A flat note

Orioles

October 03, 2005|By KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG AND MIKE KLINGAMAN | KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG AND MIKE KLINGAMAN,SUN REPORTERS

Damon Runyon has always been one of our favorite sportswriters, and not just because he could turn a phrase better than just about anyone else who ever lived. It was Runyon's book of short stories about lovestruck gangsters in 1931, you see, that eventually became the inspiration for the classic Broadway musical Guys and Dolls. Musicals have always helped inject a little comedy into tragic situations, and so we decided to tell the tragic story of the 2005 Orioles in the form of an off, off, off-Broadway musical. So bring your imagination and your best sense of humor. And if you hate it, well, as they say in baseball, wait till next year.

Act I, Scene I

The curtain slowly pulls back, revealing a majestic Baltimore skyline on a cool, spring night. On one side of the stage, we can see the purple glow of the Bromo Seltzer Tower, and on the other, the tacky, neon-red lights of the ESPN Zone as they flood the Inner Harbor. Even Federal Hill is visible in the distance. But center stage, at the heart of this immaculate set, our eyes can't help but focus on two of Charm City's most recognizable landmarks: Camden Yards and the B&O warehouse.

For much of the year, these landmarks are practically empty; they gather dust and cast long shadows, not unlike the regal cathedrals of Western Europe. But as the leaves begin to bud and the warm breezes start to blow in from the Chesapeake, life slowly returns to these buildings of crushed red brick. But tonight, with spring training still weeks away, all the windows in the warehouse are pitch black, save one. Up on the top floor, in a dimly lit corner office window, we see the silhouette of a proud but aging, powerful but diminutive man. As the spotlight finds his face, the audience quickly recognizes the familiar, perpetual scowl. It belongs to Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

He stands on a large stack of old Orioles media guides so he may properly gaze out the window to survey his kingdom. On the wall behind him, we see a gold-plated dartboard, with a picture of Mayor Martin O'Malley affixed to its bull's eye. Sad and somber, Angelos begins to sing in a gravelly baritone, his voice carrying across rooftops to faraway neighborhoods and into tiny bedrooms where both children and grown men sleep with Cal Ripken posters adorning their walls. It's a lament, really. The sad and reluctant song of a man who has power and respect, but craves a city's love.

"I've Grown Accustomed to Fourth Place"

(To the tune of "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," My Fair Lady)

I've grown accustomed to fourth place,

Down deep, I know we cannot win

I've grown accustomed to the shame

The fans say I'm to blame

Their jeers, their boos,

Each time we lose

Are second nature to me now

Like trading for an old has-been,

I know this city wants a winner but I just won't spend the dough

Even though asbestos made me rich as sin

And so

I've grown accustomed to the way

We screw up night and day

Accustomed to fourth place.

(Curtain falls.)

Act I, Scene II

All happy baseball franchises are alike. But every unhappy, incompetent, bumbling baseball franchise is unhappy, incompetent and bumbling in its own unique way. Isn't that how Tolstoy would have described it? Or at least John Steadman?

Our second scene begins as the curtain pulls back to reveal the lavish offices of Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie, the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of this narrative. On the desk in the middle of the room, two dust-covered suitcases filled with Confederate money - one marked "Delgado," the other "Pavano" - contribute to the office clutter. Several secretaries buzz about the room, trying to look busy, while Beattie and Flanagan repeatedly wipe the sweat from their brows.

It's a big day in the Oriole Kingdom. Spring training is just weeks away, and the team's only major offseason acquisition, Sammy Sosa, has just called to complain that he's refusing to ride in the rusty sidecar of Sidney Ponson's Harley-Davidson, which just arrived to pick him up from the airport. Sosa wants a limo. Or a helicopter. Or a monorail built that will take him directly to his hotel while playing salsa music.

Desperate to please, Beattie and Flanagan pick up separate phones, and as they begin to dial, the lights dim a bit, and the 14 secretaries in the room form a perfect chorus line in the spotlight. As the orchestra plays, the secretaries begin to sing a soft, sad ballad, a song that will soon become the theme for much of the 2005 season.

"Whatever Sammy Wants"

(To the tune of "Whatever Lola Wants," Damn Yankees)

Whatever Sammy wants,

Sammy gets!

Just ask the Cubs!

Don't you know that you can't win?

You're no exception to the rule!

He wants a big li-mo, you fools! Give in ... give in ... give in.

(Curtain falls.)

Act I, Scene III

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