I don't know how much of the pre-game festivities they showed on TV last night, but it was pretty cool. First of all the attendance was 42,000+ and when was the last time you saw that on a Tuesday night?
Prior to the game I was at my house waiting for my friends and dad to arrive and one of my friends calls me at a few minutes before 5 and says, "You have GOT to get down here. We have to get in line!" Get in line for what? For the bobbleheads! Both Eutaw St entrances, which open a half hour before the rest of the stadium, have lines that stretch out down, around the box offices and museum, down the sidewalk, all the way to the light rail station. Well I can't leave my house until my father gets there (he needs my visitor's parking pass, see), so I tell her to just hold her horses, I'm sure there aren't 25,000 people in line. We finally get there around 10 'til six, and we have to wait in line to get in. I cannot remember the last time I had to wait in line to get into Oriole Park.
So, the pre-game. They had a platform set up just in front of pitching mound, with some seats on either side of it. Gary Thorne was the MC. He introduced Cal's family (just the wife and kids, though I was hoping for some Billy), Andy MacPhail (who got a decent round of applause), Robin Roberts, Brooks, Earl, and Eddie. The applause for the last three overpowered Gary, not that they actually needed an introduction. Earl, incidentally, appears to be hitting the botox. Glaringly absent were Jim and Frank. We couldn't believe Jim would pass up the chance to have a full stadium give him an ovation, but he did send Cal a video message which was everything you expect from the pompous Jim Palmer (he's on a cruise in the mediterranean, in case anyone wonders why he wasn't there). No mention of Frank, though, not even once.
After all of the VIPs were seated, they showed a Cal montage on the "jumbo" tron. It was nice and well done, but just went on way too long. I can see videos of Cal anytime! Give me the real thing! Finally Cal emerged from the right field corner, sitting on a white convertible. He tossed baseballs up into the crowd, and in true Cal form, got down off the car to pick up the baseball that some kid dropped so he could hand it to him. It took FOREVER for that stupid car to get to the Orioles dugout, but it finally did, and Cal joined Andy and Gary on the stage. Andy presented Cal with a check for $1,000,000 to the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which seemed to surprise Cal a bit. Then Cal gave a short but lovely speech where he recounted the important moments in his career, and he ended the speech with the quote Brooks Robinson gave at the end of his career, "It's been wonderful sharing 21 years with you, and I only wish I had 21 more to give." He told us he'd see us all Sunday in Cooperstown, and that was it. He climbed back atop the Corvette and it drove him around the rest of the warning track so he could toss baseballs out and wave to people. In left field and the bleachers he got out so he could throw balls furthur. The first went into the club level, and the second to the back of the bleachers, almost to the scoreboard.
The game itself was fun. Daniel got into plenty of jams with the walks, but other wise was having a good night. His pitches hit 96-98 pretty consistantly, and I'm glad for once he got his act together. The crowd was amazing. I know they were all there for Cal, and it really struck me how far we've fallen. These were real fans. They knew the game, they knew when to cheer, they were having a great time at the ballpark. They just can't be bothered coming to watch this inferior product on a regular basis. It made me sad. It also gave me hope, though. If the Orioles ever can turn this thing around, this team and this ballpark can be great again. And those fans will have something to cheer for other than Cal Ripken, Jr.
I'm off to Jersey for a few days, then I'll be in Cooperstown on Friday. I'll be sure to take lots of good pictures to show you guys.