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An O's fan in Yankee land


This is the story of a recent bus trip with 60 die-hard Orioles fans to Yankee Stadium, where we somehow managed to avoid being assaulted and had ourselves a fine time.

The whole adventure began with a phone call from my buddy, the Captain, who made me an offer that sounded like something out of a travel brochure.

"Here's the plan," he said. "We all meet at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m., see? Then we ride for four hours in a cramped bus with all the leg room of the Apollo 7 and catch the game -- hopefully without being mugged outside the joint or stabbed inside by any of their lunatic fans. Then, sunburned and exhausted, we ride another four hours home, unless we get caught in New York traffic, in which case you can plan on a six-hour ride, easy.

"How 'bout it? Tickets are 60 bucks each."

Well, it sounded great to me, although that's mainly because I was on my fourth beer at the time.

So bright and early on a recent Saturday we climbed onto a charter bus and made the long trip up I-95.

About two hours later, we stopped to visit one of the famous rest areas on the New Jersey Turnpike, where I picked up a small, scalding coffee-to-go for the entirely reasonable price of two bucks.

Maybe an hour later, the coffee finally cooled down enough to drink. Not that there was much left; most of it had long since spilled in my lap, causing a fairly symmetrical pattern of third-degree burns on both thighs.

I don't know how long the trip took. All I know is that somewhere around Exit 10, I lost all feeling from the waist down. This was due to the fact that I had traveled three hours with my knees tucked into my chest, as there was very little room between the seats.

Sometime around 11, we spotted it rising out of the soupy mid-morning smog of the South Bronx: The House That Ruth Built.

"There it is, boys!" I sang out to two of our young companions. "Yankee Stadium. The most famous ballpark in the world!"

"Where?" said one boy. "Over where that abandoned car is burning?"

"No, no, to the left."

"Next to the tenement with the gang graffiti?"

"No, to the right of that."

"You mean where the police have that guy spread-eagled on the hood of their car?"

"Yep, right above that."

Our bus driver, Jerry, let us off about five blocks from the stadium, without a police escort, too, which didn't sit too well with some of our older riders.

To soak in some of the ambience of the neighborhood, we decided to visit one of the famous sports bars outside Yankee Stadium, where a beer goes for, oh, 19 or 20 bucks and a T-shirt sets you back a week's salary.

Soon, it was time to make our way to the stadium. Luckily, it wasn't Bat Day, since the sight of 50,000 or so deranged Yankee fans armed with Louisville Sluggers would have been too much to take.

As it was, the fans seemed to be in a cordial mood. Only 15 or 20 of them yelled obscenities as we moved to our seats and they spotted our Orioles caps and T-shirts.

And only two of them actually came over and threatened us, and they were both elementary school kids who didn't appear to be armed.

So we settled back with our $15 beers and $10 hot dogs, or whatever they cost, and enjoyed the game.

At times, though, it was sort of hard to concentrate, particularly when the Yankee fans began directing some gentle, good-natured razzing toward Orioles' starter Sid Fernandez.

"Hey, Sid, you fat slob! Have another slice of pizza!" yelled one swarthy fellow, lurching to his feet and spilling his beer on the woman in front of him.

"Hey, Sid, you #$%&!" yelled another.

Yeah, you gotta love that baseball lingo.

Anyway, the Orioles ended up getting waxed, 7-3. The Yankees starter, Melido Perez, looked like Don Drysdale while Fernandez (who dropped 40-some pounds since last season and isn't fat at all) looked like he was pitching underhand in a beer league.

After the game, we were glad to find the bus wasn't up on blocks with all four tires stripped and the transmission strewn all over the parking lot, as we'd feared.

Jerry was still alive, too, which was a plus.

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