May

16

 Luis Tiant was never a popular pitcher in Baltimore, which isn't too surprising considering that Tiant never played for the Orioles. But there was one day—May 8, 1966–when Baltimoreans actually enjoyed seeing him on the mound. They didn't think that they would when the bottom of the first inning began in a game at the Old Grey Lady on 33rd Street, aka Memorial Stadium. By the end of that inning, though, Tiant's name would ascend into the immortality associated with baseball memories. Not that he was pleased to be so, I'm sure.

You see, during that bottom of the first, the number 3 batter in the Orioles lineup, Frank Robinson—he being the "over the hill" guy that the Reds traded for Milt Papas in what is arguably the worst trade in baseball since the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to NY in exchange for the money needed to fund a new Broadway musical—took a swing at a Tiant fastball and not only lifted it up for a home run. He hit it so high and hard enough that the ball sailed clear out of the ball park. In the four decades the Os would play at Memorial Stadium, no other player did likewise—Orioles or visitors. To commemorate the event, the Os installed a flagpole at the point where the ball cleared the stadium and put a flag on it that simply said, "HERE"—black lettering in a sea of orange.

Visitors to Baltimore who went to an O's game often didn't know what the flag was all about, much as many didn't understand the turn to the south by many during the playing of the national anthem (usually not aware that about 5 miles south of the stadium lay Fort McHenry, where the lyrics were composed). The story wasn't hard to tell, and for any resident of Charm City during Frank Robinson's reign, the story was well known. But the visitors, though, didn't know; many, once told, would just look at the flag as it fluttered in the gentle breeze of a typically sweltering Baltimore summer evening.

The year 1966 was a magical one for Robinson. In addition hitting the only ball out of Memorial Stadium, he made the catch of the year about a little over a month later (June 21, to be specific) in Yankee Stadium, when in the bottom of the ninth inning of the first game of a double header, he caught a Ron White fly ball and in the process, went over the fence defining the outfield. Of course, it was the bottom of the 9th, and of course, the catch meant a Yankee loss. And of course, Robinson was met with beer cans and the like when he went out to play during the second game. Memorable.

If there Barry Levinson's Diner were ever updated, I'm sure that "the catch" as many in Baltimore came to refer to the event and the story of "HERE" would be among items of essential knowledge discussed in the diner.

In Baltimore, say the name "Robinson" and many will think of Brooks Robinson. Almost four decades after he retired, and Brooks is still known across the metro area as Mr. Oriole. Say "Frank", though, and everyone will also know that you're referring to Frank Robinson.

As the man said, "There are ballplayers, and then there's Frank."

"Remembering Frank Robinson's historic, outside-the-park home run, 50 years later"


Comments

Name

Email

Website

Speak your mind

Archives

Resources & Links

Search