Thanks, Wild Bill, for the memories

The Baltimore Sun

I still have Saturday, June 23, 1979, marked in my book of life as having started off as a bad day, an ugly day. It's too bad, on account of the great thing that happened the night before, but what can I tell ya? Stuff happens, even when your adopted hometown team wins.

Doug DeCinces had hit a ninth-inning home run the night before at Memorial Stadium, giving the Orioles a huge win over the Detroit Tigers in the American League East pennant race. It was a big wow. (Later, some baseball historians decided that home run heralded the birth of Oriole Magic.)

I should have been savoring the win, like everyone else around here, but my mind wasn't on the game. It was on depressing personal stuff.

It got to be Saturday afternoon, and we were going to Little Italy and then a double-header at the stadium -- four couples, all good friends -- but things were very sour.

Let me use guy shorthand: Woman. OK?

Had to do with a woman. Bad day. Lots of angst and tears and an achy heart, that kind of stuff, a complete and total distraction from baseball. What a mess.

I had tickets to the doubleheader, and I didn't even want to go. But I went. And the eight of us sat in the upper deck with Wild Bill Hagy, who was already a legend.

And this is what happened, boys and girls:

In the first game, the trailing Birds attempted another ninth-inning rally, and the pot-bellied, bushy-bearded Hagy did his famous cheer in Section 34. Then Eddie Murray -- ED-DEE! ED-DEE! -- came to the plate with two on and one out and the Orioles losing, 6-5, at sunset. The place rocked. I've never heard such a sound.


Murray leaned in, making tight circles with his bat, and he sent the next pitch into the stands -- a three-run homer (Earl Weaver's favorite kind) that topped DeCinces' act of the night before.

Place went nuts. It was an exhilarating moment, one of the biggest, richest we've ever experienced in Baltimore.

Things were looking a little better in the personal column by the time we hit the break between games. I don't remember exactly what happened or what was said, but to my surprise, my date was still sitting next to me, and she seemed a lot happier than she had three hours earlier.

In the second game of the doubleheader, the Orioles fell behind again. They were losing, 5-3, but, with the tank-topped, tube-socked Wild Bill leading cheers, the Birds got two runs in the seventh inning to tie the game. In the eighth inning, Terry Crowley came up as a pinch-hitter and delivered a tiebreaking single, and the Orioles lead held in the ninth with Sammy Stewart on the mound, and the home team won, 6-5.

Place went nuts again. In fact, it seemed to be in a state of nuts all night -- so loud I went home with my ears ringing, and my date smiling.

Things turned out OK that night, much better than I had expected, all the way around -- magical, really, and I haven't said that about anything else in baseball since. Wild Bill, thanks for the memories.

Just common sense

Doesn't everyone know about smoke detectors by now? How many times have smoke detectors been mentioned on local TV, in the newspaper, on the radio, on billboards, on posters? How many times have firefighters in Baltimore and the surrounding counties visited neighborhoods to check for smoke detectors in homes? How many have they installed for free?

Answer: 102,000 in the city alone in the past five years (and thousands upon thousands more since they started their lifesaving campaign a couple of decades ago).

You can get smoke detectors for free in Baltimore, and just about anywhere if you're in a pinch. Firefighters and officers raise money to buy them. If you need one, they'll install one. For a while in Howard County some years ago, Domino's Pizza offered free smoke-detector inspection with home delivery.

In Baltimore and the surrounding counties, it's been hard to miss the memo: Smoke detectors save lives.

So my reaction to Roy Riley's $52 million lawsuit -- $52.3 million, to be exact -- against the building management for not installing smoke detectors in a West Baltimore apartment where Riley's fiancee, son and the fiancee's niece died went something like this: Sorry for your loss, and everyone can understand why you're upset and suing, but why didn't you install a smoke detector yourself? And sorry if that sounds cold, but to me it's just common sense: If my landlord doesn't install a smoke detector, then I'm going to get one and hang it myself -- especially if there are little kids under my roof.

I'm not making excuses for the building management -- the defendant in the lawsuit is Salomon Rosskamn of the Blue Fountain Apartments -- because the law says apartments are supposed to have smoke detectors and that it's the landlord's responsibility, according to the city's fire prevention bureau.

Riley's lawyer is David Ellin, a name of some fame in Baltimore litigation. Ellin said at a news conference Monday that he hoped the lawsuit would prompt other landlords to be aware of their responsibility, saying, "Instead of trying to save a few bucks, they might try to save a few lives."

OK. I'm glad there's a public-interest aspect to this $52.3 million lawsuit.

But if I'm on the jury considering it -- and I won't be, because I never get picked for juries -- I'm thinking an adult in this situation should have taken responsibility for the smoke detector. If the landlord didn't, then the adults living in the apartment should have. It would have cost them nothing and saved everything.

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