It is 10:16 on a mild Monday night in May and some 40,000 people at Camden Yards are poised at the threshold of a time warp. Stepping to the plate in the top of the eighth inning is Detroit Tiger Kirk Gibson, whose turn at bat will lend new meaning to the phrase "national pastime."
Time passes, and passes. The at-bat goes nearly nine minutes, about four times the major-league average, a marathon even in this era of the three-hour game. Orioles play-by-play announcer Jon Miller later remarks on major-league batters' increasing tendency to step out of the box, saying: "Why should they be allowed to do that? There's no other sport where somebody in the midst of playing can just stop playing."
In the top of the eighth May 30, Gibson and Orioles reliever Alan Mills both risk arrest for loitering. Each dawdles -- stepping in, stepping out, apparently trying to gain some psychological edge with the tying run at bat. And as the game hangs suspended like a tethered blimp, life goes on in greater metropolitan Baltimore.
10:15: Baltimore Police are called to a dog-bite complaint at Erdman Avenue. As they head to the scene, Gibson is announced at 10:16 as a pinch hitter for Danny Bautista and lumbers toward the plate. Orioles pitching coach Dick Bosman walks to the mound to discuss the situation with Mills and catcher Chris Hoiles. Alan Trammell stands at second after doubling with one out; two men are out and the Orioles lead 2-0.
USAir Flight 1228 from Chicago, a Boeing 737 that carries up to 137 passengers, arrives at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
10:17: Bosman returns to the dugout. Gibson steps into the box and takes strike one on the outside corner. He calls time, steps out, steps in.
Domino's Pizza delivers a sausage and mushroom pizza to an apartment on Pratt Street. According to Domino's training director Phil Bressler, it is one of 57 pizzas that are delivered by 23 Domino's stores in the Baltimore area during the course of Gibson's turn at bat.
10:18: Gibson takes strike two on the inside corner. Gibson doesn't like the call from plate umpire Durwood Merrill. He walks away from the plate, shakes his head. This takes a half-minute or so. Gibson steps back into the box and takes ball one inside.
10:19: With the count 1-2, Gibson asks Merrill for time, gets it, and backs away from the plate. Mills walks off the mound onto the grass toward second base. Gibson steps back in, takes ball two outside. Steps out of the box and back in again. Walks away from the plate.
Domino's delivers a pepperoni and sausage pizza to Regester Avenue.
A Sun Cab picks up a fare at Mercy Medical Center. It's one of 18 taxis dispatched during the course of Gibson's at-bat by Yellow Transportation, Baltimore's largest cab company, says president Mark Joseph.
10:20: Gibson strokes a line drive foul into the box seats on the first base side, breaking his bat. He walks into the dugout, then disappears into the clubhouse in search of a new bat. The count is 2-and-2.
Southwest Airlines Flight 1043, a Boeing 737, arrives at BWI from St. Louis.
City police are called to a reported burglary in the 3000 block of Elgin Ave. The complaint apparently is unfounded, as no written report is ever filed. But police do not leave the scene until 10:52.
At Sinai Hospital, three women are in labor. One will give birth to a boy at 2:52 a.m. Tuesday. Girls will be born to the other two at 3:20 and 7:04 a.m., says hospital spokesman Paul Umansky.
10:21: Domino's delivers a pepperoni pizza to Lombard Street.
Gibson emerges from the clubhouse with a new bat, stops in the on-deck circle to use the pine tar rag and rosin bag. White rosin clouds puff off the bat handle. Fans, apparently unimpressed with Gibson's work habits, begin booing. Gibson walks back into the box, prompting announcer Miller to advise his listeners, "If you've just rejoined us, this is the same at-bat that was going on when you first tuned out."
Miller later says it appears "Gibson was trying to rattle [Mills], trying to get on base, get a fat pitch. . . . It was good gamesmanship, that's what I thought."
10:22: Mills delivers ball three way outside to the left-handed batter. Mills walks off the mound. Gibson walks away from the plate, waits for Mills, makes Mills wait.
A driver for Towson Sedan Service approaches Cockeysville with one passenger after a 4 1/2 -hour run to Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
At St. Joseph's Hospital, a woman approaches the end of labor. She delivers a 9-pound, 8-ounce boy at 10:50, says spokeswoman Sharon Sams.
10:23: Northeast District police are summoned to the scene of a gunpoint holdup in the 3000 block of Echodale Ave., where a woman has been robbed of her purse but not injured. Central District police rush to a 7-Eleven in the 1100 block of N. Calvert St., where four teen-agers have just swiped 10 candy bars and three bags of nuts and knocked down the store manager on the way out.
After a period of contemplation outside the batter's box, Gibson steps back in. Mills sets up and goes into the stretch for the 3-2 pitch. But just before Mills delivers, Gibson calls time and steps out.
10:24: Channel 13's game broadcast cuts to a shot of the Camden Yards scoreboard clock. Mills tosses the ball to Hoiles and asks for another one.
Southwest District police head to the 2100 block of Gable Ave. for a report of a "suspicious person."
Gibson steps back into the box. "Alert the media," says Miller, "he has decided to bat, ladies and gentlemen."
10:25: Pitcher and batter are simultaneously prepared to go to work. Mills delivers, and Miller notes, "No timeout called." The 3-2 delivery is outside, ball four. Gibson departs the batter's box for first base.
The game continues and the Orioles lose, 5-3, in 11 innings, 4 hours and 23 minutes after the first pitch thrown by Jamie Moyer.
And life in Baltimore goes on.
THE ETERNAL AT-BAT
In the eighth inning on May 30, Detroit's Kirk Gibson came to bat against the Orioles' Alan Mills. Here's what happened:
Time of Gibson at-bat: 10:16 p.m. to 10:25 p.m.
Duration of Gibson at-bat: about 9 minutes.
Sun and Yellow taxis dispatched in Baltimore: 18.
Pizzas delivered by Domino's in Baltimore metropolitan area: 57.
Commercial flights arriving at Baltimore-Washington International Airport: 3.
Number of calls for Baltimore police: 6.