Thursday, August 23, 2007

GIMME A "D," GIMME AN "E," GIMME AN "A"...

You get the point.

The man who made a career of spelling O-R-I-O-L-E-S has gone to the big Section 34 in the sky. William "Wild Bill" Hagy, who ruled the upper deck at old Memorial Stadium, has died at that age of 68.

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.

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.

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.

The Orioles had planned to observe a moment of silence in his memory Monday night but their game against the Texas Rangers was rained out.

(The Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.)

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