Put out to Pasture

Commentary: Fiddledeedee, sniff the holdouts. But the majority of O's fans agree 'Country Boy' should be taken out of Camden Yards on a seventh-inning stretcher.

March 30, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN COLUMNIST

My fellow Orioles fans, I have a dream.

I dream that one day soon, the seventh-inning stretch will arrive at Camden Yards, the Taj Mahal of the Patapsco.

And on that day we fans will put down our $4 draft beers and $3.50 hot dogs and rise from our $20 seats, and a glorious song will burst forth over the sound system.

And this song will NOT be "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."

It will NOT be the song that for too long has made O's games sound like the cast picnic for "Hee Haw."

No, brothers and sisters, this will be a new song. A fresh song. A song befitting a proud franchise that currently, well, stinks, but hopes to regain its former luster and attract even more brie-eating, cell-phone-wielding yuppie scum to its games.

Are you with me on this, Orioles fans?

Oh, I think you are.

And why do I say this? I say this because of the response to last week's column, a thoughtful, well-reasoned screed (he said modestly) in which I argued that it was time to send "Country Boy" packing as the seventh-inning-stretch song.

Basically, I said it made O's fans look like a bunch of rubes.

Baltimore is a CITY, I said, not some hollow in West Virginia. You don't see anyone fiddlin' or rosinin' up any bows around here.

This may not be Paris, but we're not sloppin' the hogs before breakfast, either.

Anyway, in that column, I also asked Orioles fans for their input. Was I nuts? Did you want to keep the drippy John Denver standard the Orioles have been playing since the mid-1970s?

Or was it time for something new to get everyone, the true fans AND the chardonnay sippers, on their feet?

Well, the mail poured in. Oh, did it pour in.

This is the beauty of working for a newspaper.

Write about gun control or the school board and you're lucky to get two letters.

Write about something dopey like changing "Country Boy" and mailmen all over town get hernias from the response. Or your Internet server crashes from all the e-mails.

Anyway, as I suspected, lots of Orioles fans have had it up to here -- I'm holding my hand at my chin now -- with "Country Boy."

Chiming in

Of the 248 responses we received, a whopping 135 favored deep-sixing it as the stretch song. Only 113 readers advocated keeping `Country Boy," but they were an impassioned (if misguided) lot, as we'll see.

Predictably, much of the mail supporting "Country Boy" evoked memories of a time when it seemed easier to be an Orioles fan, a time when the gentle PA announcer, Rex Barney, was intoning "Give that fan a contract!" and every other person in the field-level seats wasn't reading the Wall Street Journal.

Eric Jones wrote: " `Thank God I'm a Country Boy' is the only link to what the Orioles used to be about -- community. [Complain] and moan about how it depicts Baltimoreans; you clearly miss the point. ... See, I grew up [with] the Orioles on 33rd Street. Guys like Ken Singleton, Rick Dempsey, Benny Ayala, Joe Nolan, Rich Dauer played hard and still signed autographs at Gate W7 after every game before bolting for Timonium or Reisterstown.

"Part of this nostalgic bender I'm on exists still in the memories of my childhood, and it's a shame that the magic of that time in that community is gone."

Mark Smolenski wrote: "Modern baseball in Baltimore has taken away three buck night, Nattie Boh at the stadium, Section 34 and Wild Bill Hagy, players who care about the fans, the ability to buy tickets the night of the game without standing in endless lines, and a lot of the good feeling formerly associated with the Baltimore Orioles.

"Hearing `Thank God I'm a Country Boy' is a brief respite from the greed and coldness of modern-day baseball."

Some of the "Country Boy" supporters also got rather, um, personal with their arguments.

David Groberg, an O's fan in Austin, Texas, wrote: "Kevin Cowherd is a moron. That column was dumb and that song is cool. If Wild Bill [Hagy] was around, he'd kick Kevin's [butt]."

Look, Mr. Groberg, I'm not going to descend to the childish level you have. All I'll say is: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

But let me say this about Wild Bill Hagy, the former O's superfan.

I KNOW Wild Bill Hagy. I've had a few beers with Wild Bill Hagy. And Wild Bill Hagy would NOT kick my, uh, butt. Mainly because he's a very nice man. But also because, when you drink as much beer as he does, what you're really interested in is a nap, not violence.

Dan Clabaugh wrote: "Maybe we need to get rid of you. I grew up with `Thank God I'm a Country Boy' and have no desire to see it changed. Anything that can make the [stuffy] crowd at [Camden Yards] get on their feet and make a little noise is OK in my book.

"Anyway, with a name like COW-HERD this should be your theme song."

So it's come to this, eh, Mr. CLAY-BORE?

Making fun of people's names?

Oh, that'll really advance the dialogue here. Maybe the Palestinians and Israelis could take a lesson from you the next time they sit at the negotiating table. ("Hey, Chairman Ara-FAT!")

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