Many years ago I participated in a basketball match during a spring break trip in Charlotte, N.C. I say “match” in jest. The game grew chippy in a hurry and many talented, towering people participated. I’m no basketball player, so I helped out by knocking people around, getting rid of the ball the moment I got it, et cetera. In this game may have played Michael Jordan’s brother. “Hah!” you say, but focus up: he looked like Michael Jordan, he leapt higher than all, and he shot the ball into the hoop, like, a lot. (Plus, locals said he was Michael Jordan’s brother.) His last shot circled the rim once or twice before dropping in—“toilet bowl!” someone shouted—for the W. The other team won. A guy on my team, whose name I remember as Ron, slumped down on a playground bench. He played D-1 ball for UNCC and it miffed me that we lost, with him on our team. “Ron,” I said, “I bet—I bet you can’t dance!” I couldn’t come up with another insult. This, however, irked Ron considerably, and people had to separate us. Later, a group went out to some club where a giant hose sprayed fog into an empty cavern. Blunt-force techno played from huge speakers. Ron had come with us. He tried to dance. He did some kind of arms akimbo, knees like a hoot. His teammates were there. I’m telling you, people were falling down laughing.
As a young man, I attended several sporting events at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, including Orioles games. I went with family or friends. We sat in the outfield a lot. In my best moment, I heckled the relief pitcher, Jesse Orosco, who visited Memorial Stadium with Cleveland, but I’ll get to that later. I’m remembering another game: the Orioles hosting the Red Sox. I was sitting in left field, pretty close to the front row. Lots of people in the stands were having a good time heckling Jim Rice, the Red Sox left fielder. So I joined in. I said stuff like, “You suck, Rice!” and “Rice, you suck!”, about fifty or sixty times. But I did not dump the beer on him when he went up for a fly ball on the warning track. In my recollection, he closed his eyes and the beer, like, splashed all over him. We’re not talking “craft ale” either, we’re talking warm National Bohemian or Tuborg Gold. He made the catch! Let’s say it was the third out in the seventh inning, but who knows? Rice lingered there, shaming us with a kindly look and shaking a small smile around on his face. Several ushers waddled over to our area between innings. They wanted to see beer cups. One by one, the fellows in our section demonstrated various levels of suds in their plastic cups, all except one. No, his cup was empty. And he, my friends, got the heave-ho.
The St. Bonaventure baseball team had come to D.C., to play a series against GW. I knew several guys on GW, and enjoyed attending their games, which they played at an RFK auxiliary field. In the same season, GW hosted the Russian national team inside RFK. GW had amassed a 20 run lead, but Big Fish, who’d pitched into the fifth, gave up a long dinger. As the Russian rounded the bases, all his teammates ran out of the dugout doing backflips and front flips. The officiating crew called the game. It ended 20-1. Maybe 250 people attended, including a local CBS reporter, Ken Mease. “Mease!” I shouted. He looked at me. “Isn’t this great?” I said, beaming a phony smile. He just shook his head, sadly. But I digress. Back to St. Bonnies. Their pitcher was warming up on the auxiliary field, for the home half of the first. All his teammates were yelling, “Let’s go, Spence!”, and so forth. So, I joined. “Spence!” I shouted. “They’ve got a relief pitcher warming up already!” He stopped his delivery and looked at the St. Bonaventure bullpen but nobody was there of course. Spence glared at me. The St. Bonaventure coach looked down, kicking a pebble. Ah, the power of suggestion. An inning later, there would be a relief pitcher warming up, and Spence, having allowed many runs, would be pulled from the game.
I liked to work out at my college’s athletic facility. It had a good weight room. I also played squash, if that’s the game with the little ball and racket. I could jog there and kid around with the hot girls who checked IDs at the front desk, and one time, I bench pressed a lot of weight. Many of the scholarship athletes couldn’t bench that much weight, and so, the story went around, and I enjoyed some small celebrity. Once, while playing squash, I noticed a player in the other squash theatre who appeared to resemble Mark Murphy, the former safety for the Washington Football Team. (Now the Landover Football Team.) He was a big tall guy with a little head, he had red hair, and people called him Mark Murphy. I’d add this: he looked like he could chew nails for breakfast. I just didn’t believe he was Mark Murphy. I mean, why would Mark Murphy (several years retired from football) be playing squash at my college’s gym? Also, he wore a suit and tie afterwards. Ridiculous. So, one day, hanging out at the front desk, I says, “Hey, Mark Murphy.” He says, “Yes.” I says, “You’re not Mark Murphy. Come on.” He says, “Then who am I?” I says, “Another Mark Murphy.” He didn’t answer that one. No, he fixed me with that look like he chewed nails for breakfast. He stood “stare down” close to me, but hey, I was the bench press champ.
Let me first say that I like Jesse Orosco. He won two World Series titles. He even had an RBI (as a relief pitcher) against the Red Sox in Game 7, in 1986. No pitcher has more career appearances than Jesse Orosco, seeing as Jesse Orosco could get out most every left handed hitter he faced, and he played until he was 46. So, he’s a great pitcher. I did some Internet investigation via the Baseball Almanac, and I believe I heckled Jesse Orosco at Memorial Stadium on June 28, 1990. Orosco was warming up in the bullpen, with Cleveland up, 7-2. I’m from Cleveland but I like the Orioles. I wanted to help my team get back into the game. We were sitting in the outfield, near the Cleveland bullpen, me and my friends. Man, I cursed that fellow up and down. I unleashed some foul curses from above. But Orosco kept warming. He waved his glove up to signal a fastball. He waved his glove down to signal curve ball. All the while I cursed him—but no reaction. A friend who played some college ball told me, to tell Orosco, that I’m gonna put a coat on his hanger. I looked at my friend crooked but he said, “Trust me”, and I did, I said, “Hey! Orosco! I’m gonna come down there and put a coat, on your hanger!” Orosco stopped pitching, and looked up, with a big chew in his cheek, and shouted a big F bomb in my direction. I had insinuated that his curveball hung so long—I could put a coat on it. Orosco entered the game and surrendered two runs, but Cleveland won. Meantime, ushers threw out the guys behind us.
Sports Week #1 of 5: My grandfather, Emil Ringel
Sports Week #2 of 5: The Landover Football Team
Sports Week #3 of 5: Wilfried & The Swans
Sports Week #5 of 5: Draws