Sea kicks up, delivers a curve

DOGWOOD HARBOR - For one day, Phil Price's 47-foot fishing boat had a Hallof Fame defense and an All-Star offense.

The small, orange-and-black flags flying from the rigging signaled why: No. 3 and No. 5 were on board.

No. 3, as in Harold Baines. No. 5, as in Brooks Robinson.

But, as someone pointed out to Robinson, it could easily have been a No. 34 up there. That was the Hall of Famer's number during spring training in 1957.

Who knew? Not Robinson.

"I'll be darned," he said, shaking his head when shown an Orioles early-season program from that year. "I knew I had another number in spring training, but I told some woman not too long ago that I thought I was No. 17."

Wednesday's Chesapeake Bay fishing trip with the two former Orioles was auctioned last winter during a fund-raising dinner to help pay for restoration of a small Tilghman Island church.

Price, a marina operator and high bidder, brought family and fishing buddies along for the trip down Orioles memory lane. They came armed with baseballs and hats to have signed and newspaper clippings and programs to peruse.

As Price's boat, The Permit, pulled out of its slip at Capt. Buddy Harrison's inn just past dawn, the sky went from black to bright blue.

On board, another color change was taking place. Flesh tones gave way to green, as 15-knot winds blasting out of the north produced monstrous swells that rolled the big boat from side to side and rocked it up and down.

"Capt. Buddy said last night it would be as smooth as glass," one angler hollered over the diesel roar.

"That's blown glass," punned Linwood Baines, Harold's father, who seemed comfortable with his surroundings.

The Dramamine concession was doing a rousing business before Jones and Harrison dropped anchor at "The Gooses," a hot spot in the bay mainstem about halfway between the Little Choptank River and Calvert County.

By 8 a.m., lines were cast and anglers hunkered down to battle the fish and the elements.

The outing was billed as a Baines-Robinson doubleheader, but it was dominated by a father-son combo that shared the famous players' surnames: Linwood Baines and Chris Robinson.

Harold's dad and Brooks' son - especially the senior Baines - put on a fishing clinic, hooking numerous rockfish and blues.

Meanwhile, the ballplayers busied themselves by talking baseball, families and golf courses, the last being the place a queasy Harold Baines clearly wished he was.

The St. Michaels native quietly retired before Opening Day this year after a 22-year career with four teams, most notably the Chicago White Sox. He spent a portion or all of seven seasons in an Orioles uniform.

The lifetime .289 hitter took a job this season with the White Sox working with minor-league players in Charlotte, N.C., and Birmingham, Ala.

Baines, 43, says he's on the road about 10 or 15 days a month, adjusting his schedule to his home life and the activities of his four children, ages 12 to 18.

"I like the freedom and I like teaching kids. If you help one of them get to the major leagues, it's giving back to baseball," he said.

Robinson, 65, praised Baines' strategy.

"Harold's keeping his hand in to see if he likes it and that's smart," he said. "Because baseball has its way of turning on you. Once you're out, you're out and it's hard to get back in."

Baines shook his head when asked if he missed his playing days. "Honestly, not as much as I thought I would. I'm moving on, I guess."

Although he moves gingerly on occasion, Baines said getting away from playing has eased the pain in his knees, which endured six operations and ended his fielding days.

"I saw the zipper on Brooks' knee," he said, pointing to the scar that accompanied Robinson's joint replacement. "I hope I don't have to get one of those."

Both men talked about career milestones.

Robinson won the American League MVP award and 16 Gold Gloves, played in 18 All-Star games and collected two World Series rings.

"Somebody asked me what's the one thing I wished I had done. Three thousand hits," he said. "I got 2,848 and then I couldn't get any more."

Baines retired 16 homers shy of 400 and 134 hits short of 3,000. Did he wish he could have played one more year to get closer?

"There wasn't a game plan like that. The goal every year was to win a [World Series] ring. I was fortunate enough to play for 22 years. I had a wonderful career," he said. "The only thing I didn't get was a ring."

Baines clearly hopes his numbers are good enough for the Hall of Fame, and it bothers him to think spending half of his career as a designated hitter will prevent that.

"I played 10 years in the outfield. If you can't win as a DH, why have it? Take it away," he said. "It's been part of the game for 30 years."

Robinson was tickled when someone brought up another milestone that wasn't part of his making it to Cooperstown.

"I won the bubble-blowing contest of Little Rock, Ark., when I was 12. Beat 2,000 kids with a 16-inch bubble. `King Bub' they called me," he said, laughing.

As midday approached, the water calmed slightly, putting No. 3 and No. 5 in action.

Brooks Robinson caught a keeper rockfish. "With these hands, I never miss one," he cracked.

Harold Baines caught the day's first bluefish.

Soon, the party headed home.

"Sorry for throwing up on your boat," said Baines, holding his No. 3 flag and shaking hands with Jones.

"It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last," replied the gracious skipper.

When it was his turn, Robinson played flawless defense: "I threw up first today, but I just lied about it."

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