Cartoon bird conjures memories for Walker

June 14, 2008|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Sun reporter

When Orioles reliever Jamie Walker walked into the home clubhouse yesterday, he was "pumped up."

Walker saw the Orioles' 1979 throwback uniform, the orange stirrups and the cartoon bird hat waiting for him in his locker. It was all part of the Orioles' turn-back-the-clock celebration recognizing the "Orioles Magic" club of 1979, which eventually lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 7 of the World Series.

The Pirates, who began a three-game series with the Orioles last night, haven't been in town for a regular-season or postseason game since Oct. 17, 1979.

"I didn't know we were doing this," said Walker, 35. "To me, this should be our game hat. And I love this jersey; this is one of my favorite jerseys."

It's not the first time Walker has worn the old, cartoon-bird hat.

When he was about 8, he played a baseball-throwing game at a county fair in Tennessee, and he correctly "guessed the speed," on his third pitch. So he was allowed to pick any baseball hat as a prize. He chose the one with the cartoon Oriole, and he wore it everywhere.

"I love that bird," Walker said yesterday, smiling. "Just look at it."

The Orioles wore throwback uniforms yesterday, but the Pirates didn't. Pittsburgh was not an active part of the promotion because the game honored the 1979 Orioles' season and not just the World Series, director of communications Greg Bader said.

"This is a celebration of the birth of Orioles Magic and the 1979 American League Champion Orioles," he said. "While the inspiration for this celebration is the Pirates' return to Baltimore for the first time in 29 years, [Friday's] activities and ceremonies are not meant as a recreation of the '79 World Series."

Remembering the magic

During pre-game festivities, the Orioles honored four former Orioles: Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver; third baseman Doug DeCinces, who hit the game-winning homer that triggered "Orioles Magic"; and the pitchers of record from 1979's Game 7, the Orioles' Scott McGregor and Pittsburgh's Grant Jackson, who also pitched for the Orioles in the 1971 World Series loss to the Pirates. Weaver, who turns 78 in August, received a standing ovation from the Camden Yards crowd.

Afterward, while speaking to reporters, Weaver, in true ex-manager form, defended why he didn't have John Lowenstein bunt in Game 2, which the Orioles eventually lost by a run.

He wasn't the only one reliving those hard-fought games yesterday.

McGregor, who pitched eight strong innings in Game 7 but allowed a two-run, Series-clinching homer to Willie Stargell, talked about the "one bad pitch" he made. But McGregor, who won a World Series ring with the Orioles in 1983, also summed up that magical 1979 season.

"It was a wonderful experience, win, lose or draw," he said.

Millar in lineup

First baseman Kevin Millar, who left Thursday's game in the second inning after fouling a ball off his left kneecap, called Orioles manager Dave Trembley at 10 a.m. yesterday to ask for some time before the manager made up his lineup.

"Oh, I didn't take the call. I screened it," Trembley said. "That would be the last guy I'm talking to."

Still, Trembley listened to the pleas of Millar, who said the knee was swollen but OK, and put him into the lineup in the fifth spot as the designated hitter.

"It feels a lot better than I thought it would," Millar said. "I don't have speed as one of my tools, so it doesn't hurt my speed."

Trachsel update

Right-hander Steve Trachsel was granted release waivers and can become a free agent on Tuesday if he goes unclaimed.

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