Orioles may not be clicking, but turnstiles are in record numbers


The most exciting thing in Baltimore sports this summer is taking place at the turnstiles.

The Orioles, though hopelessly out of the race in sixth place in the American League East, are on a course to draw 2.5 million customers. Maybe more.

Even if they do, however, that will not be any sort of league record for drawing great crowds despite having a low finish.

Bob Miller, of the Orioles' public relations department, went through his records yesterday and determined that even if the O's finish sixth -- 2.5 million would fall short of a California Angels record.

"In 1987," Miller said, "the Angels finished in sixth place in the AL West and drew 2,696,299. The Dodgers finished fourth in '87 and drew 2.8 million. The Yankees were fifth in '88 and drew 2.6 million.

"We won't draw that many, but we don't have the population they have in Southern California or New York. The fans here have given our ballclub fantastic support this year."

The results of a recent poll of ballplayers may be reflected in the crowds at Memorial Stadium last weekend. The top two players for excitement, according to their peers, are Oakland's Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson. The Oakland-Orioles series drew 141,619, third highest in club history for a three-game series. So far this season the O's have drawn 1,531,677, the team's highest total ever for 47 dates. They are running 61,425 ahead of last year.

* There was a crowd in one part of Memorial Stadium Sunday 4 1/2 hours before the start of the game. The Orioles front office staff was aware that movie star Kevin Costner was about to take pre-game batting practice.

"You should have seen this office," says Evelyn Ehlers, a young Loyola College graduate who is administrative assistant to the PR director. "At 9 o'clock it was packed. Every woman in the office was already here. And every one [including Evelyn] was dressed a little better than usual."

* Baltimore's Lyn Brooks has earned a reputation as the athlete in her family, first for winning triathlons and, more recently, as director of the Bud Lite Triathlon here each June. Now Lyn is being upstaged by, of all people, her mother, Margy.

Margy Brooks this summer went to Syracuse and swam in the U.S. Senior Olympics. At the age of 72, she finished fifth in the nation in the freestyle, seventh in the backstroke.

"The most amazing thing about it," says W.H.C. "Bill" Wilson, an oldfamily friend, "is they had people up there 85 and 90 years old competing in the shotput and javelin."

* The Big 33 high school football game in Hershey last weekend turned out to be more exciting than I'd bargained for. For one thing, Maryland beat Pennsylvania, 17-9, its first win over the host state since 1987.

For another, it was great to see Baltimore area stars like running back Larry Washington (Randallstown) and linebacker Jamal Cox (Gilman) do so well against outstanding opposition. Washington was the top rusher for the winners with 57 yards in eight carries. Off that one performance, I'd project Washington to be a good back at Maryland, though not a great one. Cox, who made 11 tackles, looks as if he'll be an excellent performer for Bobby Ross at Georgia Tech.

Another interesting Big 33 angle was getting a look at Redskins coach Joe Gibbs' son, Coy. A 215-pound linebacker who'll go to Stanford, young Gibbs was one of six DeMatha players on the Maryland squad. And people think all they can play over there is basketball.

By the way, running back Ed Trusty, who, along with Cox, was a preseason high school All-America at Gilman last year, has dropped football. He'll enter the University of Virginia in another month and study to be a minister. In his application for admission he didn't even mention that he had played football.

* George Franke, onetime Gilman and Princeton fullback, was amazed at the size of the Big 33 players, some of whom approach 300 pounds.

"When I played at Princeton in 1942," says Franke, "the biggest player we had was a tackle named Bird Dog Morris. He weighed 219 pounds -- and we played some of the best teams in the country. Today he wouldn't be big enough to play for Gilman."

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