Character study

Orioles at 50

From Wild Bill Hagy to the Lemonade Shaking Guy, eccentric figures have long been a staple of Orioles baseball.

  • Orioles fan George Fuhrer of Anne Arundel County has been a fixture at Camden Yards for the past 11 years as his alter ego, Bird Man.
Orioles fan George Fuhrer of Anne Arundel County has been a fixture… (Sun photo by Doug Kapustin )
July 21, 2004|By Dan Rodricks | Sun Staff

You know them when you see them, or remember them beyond all others - the particularly eccentric ones who wore festive plumage, or whose wardrobes consisted mainly of Orioles give-aways, the ones who gained a special place in Baltimore's baseball memory by standing out from the crowd, raining love from the rooftops, leading a charge with a bugle or barking like a dog.

We do not have records on all of them, and you will not find their names in old programs or their faces on collector's cards. Missed is the stern-faced woman from Section 8 at Memorial Stadium who never smiled, never spoke, yet kept score of every inning for game after game. She exists with many others, each unique, in a kind of sentimental archive - not merely passionate fans or stadium regulars, but sideshow performers, the ones who might have made a trip to an Orioles game even more memorable than the team on the field did.

Linda Warehime was the blond teenager who from 1969 through 1975 appeared at the fifth-inning break at Memorial Stadium to sweep dust from bases and players' shoes, wielding a broom that she also would use to playfully spank a coach on the fanny. The crowds loved the show and Warehime's capers got her guest appearances on the TV game shows What's My Line? and To Tell the Truth. The Orioles paid her $5 a game.

Now 48, she is preparing to relocate to Kentucky with her husband, William Butcher Jr. She'll leave behind the three brothers who were members of the Orioles' grounds crew back in the day - Wayne, Ralph and Kenny - and a lot of great memories from her time as the broom sweeper.

"I still go to Orioles games now and then," says Linda Butcher, who has lived in Glen Burnie for several years. "But it broke my heart to see them tear down Memorial Stadium. I still have all my old photos and newspaper clippings, plus a 1970 World Series ring that my parents got for me; it's just like the ring that was made for the Orioles' wives."

Wild Bill's ride

In all the years of baseball at 33rd Street and Camden Yards, the most enduring character is Wild Bill Hagy, the Dundalk cab driver with the full beard and jug-band hat who led cheers from the upper deck in the 1970s and '80s, when the Orioles seemed always in the hunt for a pennant.

The Hagy thing developed the way these things should - spontaneously, a natural progression from man sitting with beer and watching his team, to man standing and leading cheers by spelling the name of the team with his pot-bellied body, to man becoming local legend and the face of down-home Baltimore.

Hagy, now 65, retired in January from driving a cab. He subscribes to a 29-game plan with the Orioles, his seat in the first row of Section 312. Once in a while he leads a cheer, but for the most part he keeps a much lower profile at Camden Yards. "I don't think most of the people around me know who I am," Hagy says with a laugh, "and that's OK; I kind of like it that way."

Hagy and his Section 34 gang flourished at Memorial Stadium in a time when such things could develop on their own, without contrivance by marketing managers. His was a genuine outburst of affection in the time of tank tops and Oriole Magic. Before it was over, Hagy had secured iconic stature, and someday there will just have to be a statue.

Before Hagy there was Pat The Bugler. Charles "Pat" Walker's bugle could be heard all over Memorial Stadium, from the bleachers to home plate. He grew up in Ellicott City during the Great Depression, found an old bugle in an attic and taught himself to play. In the Army for 23 years, he developed a repertoire of 22 bugle calls, including the cavalry charge heard for many years during Orioles games.

Age and the loss of teeth put him out of commission for a while in the 1980s - fans actually booed the poor man in 1985 - but, after some repairs at the University of Maryland Dental School, Walker went back into action and ended up tooting his horn at Bowie Baysox games by the mid-1990s.

In a last gesture, Walker mounted his bugle on a plaque with the inscription: "To the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, Donated by Charles A. Walker, 3-17-97." He died within weeks, said curator Greg Schwalenberg.

The most remarkable character from Section 8 in Memorial Stadium, and later Section 12 at Oriole Park, was Dan Mink, the Barking Dog Man. He did - and still does - a startlingly authentic imitation of an excited dog. When Mink barked, the opposing third baseman and third base umpire snapped their heads, expecting to see a golden retriever in the box seats. But what they saw was Mink, a big, dog-that-ate-the-steak smile beneath his mustache.

He was known to bark "Jingle Bells" when an Oriole hit a timely home run. He loved to rover a rookie, or arf an umpire new to Baltimore. (Mink described his bark once as "a Chihuahua with a megaphone.") Nothing pleased Mink more than a little ump whiplash caused by the sudden, incongruous sound of a dog at a Major League Baseball game.

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