Time to talk to the Big Man

Song: With `Thank God I'm a Country Boy' ringing discordantly in our ears, face time with Peter Angelos is in order.

April 04, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN COLUMNIST

The sky was the color of scrap metal yesterday and thick dark clouds floated overhead as you nosed your car in the direction of Camden Yards for the Orioles Opening Day extravaganza.

But you, you didn't care if the weatherman was calling for twisters to touch down.

You were a man on a mission. It was time to sit down with the Big Man. Time to seek out Orioles owner Peter Angelos and present him with the results of a recent Sun poll that showed a clear majority of fans favor getting rid of John Denver's rube anthem "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" as the O's seventh-inning stretch song.

This was important stuff. If the incredible response to this poll was any indication, the fate of "Country Boy" had become the single most important issue facing this city.

The mayor, Martin O'Malley, had gone on record a few days earlier as saying the team needed a new stretch song. Talk radio shows had asked callers to weigh in on the subject. At least one local TV station had addressed the matter in a hard-hitting, man-on-the-street segment on its 6 o'clock news.

So it was time for a little tete-a-tete with Mr. Angelos. Time to lay the cards on the table. Time to find out where he stood on this all-important issue, whether he would listen to the will of the people and can this horrid hayseed standard once and for all.

Actually, the quest to sit down with Angelos began last Friday afternoon with a phone call to the Big Man's downtown law offices.

The antiseptic voice of a veteran, no-nonsense secretary answered. It was the kind of voice that might inform you your subscription to Time had lapsed.

"Peter Angelos, please," you said to this gatekeeper to the Inner Sanctum. "This is The Sun calling on a matter of utmost urgency."

"Mr. Angelos is on another line," the voice said. "Can he return your call?"

You bet he can, hon.

For an instant, you considered telling her the nature of your business with Mr. Angelos. But who knew if she'd appreciate the gravity of the situation?

Or maybe she was one of Them, one of the poor, misguided people who still think the O's have a snazzy stretch song in the moribund John Denver ditty they've been playing since 1975.

Anyway, Friday afternoon turned into Friday evening and still you sat by the phone, waiting for the Big Man's call.

All over town, happy hour was in full swing. All over town, people were laughing and swilling Coronas and gnawing happily on buffalo wings in crowded bistros.

But not you. You sat there staring at the phone. Sadly, the call from the Big Man never came.

So yesterday you joined the sellout crowd at Camden Yards. And once you'd ascended to the press box, you marched up to Orioles PR czar Bill Stetka.

"I need some face-time with the Big Man," you told Stetka. "It's about the whole `Country Boy' issue."

"I'll try," said Stetka. He said Mr. Angelos was entertaining friends in his private skybox and was very busy.

"TOO BUSY TO ADDRESS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE?!" you thundered, but by this time, Stetka was out of earshot.

Anyway, the Orioles took the field, and the game with the evil Cleveland Indians commenced. Every few innings, Stetka would dutifully ring the Big Man's skybox.

And each time, the answer was the same: Mr. Angelos was unavailable.

Finally, with the Orioles trailing 2-1 on the way to a 4-1 loss, it was time for the seventh-inning-stretch.

Over the PA system, the customary introductory strains of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" hung momentarily in the air. And then, yes, here came the familiar screechy sound of "Country Boy," the grating "Hee-Haw" ode that continues to embarrass so many Orioles fans.

But gazing out over the packed stadium, you saw an amazing sight.

Oh, yes, the fans were on their feet, stretching. But very few were clapping along. Even fewer were singing along. The crowd didn't seem into it at all.

Instead, "Country Boy" was producing one big, collective yawn.

So with your deadline looming, you left the stadium and raced back to The Sun.

And as soon as you sat down to write, the phone rang. It was Stetka. There had been a communications mix-up. Mr. Angelos, Stetka said, had been perfectly willing to discuss the "Country Boy" issue.

The Big Man had even issued a statement in regard to this important issue.

" `Country Boy' has been a big part of the Orioles baseball experience," the statement read. "We've always listened to our fans, and they have expressed a desire to keep the song in years past."

"But," the statement continued -- and here, friends, is what should give all right-thinking Orioles fans hope -- "we'll certainly listen ... if there's another song that strikes a chord with them."

Hallelujah! A ray of hope on a bleak Opening Day! Hope that someday soon, a new song, a fresh song, will usher in the seventh-inning for stressed-out O's fans.

Oh, yes, friends, we'll be requesting another sit-down with Mr. Angelos soon.

And this time we'll bring our alternate play-list.

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