Before I talk about the actual result of the game, I want to go into more detail about our experience in the bleachers. At the time, they were some of the cheapest seats in the park, going for $4. In hindsight, this both blows my mind and makes me feel prematurely old. (These tickets now cost $15 each; $23 for "Prime" games like the Yankees and Sawx.) At such rock-bottom prices, the bleachers attracted the more colorful and authentic O's fans, to say the least.
A few rows behind us there sat a couple robust gentlemen who, emboldened by the warming rays of the sun and the malted hops in their bellies, struck up a one-sided conversation with Tigers right fielder Junior Felix, a journeyman who had a little power and a little speed, but evidently not enough of either to get comfortable anywhere. Detroit was his fourth team in six major league seasons, and his third in three years. As he stood stock-still a few feet in front of the warning track, he was showered with catcalls by Charm City's third-rate answer to Statler and Waldorf. Among their greatest hits:
When a hot dog wrapper blew onto the field: "Hey Junior, why don't you pick up that piece of trash! Ya gotta do something to earn that money!"As the Tiger pitcher ran into trouble: "Hey, Junior, can you pitch?"
The old classic: "JUUUUNNNIIIOOOORRRR! JUUUUNNNIIIOOOORRRR!"
And my personal favorite: "Hey, Junior, where did the rest of your legs go?" (At 5'11" Junior wasn't exactly a Smurf, but I do recall him having noticably short lower legs that ended abruptly after the calves.)
Junior seemed to be a fairly good sport about the heckling. The fans never got profane or violent, to their credit. At one point, he even turned around and acknowledged them with a wave.
The Oriole right fielder, on the other hand, was not so lucky.
Getting a rare start that day was longtime minor leaguer and utility player Jack Voigt. He had performed above expectations as a rookie in 1993, hitting .296 with an OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) of .895. He struggled as a sophomore, though, and was hitting .240 as play started on June 2. Though he walked twice and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, some fans were harder to please than others.
Two such discriminating fans wandered down to the bleachers in the late innings. They were a pair of young boys, somewhere around my age. The duo perched in an open spot in the front row and started riding Jack Voigt hard, trying to get a rise out of him.
"Hey Jack, you suck!"
"You suck, Jack! You stink!"
Not very original. No wonder he paid them no mind.
"We want Jeff!"
They were going for the low blow. Jeffrey Hammonds was the Great Hope in Baltimore, the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 1992 draft. He'd made it to Camden Yards one year later, and dazzled fans with his strong bat and his glove. However, he also struggled to stay on the field, and at the time of this particular game, was sidelined by a knee injury. Jeffrey Hammonds was everything Jack Voigt wasn't, a flashy five-tool player with an Olympic pedigree and a big signing bonus who was only briefly detained in the minor leagues. Voigt was 27 when he finally got a tenuous grasp on the big leagues, having spent six long and dusty years in the Orioles organization.
That was the last straw...Jack turned around, threw his arms up and gave them a dirty look. His body language seemed to say, "C'mon! What do you want from me? I'm just trying to do a job here!"
Jack's still plugging away at his job - or jobs, rather. He works in real estate in Florida when he's not serving as the hitting coach for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the AAA affiliate of the New York Mets. I remember reading an article during his playing days that suggested that Jack Voigt would make a good manager some day. Let's hope that he gets his shot. That would show those mouthy kids what's what.
To be concluded tomorrow.