Dear Sammy

Welcome to Baltimore, hon. As your new town, we'd like you to feel at home - - here's how.

February 01, 2005|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

First of all, welcome. It's been a cold, fruitless winter for Orioles baseball, but you just made our spring, you big home run lug.

We understand you're coming to town this week to get a physical, and that's an honor for us in itself. Although it's an important medical step, we certainly don't want your first Baltimore experience to be associated only with undergoing a complete physical, if you catch our drift. Baltimore has so much more to offer.

And we want to start off on the right foot with you. Already, sportswriters -- and they know who they are -- have gone "negative" by reminding Orioles fans that you have had some "issues." A corked bat here, maybe a corked body there, walking out of last season's finale at Wrigley Field and claiming you left in the seventh inning when a video camera reportedly caught you leaving in the first.

What's next -- people calling you selfish and washed up?

"Isn't he done?" someone just asked, but we had that person removed from our premises. He won't be bothering you anymore. If we had a dime for every time we have heard the words "Albert Belle" the past few days ... please be assured we do not subscribe to that scurrilous comparison. Let us not speak that name again.

Sammy, we promise: If you decide not to participate in an entire baseball game (nine innings, usually), we will not videotape you. Fair enough? Now, let's talk about your new city. It's not Chicago. Oh baby, it's not Chicago.

You'll notice differences right off the bat. Winters are slightly different; for instance, we almost never have snow in June. We don't drink Old Style beer, but Natty Boh. We typically don't do the deep-dish pizza thing. Our pizzas are normal, exactly the way God created pizza -- on the third day, we believe. We dig crabs. Even Marylanders who secretly hate digging and clawing at blue crabs eat them anyway out of some tiresome sense of duty. By the way, there is no state statute forbidding corked mallets.

You're probably used to that whipping wind off Lake Michigan, the mighty Sears Tower and scooting up to Lake Geneva in the summer. Get ready to embrace the whipping wind off the Patapsco, the mighty Bromo Seltzer Tower and scooting over to the ocean or the Eastern Shore.

You've got the famous Billy Goat Tavern. We've got the famous Bertha's and her mussels -- and plenty of other bars, don't you worry about that.

We've got a brand-new Spanish music station! So there.

Both cities have great ballparks. Oriole Park sports a statue of Babe Ruth, who had only 140 more home runs than you do. (You can bang the difference out in what, three, four years, assuming you play entire games?) Your Wrigley Field, as we recall, not only features that creepy Bittersweet ivy but a statue of Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, immortalized for leading fans in "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Sammy, a serious question: Have you considered how it will feel to hear the song, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" every game? If you're going to work here, get used to it. If you're going to live here, there are Baltimore legends you will need to know.

There's filmmaker John Waters, who is the Disney of Decadence. Take the kids to his next movie! Journalist H.L. Mencken was a Baltimore legend who had this to say about the Windy City: "Out in Chicago, the only genuinely civilized city in the New World, they take the fine arts seriously and get into such frets and excitements about them as are raised nowhere else save by baseball, murder, political treachery, foreign wars and romantic loves."

Of course, Chicago had a great columnist in Mike Royko. We don't know what he thought of Baltimore, but in 1981 he won the first H.L. Mencken Award. If you apply yourself in Baltimore (and we know you will), maybe you could add a Mencken Award to your trophy room.

Now, you're probably asking yourself, "Sammy, where are you going to play golf in this town?" Golf is very important to the modern athlete. The Orioles, as they do with new cleated employees, will give you a "Guide to Living in Baltimore." Among other things, it contains five pages of restaurants and listings for dentists, real estate agencies, mini-storage companies -- even directions to Oriole Park, key information for any new Oriole.

Area golf courses are listed on Page 22. Hayfields Golf Club, Caves Valley Golf Club and Pine Ridge Golf Course are winners. A tip: If you get out to Longview Golf Course in Cockeysville, just watch out for the 11th hole. It was built over some sort of landfill, and trust us, you'll be thumping your heart if you manage to three-putt.

Sammy, we know you'll do fine here. We don't expect you to be another Cal Ripken. Just try your best. Run out ground balls, keep your bat clean, and if you find yourself batting sixth some summer day, please hang around for the rest of the game -- or at least until the seventh inning to hear "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."

And if fans call you "hon," don't worry about that either. It beats being called Albert, trust us.

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