Saturday, December 13, 2008

O-R-I-O-L-E-S fan 'Wild Bill' Hagy dead at 68

BALTIMORE, August 20, 2007 — William "Wild Bill" Hagy, a self-appointed Baltimore Orioles fan who ruled Section 34 in the upper deck at the old Memorial Stadium, died Monday. He was 68.

Hagy was found unresponsive in his home by his roommate, the Orioles said. Efforts by paramedics to revive him failed.

Wearing a straw hat and a scraggly beard, Hagy led cheers at the Orioles' old stadium during the 1970s and 1980s. He spelled out O-R-I-O-L-E-S with his body while fans yelled each letter in unison.

"He was part of a great era," Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said. "If you recall, we didn't draw many people back then. Best team in baseball, and we were drawing 1.2 million. He made it exciting to come to the ballpark."

A cabdriver during the day, Hagy guzzled many a beer in the stands while the fans eagerly waited for him to wave his hands over his head to start his trademark cheer. During important games, the team allowed him to climb on top of the Orioles dugout to rally the crowd with his act.

"It was nice to have an unofficial, official cheerleader," Palmer said.

Asked to explain how the phenomenon began, Palmer jokingly replied, "I don't know if he picked up (owner) Jerry Hoffberger at the train station in his cab. I just know for a team that didn't draw very well, it was very refreshing that he actually came out to the ballpark and generated not only fans, but interest in the team. He loved the Orioles."

Hagy was scruffy, had a beer belly and often wore tank tops to the game. Yet this cabdriver from Dundalk led a generation of Orioles backers in the cheap seats of an aging stadium that drew far more fans for NFL games involving the Baltimore Colts.

"If you go back and look at history of Baltimore, we were always kind of on the other side of the tracks," Palmer said of the Orioles. "When I first came to Baltimore, you had Washington and then you had Baltimore. So, I thought he was somebody you could relate to. People loved to sit up there."

Hagy put an end to his antics when the Orioles moved to Camden Yards in 1992, in part because he couldn't stand the new breed of upper-crust fans who spoke on cellphones during the game. But he reprised his act in the middle of the decade during the playoffs.


Wild Bill Hagy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William "Wild Bill" Hagy (June 17, 1939August 20, 2007) was an American baseball fan and cab driver from Dundalk, Maryland who led famous "O-R-I-O-L-E-S" chants during the late 1970s and early '80s from section 34 in the upper deck at Memorial Stadium.

Hagy's chants and persona developed him into an icon associated with the Baltimore Orioles for years. While leading cheers from "The Roar from 34" at Memorial Stadium, Wild Bill became a Baltimore institution. Standing at six foot two inches tall with what most would describe as a "beer belly", Hagy was an easily recognized figure at the ball park, always adorned in sun glasses and a straw cowboy-styled hat. He was one of the great characters of the Baltimore sports landscape and a true die-hard Orioles fan. His passion and energy for the Orioles made him a Baltimore legend. Hagy found the inspiration in his cheers from Leonard "Big Wheel" Burrier, a famous fan who led the Baltimore Colts in similar cheers. Longtime O's fan revere the local legend's connection to Baltimore baseball, as evidenced by the "Roar from 34" fan blog [1].

It Ain't a Crime to Cheer for Your Team ... Or Is It?

Monday, December 08, 2008

by Matthew Taylor

A recent news item making the rounds reveals that cheering "O" during the national anthem in Baltimore actually violates a city ordinance. Thankfully, City Councilman James Kraft is on the job.

"Baltimore Orioles fans could soon be able to shout "O" during the national anthem without breaking the law.
A little known city ordinance requires that "The Star Spangled Banner" must be sung without altering or embellishments. Violators could face a $100 fine. The ordinance was adopted in 1916 and is one of several laws that City Councilman James Kraft hopes to erase from the books."
Perhaps those cell phone fans who invaded Camden Yards following the stadium's construction in the early '90s were just ahead of the curve with their apathy.

I'll admit to having taken a certain satisfaction from hearing the "O" at the few Nats games I've attended. The cheer also pops up occasionally at other non-Camden Yards events, including minor league games. When do you cheer "O" during the national anthem? Vote in the Roar from 34 poll.

Honoring Wild Bill Hagy at Oriole Park

Posted by Jeff Quinton on April 23, 2008

Rick Maese

They met a couple of hours before the first pitch. They tried on their beards, downed some Natty Bohs and warmed up with a few Wild Bill chants. David Clapp placed the odds at 10-1 that one of them might dance atop the dugout later, and Barker Harrison showed up with a cooler and announced that the night wouldn’t be complete until someone chucked it from the upper deck.

With two outs in the third inning, an usher made his way down to Row MM. “You guys can’t stand up,” he said. “You’re standing up too much.”

Yep, the magic is surely dead, I thought.

But that’s precisely when it happened. The sparkle had arrived. I’m not sure whether it was magic dust glistening under the stadium lights or the droplets of beer hanging in Wild Bill’s fake beard.

First, Relish won the scoreboard hot dog race. Then Kevin Millar homered. Then Ramon Hernandez doubled to score Luke Scott and Aubrey Huff. And a ballpark of Yankees fans had been conquered by a dozen Wild Bills.

Once an inning or so, a Wild Bill would leave his seat, scamper down the steps and turn to the crowd, contorting his body into the alphabet. “O-R-I-O-L-E-S!” he’d scream. It was Wild Bill’s signature, the beer in his belly, the ink in his pen.