach over and nudge a shoulder back so he wouldn't topple off his stool into the cement floor, forehead first.

* One summer afternoon in 1972, George Wallace, campaigning for the presidency, was shot down in a shopping mall in Laurel. Word came forth from the newspaper that the thoughts on what had transpired should be gathered up from many.

Paul Blair was the first Orioles player approached at Memorial Stadium. He thought for a moment and said, "Tell them I didn't do it."

* One of the great moments in Baltimore sports franchise history, perhaps even rivaling the move of the St. Louis Browns here in 1954, is when the city landed a team, the Banners, in the World Team Tennis loop. Better yet, Jimmy Connors was drafted, although Jimbo's contract called for $3,000 per appearance. It wasn't long until management, viewing the sea of empty seats at the then-Civic Center, prayed the star wouldn't be on hand.

One night, the Banners were hosting the Boston Lobsters and its --ing left-hander, Roger Taylor from England. About a hundred times, a man in the upper concourse west bellowed the name "Herbie," not once getting a reply. Finally, Taylor could take no more. He stopped play, flung his racket to the floor and screamed, "Who the hell is Herbie and why don't you answer this fool?"

* Tell you what made reserve catcher Clay Dalrymple such a favorite among people traveling with the 100-win Orioles of the early 1970s: He was the common man, selling plumbing supplies in the off-season back home in Philadelphia.

Also, he used his wit and experience perfectly when the situation called for it. One night after the team had flown to the West Coast after an extended losing streak at home (two games), all hands were tired and miserable and in need of a pick-me-up as the bus pulled up at the Grand Hotel in Anaheim at 3 a.m.

The party was staggering toward the entrance when, after about a 10-yard sprint, Clay pulled off a perfect shallow-water dive into a decorative little flower pond, no deeper than 15 inches. Several frogs jumped out of the water to a thunderous ovation. Lights flashed on all over the hotel. The O's won two dozen games in the next week.

* In 1973, Maryland gained a spot in the Peach Bowl against Georgia, and the assignment led to accompanying former Baltimore Colts kickabouts Alex Hawkins and Jimmy Orr in Atlanta for several days (but mostly nights). "Hawk" ended up voting for a certain young lady in the bowl queen competition "because it always rains the night of the game and she'll look best in a raincoat." On second thought, the rest of that caper was rated NC-17.

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