For the non-O's fans and the Birdland neophytes who might be reading, William "Wild Bill" Hagy was a cab driver from Baltimore, and in the 1970s and 1980s he was headquartered in Section 34 of the Orioles' former home on 33rd Street. He and his rambunctious fellow rooters became known as "The Roar from 34". Wild Bill was a sight to behold with his straw hat, big sunglasses, and bushy beard. His beer belly hung over his denim shorts, but he was remarkably limber as he led the crowd in a chant of "O-R-I-O-L-E-S!", contorting his body to spell out each letter. He became so popular that the team actually allowed him to perform his cheers on top of the home dugout. He even had a policy that further endeared him to the local masses - if he picked up anyone wearing a Yankees cap in his cab, he would ask them to remove the hat. Those who failed to comply had to look for another taxi!
Wild Bill Hagy passed away last August at the age of 68. To measure his influence and popularity among the Orioles fans and the team itself, look no further than the posthumous steps taken to honor and celebrate him. The first game at Camden Yards after his death was marked with a moment of silence. There have been memorial services and get-togethers attended by an impressive number of his family, friends, and fans. Earlier this season, a group of fans paid tribute to Wild Bill during a weekend series against the Yankees by donning straw hats and fake beards and leading cheers for the Birds. Tonight, to mark Hagy's birthday, the O's will be giving away orange "HAGY 34" Orioles t-shirts. Best of all, he will be the first recipient of the Wild Bill Hagy award, to be given each year to an exceptional O's fan. From my understanding, this award will be incorporated into the annual Orioles Hall of Fame ceremony in August.
For my part, I will be at the Yard tonight in full throat, proudly wearing "HAGY 34" on my back and tipping back a cold one for the caretaker of Orioles Magic. Happy Birthday, Wild Bill.
Image from baltimoresun.com