Maybe fans weren't flying south, but Oriole Park was near-empty nest

September 30, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

DIDN'T TAKE LONG for the Orioles' worst relocation fears to be realized. The D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission drew a bigger crowd for its afternoon news conference yesterday than the O's drew for the first game of their rain-makeup doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays.

OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little ... maybe this has nothing to do with the impending Expos invasion ... but the stands were so empty at Camden Yards in the early innings of Game 1 that I was able to take a hand count of the crowd in about 10 minutes. There were 1,197 people in their seats at 3:44 p.m.

It was so quiet at the ballpark that you could hear the Oriole Bird moulting in the upper deck, but that had more to do with the weekday afternoon start and the threatening skies and the fact Canada's other struggling baseball team already has a proven history of hurting Orioles attendance.

More fans filtered in throughout the rare one-admission doubleheader - and the Orioles announced a paid crowd of 20,600 - but it's hard to get too excited about the Blue Jays when it looks like they'll become the first team other than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to finish last in the AL East since the last expansion.

Even with a scaled-down staff, there was one usher, concession worker or maintenance employee at Oriole Park for every five fans in attendance during the first three innings of the afternoon game.

The Boston Red Sox reportedly are upset at the Orioles for questioning the presence of unofficial coach Johnny Pesky in their dugout during last week's series at Fenway Park, but they probably aren't going to get an apology anytime soon.

Director of baseball administration Ed Kenney said yesterday that he actually made the call to the Commissioner's Office about the illegal presence of an extra coach in the Red Sox's dugout, and he'd do it again.

"What if he leaned over and told Orlando Cabrera to look for an inside fastball before he hit that home run to beat us?" Kenney said.

Kenney admits that it was a technical rule violation. The Red Sox had the right to designate Pesky as an additional coach for the month of September and simply failed to make the required phone call, but who's fault is that?

Congratulations to Miguel Tejada for breaking the Orioles' single-season RBI record during the first game yesterday. He drove in his 143rd run of the year with a single to center in the fifth inning.

The in-house crowd was barely in four figures at the time, but you can be sure that 30 years from now, 2,500 people will claim they were at the game.

The second day of Pro-Am competition at the Constellation Energy Classic at The Hayfields will feature a foursome that includes last year's champion Larry Nelson, honorary tournament chairman Cal Ripken and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

There's a rumor that Nelson's caddy will be a Schmuck. More on that in Sunday's column.

Ripken played with pro Peter Jacobson, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Constellation Energy Group CEO Mayo Shattuck in the first Pro-Am event yesterday. The Champions Tour event begins tomorrow and ends Sunday.

Dozens of readers chimed in on last week's diatribe about Redskins owner Dan Snyder - several taking me to task for making a joke about Dan's height (or lack thereof). Fair comment. It's bush league to make sport of someone's physical characteristics and I wish to apologize to anyone who was offended.

By the way, did you hear that Snyder had his pocket picked recently? Can you imagine anyone stooping that low?

Final thought: New high school columnist Milton Kent is almost as good at self-deprecating humor as I am, but he was way too modest when he said in his inaugural column that he wasn't a very good basketball player as a youth. I did some checking and found out that there were a bunch of sports he wasn't good at in high school.

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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