It has been 45 years since she first ran onto the field at Memorial Stadium, an 11-year-old blonde with a big smile and a straw broom that would win her fame. There, during the fifth-inning break in Orioles games, Linda Warehime would sweep off the bases, the mound and the infielders' shoes. Sometimes, she'd also dust off the shoes of the visitors' third-base coach and give him a peck on the cheek — or a playful swat on the fanny — as the fans whooped it up.
The job lasted seven years, until 1975, and earned national acclaim for Warehime. She landed in Time and Sports Illustrated, attended Orioles' parades and banquets and made appearances on television's "To Tell The Truth" and "What's My Line?"
"The Orioles paid me $5 a game, but I'd have done it for nothing," Warehime said. "It's something I will cherish forever."
Now 56, she'd like to wield that broom again, if only for a game, at Camden Yards.
"I would love to have the opportunity to sweep the bases off one more time," said Warehime, now married and living in Keavy, Ky. "It would be awesome to sweep off the shoes of some of those same Orioles, too, people like Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell."
Her uniform — the orange shirt and white slacks — still fits. She kept the broom with the personalized gold plaque that the club gave her. And she's pretty sure that she can still dash around the diamond, as in days of yore.
"Putting on the uniform makes me feel 14 again," said Warehime, a medical billing specialist. "I've had two back surgeries, but I can make it around the bases. I just don't know if I can run, full force."
Her house is filled with keepsakes of those times, like the autographed bat from the 1970 World Series, and the Series ring that Warehime's parents bought for her 13th birthday. For three straight years (1969 through 1971) she appeared on national TV as the Birds won consecutive American League pennants.
She got the job on a whim in 1968 when her three brothers, all of whom worked on the Orioles' grounds crew, joked that their sister should suit up and sweep the bases. The team agreed.
"Boy, was I nervous that first day. I thought I was going to trip," said Warehime, who attended Overlea High. "But I did the bases without incident, and then did the players' shoes. Brooksie always had a smile for me. Then I'd sit on the third base side and catch foul balls."
What tickled the crowds were the hijinks between Warehime and the other team's third base coach. Many got spanked by her broom; others played along in kind. Boston's Eddie Popowski pulled out a water pistol and squirted her in the face. The next night, Warehime soaked him with two water guns.
Once, as she approached him, Cleveland's George Strickland reached down and placed a toy mouse on third base. Warehime shrieked and tried to shoo it with her broom.
"I forgave [Strickland]," she recalled. "He gave me a neckace at the end of the season."
Fans loved the little dramas, particularly during dull games.
"When I kissed [California's] Rocky Bridges, he fell flat on his back," she said. "One coach, Kansas City's Joe Schultz, took his hat off and gave me a bouquet of flowers that he'd hidden behind his back. What a surprise; I was in shock. He got a hug and a kiss on the cheek."
Her signature prank took place during the third game of the 1970 World Series, before a crowd of 51,773 and a national TV audience. Warehime's victim? Umpire Emmett Ashford.
"He was known for his dramatic gestures, so when I came to third base, I hauled off and whacked him on the butt with my broom," she said.
Ashford threw off his cap, threw up his hands and hollered, as if mortally injured. Warehime giggled and ran off the field.
"What a nice man he was. We knew it was all in fun," she said. "You can see why I looked forward to every home game."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun