In what might have been Brooks Robinson's last All-Star Game, there was a much bigger topic of conversation at Camden Yards yesterday.
Even the old-timers who participated in the Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball Game had their curiosity aroused by the enormous presence of the B&O; warehouse. The huge structure behind the right-field scoreboard and bleachers has become a symbol of baseball's newest palace.
Had they stuck around long enough, the old sluggers would have seen evidence of what they suspected all along -- that the warehouse is within reach for the big blasters, as Ken Griffey proved.
"If I had gotten one down and in, I might've been the first one [to hit the building]," said Dave Parker, who thinks he should still be playing in the big leagues but has to settle for the old-timers events. "I would like to play a full season here. I'd get it [the warehouse] a couple of times."
And Parker was talking about the present, not his prime.
And he wouldn't get an argument from Chuck Tanner, one of Parker's former managers, who watched his former slugger homer off Rollie Fingers. Tanner managed the National League Old-Timers, who lost, 4-2, to their American League counterparts, managed by former Orioles manager Earl Weaver.
"I'll tell you this much, if Earl and I had these two teams in their prime, we could go fishing by the July 4th," said Tanner, who managed many of the game's participants during stints with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A's, Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves. "There is a lot of talent in this [dressing] room."
One of the regulars in that clubhouse was Robinson, who has played a steady schedule of old-timers games since retiring in 1977. But the Hall of Fame third baseman, who played in 18 consecutive All-Star Games, hinted again yesterday that he may have played his last game. "I think that might be it," said Robinson.
If, in fact, it was his last game, Robinson went out in style. He started two double plays, one of the spectacular kind, and singled in two at-bats.
While there was more comedy than ability on display during the four-inning contest, the game had its moments, though ex-Orioles got off to a rocky start.
Boog Powell booted a grounder at first base on the first play of the game. Paul Blair dropped a line drive in center field on the next play. Then Doug DeCinces had a ball deflect off his glove after a long run from his position at shortstop. And when Reggie Jackson caught a long fly ball for the second out, he miscounted and started to jog off the field.
The All-Star festivities provided Jackson, the Hall of Fame's newest member, with his first view of Camden Yards, and he marveled at the warehouse. "If I had played here, that thing would've been hit a few times," he said.
"I think it would be hard for a visiting player who has only a few games, but give somebody like [Mickey] Tettleton 300 at-bats here and he'd hit it a couple of times."
The pre-game introductions had special meaning for Jackson.
"It was the first time I actually had the feeling of being in the Hall of Fame," he said. "They had all of the Hall of Famers together behind home plate, and when I came out, I went over there [the first-base line, where the American League team was lined up]. They called to me and said, 'Hey, you belong over here with us.' "
The AL won the game on the strength of a four-run third inning highlighted by a three-run homer by Joe Rudi off Gaylord Perry. The blast into the left-center-field seats came after plate umpire Bob Roesner, a long-time amateur official in the Baltimore area, mocked a search of Perry's uniform, looking for illegal substances the right-hander was often accused of using.