Who's responsible for O's latest flame up?

July 20, 1999|By KEN ROSENTHAL

A fire broke out at Camden Yards yesterday. And the Orioles' bullpen wasn't even responsible.

No one knows why a section of the roof above the ivy-covered wall beyond center field burst into flames at approximately 4 p.m.

Electrical causes were ruled out, as was human sacrifice. But the proximity of the fire to the bullpens was curious, to say the least.

Won't the Orioles ever get it right?

We said fire sale, not fire.

And when we said, "blow it up," we meant the team, not the park.

The Orioles declared the matter closed -- the investigation, that is, not the season -- but through its usual intrepid reporting, The Sun developed a list of possible suspects:

Owner Peter Angelos. Two sources spotted the owner inside the warehouse yesterday, trying to run Albert Belle's contract through a paper shredder.

Two other sources spotted him hurling the contract out of a warehouse window toward the wall, where it ignited in spontaneous combustion.

General manager Frank Wren. Everything else is his fault, isn't it? Actually, it was a relief to find Wren in his private box last night. Some feared that he had set himself aflame in protest of Angelos' oppressive management style.

Manager Ray Miller. All season long, he has tried to light a fire under the Orioles. Could it be that he finally succeeded, but missed the clubhouse by 400 feet?

New York Mets reliever Armando Benitez. Supposedly reformed as an arsonist, but there's a smoking gun, and we don't mean the one registering 100 mph.

Yesterday's fire started near the spot where Marquis Grissom's three-run homer landed in Game 2 of the 1997 American League Championship Series.

One season up in smoke, now another.

Injured Met Bobby Bonilla. Spotted on Eutaw Street at 3: 36 p.m., mumbling to himself while fumbling with a pack of matches and one of Davey Johnson's 1996 lineup cards that said, "Bonilla -- DH."

Albert Belle. Nope, can't nail the big guy for this one. He was sitting by his locker, playing with magic markers.

Think we're kidding?

Belle posted a second homemade sign next to his locker Sunday night, right below his orange-and-black directive asking reporters to request interviews through his Web site.

This one was in blue and yellow letters, and don't interpret that as Belle's subliminal desire to be traded to a team with those colors -- there is none.

" 1/2 a year down, 4 1/2 years to go so don't fight it and show me some LOVE. AB."

If you cut out the letters, make certain additions and deletions, then read them backward, Belle's true message becomes clear:

"I'm keeping my no-trade, sucker."

Seriously, you've got to be touched by a lonely heart's plea for affection. Who knew that Belle was a flower child?

Presumably, he intended his message for reporters, not his teammates -- or owner. But given Belle's unique comedic skills, you can never be sure.

"4 1/2 years to go" -- it sounds like a prison sentence.

Of course, most inmates aren't earning $13 million per year.

The Baltimore-Washington chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America immediately gathered for an emergency meeting, trying to determine the proper response to Belle's request for love.

A group hug was proposed then rejected.

A diamond necklace, a bouquet of roses, a box of chocolates -- let others shower Belle with empty material gifts.

I plan to write him a sonnet.

Not that Belle would have time to read it, with all the activity on his Web site.

Never mind that he no longer can hit with runners in scoring position.

He's the Tolstoy of baseball.

"The Orioles need to win 54 games to have a realistic shot at the wild card," Belle wrote yesterday, apparently counting from the All-Star break, when the Orioles were 36-51.

"It's going to be hard, hard, hard, but it is possible I don't care what anybody else says, with the talent we have in this clubhouse, we can win!"

Well, the last-place Orioles are only a half-game behind Tampa Bay.

On the same post, Belle offered congratulations to the Orioles' all-stars, get-well wishes to Sparky Anderson and condolences to the Kennedy family.

He chided Orioles fans for booing Benitez on Sunday, saying, "I just don't think that's right." He also misspelled Cal Ripken's last name, going with Ripkin.

(Yo, AB: Just make like your writer friends, and blame your editor.)

In any case, there is no truth to the rumor that club officials spent last night prowling the bleachers at Camden Yards, trying to find a fan who might have seen Belle sitting atop the ivy-covered wall at about 4 p.m., burning his bats.

Belle didn't start the fire.

The bullpen didn't start the fire.

How can this city sleep when the culprit remains at large?

Pub Date: 7/20/99

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