Cool July, hot Orioles, and nothing's better

A walk to the ballgame always goes well when your team's in first place

  • Third baseman Manny Machado, top, celebrates with teammates at home plate after hitting a walk-off home run to give the Orioles a 7-6 victory in 12 innings over the Los Angeles Angels at Camden Yards.
Third baseman Manny Machado, top, celebrates with teammates… (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore…)
July 31, 2014|Dan Rodricks

My good walk began after an early supper: a short Jersey Boy from Isabella's in Little Italy. The Jersey Boy is an incredible little sandwich (grilled Italian sausage with rapini, and peppery cheese on six inches of baguette) heated in the brick oven in the small corner carryout at High and Stiles, where the neighborhood bocce teams gather for their evening games.

Isabella's is not strictly a carryout; there are a few tables and chairs. But Tuesday they had the air-conditioning set on Polar Vortex, so I took the Jersey Boy with me.

There was a shockingly blissful breeze and the temperature seemed to be falling, making the Inner Harbor feel more like Bar Harbor, so I decided to head for Camden Yards and the Orioles-Angels game.

A lot of other people had the same idea. In the hour before the first pitch, with the home team in first place, the whole of Baltimore seemed to be marching west toward Eutaw Street. There's nothing like a pennant race to give Tuesday night a Saturday night vibe.

Across President Street, near the statue of Christopher Columbus, a small, white-haired woman threw a tennis ball for a small, white-haired poodle.

Striding right past her, oblivious to the poodle at his feet, was a large fellow in a Minnesota Twins cap, tank-top, baggy cargo shorts, and red sneakers with their tongues sticking out. His big arms and neck were covered with tattoos. He wore earphones, too, and they were obviously connected to a cellphone because the fellow was engaged in a loud conversation with someone.

"I told her she got to move out of that house," I heard him say. "My mother had words for her. And she says back to my mother, 'Oh yeah? But you won't do nothin' about it 'cuz you're too old.' "

As we crossed the footbridge over the Jones Falls, I heard him say: "And my mother, she says, 'No, I'm not doin' anything about it 'cuz I don't want to go back to jail. You don't wanna know what I wanna do to you…' "

The fellow laughed big and kept walking. Talking and walking. Everyone within 20 feet could hear him.

Just then, two little boys tapped away at the silvery metal chimes in what's known as Pierce's Park, a family-friendly green space on Pier 5, and while it wasn't exactly music, it was certainly pleasant to the ear. In the next instant, one of the city's police helicopters made a circle in the sky over Lombard Street, and in the distance, from the west, I could hear the siren of a fire engine.

Mostly, all around me, there was a nice buzz and hum — people drinking cocktails and ordering dinner at outdoor tables, jogging people, texting people, people moving across the Inner Harbor in the direction of Camden Yards. Couples holding hands. Couples not holding hands. Parents with kids. A legless man pushing on the wheels of a wheelchair.

There were giggling, chattering girls talking too fast for me to understand them on the bridge to the National Aquarium. A young man in a colorful costume — green, yellow, red and black — froze in a pose on the bridge as a young woman snapped his picture. He was in a crouch, and his arms were raised, one over his head, the other behind his back, like a sprinter off the starting line.

A group of men in matching polo shirts — conventioneers, maybe — stopped to regard the odd scene. I kept moving.

So did the large fellow with the earphones. He wandered away from me, so I couldn't hear him as well, but he seemed to be engaged in the same conversation that started back at the Columbus statue.

An elderly man looked up at the police helicopter, which made another circle. Engine 23 screamed along Pratt Street. Behind me I heard the drumroll of approaching skateboards. Two boys on boards and four on small bicycles zipped by me, then past two men in suits, landing outside one of the busy restaurants on Pier 4, by the Power Plant.

I walked past the World Trade Center, then Harborplace, going wide to the Pratt Street sidewalk, a maneuver that forced me into a slow-moving crowd by the filthy Dumpster garage outside Harborplace. It's rancid and ridiculous, fronting on one of the city's premier boulevards, and it almost spoiled my good walk.

But I kept moving, and it wasn't long before I smelled perfume and Boog's Barbecue.

The sidewalks and crosswalks got busier the closer I got to Camden Yards.

There were several young women in blue and white evening gowns headed for a formal event at the Convention Center, and they held up their hems as they walked, surrounded by hundreds of men, women and children in orange T-shirts on the march to Oriole Park.

A great sandwich, a human spectacle, an unusually cool midsummer night, and the home team in first place — sometimes, conditions in Baltimore are perfect.

drodricks@baltsun.com

Dan Rodricks' column appears each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM.

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