For the past five decades, Gordon Huggins has enjoyed one of the best views in the house. As an usher for the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, he has witnessed six World Series,Cal Ripken Jr.'s record-setting 2,131st consecutive game played and many of the best players in the game's history.
Huggins was recently honored by the Orioles for his 50 years of service to the team. An April 25 on-field ceremony at Oriole Park was attended by his wife of 48 years, Carol (yes, he's been an Orioles usher longer than he's been married) and their sons, Randy and Keith.
Huggins, who has worked in the lower deck behind first base and now behind home plate at Oriole Park, was truly moved by the moment.
He's still laughing about his ceremonial first pitch to Orioles' reserve catcher Ronny Paulino.
"It was kind of other-worldy to me," Huggins said of the ceremony. "I came out of the tunnel where the umpires come out onto the field.
"I went out on the mound and saw my name briefly on the Jumbotron," he said. "I'd actually practiced throwing that first pitch with my sons out on our front lawn, but I bounced it in. Paulino caught it and gave it to me.
"The next day, (Orioles' Director of Baseball Operations) Dan Duquette called me at the house and congratulated me. I thought that was a really nice gesture on his part. I've been treated very well and it was a really special night."
As an usher, Huggins helps fans find their seats and keeps the peace when the tension of the game spreads into the stands.
"The first couple of innings are busy, because people are still coming in," Huggins said. "But after that, I can watch the rest of the game. If some fans aren't behaving to our standards, we have to ask them to settle down and remind them of the club's policies.
"It's a family atmosphere, so we have to keep our eye on over drinking and the use of profanity. Fortunately, it doesn't happen too often in my section," he said.
A resident of Eldersburg since 1976, Huggins began working for the team in 1962. He held a summer job at the University of Maryland's pathology department in Baltimore and learned through his supervisor that the Orioles were looking for ushers. At the time, the Orioles were marking their ninth season in Baltimore and Huggins was a sophomore at the University of Maryland.
"I always liked baseball and I got the job," the Catonsville High graduate said. "The first couple of years, I worked sporadically because I was away at college."
Two years after ushering his first game, Huggins graduated from Maryland in 1964 and married Carol. He also began a 30-year career with the Howard County school system as a biology and earth science teacher at Howard High.
The best years of his Oriole career were just beginning. The year 1964 was a turning point for the franchise, which won 97 games and challenged the eventual American League champion Yankees all season. Huggins was excited about the young Orioles and their best player, third baseman Brooks Robinson.
"I remember that 1964 was a pretty exciting season," Huggins said. "Brooks Robinson stands out as my favorite player of all time."
The Orioles' strong finish in 1964 foreshadowed the most successful period in the franchise's history. In 1966, when Huggins took his permanent position in the upper deck behind home plate, a young pitching staff that featured Dave McNally and Jim Palmer and a newly acquired outfielder named Frank Robinson led the club to its first world championship.
Robinson, the only player to hit a ball completely out of Memorial Stadium, became the lone Oriole to ever win the Triple Crown when he led the American League in hitting, home runs and runs batted in. In Game 4, Robinson's series-deciding homer closed out the Orioles' stunning four-game World Series sweep of the vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers.
"The '66 World Series sticks out in my mind, because it was our first," Huggins recalled. "No one expected us to sweep the Dodgers. Frank Robinson certainly changed the attitude of the team. They had more of a winning attitude after he came here."
The 1966 Series was the first of an exciting Oriole run that saw the franchise make four Fall Classic appearances in six years. In 1969, the Orioles won a club record 109 regular-season games but lost the World Series to the upstart New York Mets in a five-game series. One year later, the Orioles won their second World Series with a five-game dissection of Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine."
"The New York Series was really disappointing, because we were favored," Huggins said. "But then in '70, we weren't favored and yet we won it, and did it at home."