A Plenitude of Fanitude They wrote in verse and prose, well-spelled and not, sharing -- one and all -- an extravagance of affection for their highflying Birds.

October 04, 1997

Who is a fan, what is a fan, where is a fan, when is a fan and, most importantly, why is a fan?

The Fan has been pondering the nature of fanhood lately. Two weeks ago, she put out a call: Show her the mania. Cry her a river of orange and black. Prove your Orioles fanitude in song, prose, poetry, costume or crayon, and maybe The Fan would pick you as her guest to today's game.

She left out shameless begging, wanton flattery and outright bribery, but she got some of that too among the nearly 100 submissions. Pictures of tattooed body parts and dogs dressed like the Oriole Bird. Poems that were exquisitely rendered -- does The Fan hear traces of Lucille Clifton in her mail from St. Mary's College? -- and others that would stand up to any slam. Penciled, misspelled letters from kids (she hopes they were from kids) and quick jottings from e-mailers.

The Fan may have to retire her title and perhaps her pen. There are some really good fans out there and -- this is the worrisome part -- some of them can really write.

Here are some excerpts from a poem titled "Dear Ms. Fan," by Jocelyn Farrar, an instructor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing: "We'll root for Eric and cheer for Raf,

and when Griffey strikes out, we'll just plain laugh!

The Chief will wow us on the right,

while B.J., in left, will be an awesome sight.

And Lenny behind the plate will be,

as the Moose floats the Mariners out to sea.

And finally as the evening fades,

we'll watch as Randy throws grenades ..."

The Fan got Top 10 lists -- she particularly liked No. 4 on John

Kight's "Reasons O's Will Win World Series This Year: " "Billy the Marlin found a lesion near his back fin." She received one woman's confession that the O's were so deep in her brain that her computer password is now "Ledesma."

The breadth of the Oriole constituency is pretty amazing: The Fan received pleas from Hawaii, Maine, California and Florida as well as nearer reaches of Birdland.

Most touching were the requests from people who asked The Fan to take someone other than themselves to the game.

"If my essay is deemed the winner, I cannot attend," one man from Hagerstown wrote. (The Fan checked, and he indeed can't -- he's currently serving a life sentence.) "I would ask that you contact the Ripkens, and ask them or the director of their literacy foundation for the name of the child who is their best student and would most enjoy going to the game."

Some letters, The Fan suspects, were ghostwritten.

"Dear Fan:

"My dad is the best Oriole fan! He takes me to games with him and I know.

"He told me that he was away in Boston for four years rooting against the Redsox at a place called Fenway Park. . . . In 1988 during a 21-game losing streak he said he remained celibate til the O's won. I don't know what celibate means, but he said it wasn't that tough considering his opportunities, or lack thereof. . . .

"Dad took me to my first O's game when I was three, . . . and I was upset because we were losing. Dad told me to stop crying and just take a look around. He said we were in the best ballpark in the world, here with our team, and with our fans. This was the best place to be. It didn't matter that we were losing, that's part of the game. The most important thing is to stick by your team no matter what. . . . He said this because one day your team is going to win and it's going to feel a lot better knowing you've been there for the long haul.

"Well now the O's are winning and I want my dad [Michael Hochman of Annapolis] to be there. He taught me what it takes to be a fan, just like you. . . . GO O'S!!! Very Truly Yours, Austin Hochman."

One woman had a ticket, but had given it away. "Dear Fan, I'm old! Medicare hits -- December!" wrote Sheila Haynie of Marriottsville. "Loved O's since Brooksie came to Baltimore. Gave grandson ticket to Game A as 15th birthday gift. Can't afford me, too!"

Two employees of Second Source Electronics in Eldersburg nominated their co-worker, Tony Giordano, one of those crazed fans who just does it: Goes to Cal's 2,131st game without a ticket and gets in; has a story behind every ball he's caught during batting practice, and knows how to get from under the stadium to the warehouse and into the Orioles offices. (Hmmmm.) But here's the real reason the co-workers nominated him: "If you take him, I get the ticket he already has!"

The Fan almost took this kid, just for trying:

"Dear O's fan," one correspondent began. "I like the O's alout. I and my dad and brother have more than 3,000 baseball cards. We sometimes we do not leave with out a Cal Ripkin Jr. baseball card. Are favrit baseball person is Cal Ripkin Jr. I'm 8 years old. I bin liking basball for 5 years. If I win the sad part is my dad and my brother do'nt git to come. We iven have a Wedes box whith Cal Ripkin Jr on it. We think it werth 78 dollers. Signed by Alex Holland."

Another sentimental favorite: the haiku by Joel I. Nathanson of Baltimore titled, "In Memory of Rex Barney":

A long, high pop foul

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