WHOEVER sent Larry Bigbie the green jade Buddha, please stand up. It worked.
"There was no note. It just came in the mail," Bigbie said, reaching up to the top shelf of his locker last night.
He pulled down the miniature statue, cradling the big-bellied talisman in the palm of his hand.
"No offense to all the people who sent me stuff, but I had to take it all down. Except this one. I think I'll keep this one," he said.
Homers for Buddha: Bigbie's search for a good-luck charm ended when Bigbie announced himself last night, finally, in grand fashion to Charm City.
Or, more specifically, make that Good-Luck Charm City.
Bigbie better be happy with the Buddha, because he's not going to get back his home run ball. That lucky orb landed in the Orioles' bullpen in the second inning last night, and veteran Steve Reed stuck it in his cleat, determined that he and only he will decide if and when Bigbie gets it.
The joke and the ribbing from his teammates were appreciated by Bigbie.
Fresh off the disabled list and after suffering through a (mostly) disappointing start to his season, Bigbie cranked his first homer of 2005 last night.
The bases-empty shot, on the first pitch of his first at-bat since May 28, lifted the Orioles to a 3-2 lead over the Houston Astros and was part of a six-run inning that earned the Orioles the kind of victory they need to reinvigorate a season that can't be left to treading water.
Health might lead to prosperity, especially for the injury-addled Orioles, who are lucky the American League East has remained theirs the past two weeks. They need reinforcements to make another surge. That's why the victory within last night's victory was as much about Bigbie as anything.
What a relief. For him, for everyone.
For two months, people have been sending him good-luck charms. For two months, I've been carrying a folder stuffed with printouts of e-mail messages sent to The Sun from Bigbie fans who earnestly and generously wanted to help.
Three games into the start of this season, Bigbie said he needed help.
"I'm very superstitious. I want to have a good season, so I need a good-luck charm," the left fielder said.
Not being picky, Bigbie said anything would do, which explained why he had once considered using a Swedish coin. Never a popular choice among the superstitious baseball players.
Then there was the piggy bank painted like a football, sent to him by his high school coach. He used that last year, sort of.
Bigbie's great idea was to put a quarter in the bank every time he had an 0-fer, but when he shook the bank, it sounded pretty empty, with a quarter or two rattling around inside the porcelain pigskin.
"I kind of lost track," Bigbie said at the time.
You get the picture. Bigbie really did need serious help.
"The only criteria is that it has to fit on the shelf in my locker and fit in my travel bag," he said at the time.
It all sounded simple enough, hence the outpouring of mailed-in items to Bigbie and more e-mail offerings from people eager to see the popular outfielder make good on his talent.
Take, for instance, the one from Nicole Jacobs, from Kennedyville, who wrote:
"In lieu of myself, I gladly offer up this good-luck dollar bill. While swimming in the Miami surf during spring training, I found a dollar bill bobbing along in the current. It's lucky I was even swimming that far out alone, after having watched Spring Break Shark Attack the prior night.
"Lucky that the salt water gave the dollar a crispness like the springtime air at Camden Yards. Lucky the dollar bill made it all the way home from Florida without being spent. Trust me, that's lucky."
People sent in shot glasses, military medals, snow globes, transcendental meditation tapes.
The problem was, during the attempt to identify the perfect new good-luck charm, Bigbie's season-opening slump grew worse. He grew so discouraged and restless to get on track, he finally chucked it all ... except for the green Buddha, there presiding over his breakout game.
Bigbie had his first three-hit game of the season and, his favorite part: "I erased the goose egg from the board."
"I told [hitting coach Terry Crowley] that I was just going to put those first 100 at-bats behind me and start fresh.," Bigbie said.
"We have some sluggers in the lineup, and I can't try and compete with them. That's not me right now."
So he relaxed and, as happens, the homer finally came.
"I didn't do anything except just try and clear my head," he said.
It worked. So did the green Buddha.