Rowdy fan, Ripken sound off Heckler wants autograph, gets jeers from player, surrounding fans instead


March 28, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

JUPITER, Fla. -- Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken became the target of a heckler in the second inning of yesterday's 4-0 loss to the Montreal Expos, exchanging angry words with the frustrated fan who was seated in the first row of seats behind home plate at Roger Dean Stadium.

The fan apparently was upset because his son had been unsuccessful in several efforts to get Ripken's autograph. He was close enough to be heard easily at home plate, and a clearly agitated Ripken barked back at him on a couple of occasions.

"The only thing that I'm upset about is that I didn't handle it very well," Ripken said afterward. " I think what he said was wrong, but I didn't handle it right so I was wrong, too."

Expos coach Gary Carter spent 10 minutes talking to the fan and trying to smooth things over, but he didn't endear himself with the Orioles when he gave the guy a ball -- essentially rewarding him for his boorish behavior.

Ripken, whose reputation for accommodating fans is legendary, spent nearly 90 minutes after the game signing autographs, but the heckler left the game under a barrage of verbal abuse from other fans during the middle innings.

"It's a shame," said manager Ray Miller. "The guy said that he couldn't get an autograph for his 5-year-old kid. I'd like to get the guy's address and have everybody in the country that Cal has signed an autograph for send him an envelope with no postage so he'd owe about $6 million.

"People come to a baseball game and expect an autograph with the price of their ticket. You go to a basketball game, a football game or a rock concert, nobody stands out there and signs autographs. This is the only sport in the world where people sign autographs, and he's the best."

Miller 'really pleased'

The Orioles will head north after today's exhibition game against the New York Mets, the club assured of completing the preseason schedule with a lopsided winning record and Miller reassured that it is ready for prime time.

There have been some bumps and bruises along the way, but the club has accomplished what Miller wanted it to during its six-week stay in South Florida.

"I'm really pleased with the way we've gone about the little things," Miller said. "We've hit-and-run a little more. We've advanced runners. I like those kinds of things. I like people who think about that. I think we've won every one-run game this spring except one."

For the record, the Orioles have won four of the five exhibition games decided by one run.

Erickson's spring closeout

Right-hander Scott Erickson gave up four runs on seven hits over five innings in his final start of the exhibition season. He took the loss and finished the exhibition season with a 2-2 record and a 4.08 ERA.

Three relievers -- all left-handers -- followed him to the mound and each pitched a scoreless inning. Doug Johns gave up one hit, Jesse Orosco gave up two hits and Arthur Rhodes pitched a hitless eighth.

Surhoff lone star

There weren't a lot of offensive highlights, not with Expos ace Carlos Perez giving up just two singles over five innings and three Expos relievers joining in the combined shutout.

Left fielder B. J. Surhoff had two of the six Orioles hits to raise his spring average to .293.

Charlton on a roll

Reliever Norm Charlton is picking up some momentum as the club prepares to return to Baltimore. He still has an inflated 6.55 ERA, but he has given up just one hit over his last four innings.

"I think he and Flanny [pitching coach Mike Flanagan] have a good thing going," said Miller. "Norm is a very coachable guy, but it needs to be revisited. He needs to be updated."

Older or wiser?

Miller refuses to apologize for the advanced age of his ballclub and has told the club to take full advantage of the experience that comes with it.

"I told the team not to let this veteran thing become a crutch, but an asset," Miller said. "We can take those Jurassic Park comments and tell them that the dinosaurs ate everybody."

Pub Date: 3/28/98

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