Monday, May 15, 2006

Me and Queen Elizabeth

In 1991 I was a rookie play-by-play announcer for the Baltimore Orioles. I kept a daily journal that year and sold it as a book. IT’S GONE…NO, WAIT A MINUTE! (my classic home run call unfortunately) was published by Villard and released in ’93. It’s available on Amazon or on a remainder table near you. Fifteen years ago today this is what happened:


A typical day really, except that the queen of England and the president of the United States attended the game. They saw the A’s win 6-3, although Randy Milligan hit his first home run of the year and then his second.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip are visiting the United States and wanted to view something that represented the “epitome of America”. That meant either the Shopping Channel or baseball. So our little ol’ ballpark on Thirty-third Street got the nod. The weather was glorious, the traffic horrendous, and the crowd merely moderate (32,501) to see this historic occasion (The queen was not as big a draw as free wristbands.)

The entourage arrived at 6:30 via motorcade and were whisked into a private reception hosted by club owner Eli S. Jacobs (whom I have yet to meet, by the way). The VIP party, which also included Mrs. Bush, baseball commish Fay Vincent (who told me before the game that the role of the commissioner in affairs such as these is “to be seen and then leave”), Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, Mrs. Secretary of Defense, the Governor of Maryland, the British Foreign Secretary, and a number of the queen’s personal valets, secretaries, and foot stools. They all dined on crab cakes and hot dogs. (What, no crumpets and nachos??).

Everyone lingered over dinner for fifteen minutes, and then the royal party moved on to the Orioles dugout to greet the players of both teams.

I did not get to meet the queen. Jon Miller and I were on the air describing the proceedings. At 7:20 a receiving line of players was rushed through (viewed by the crowd on DiamondVision), and to the horror of the Secret Service, the president escorted Queen Elizabeth (or “Sausage” as Prince Philip calls her) up the top step into the on-deck area in full view of the masses. Personally, I feel Harold Baines would be in greater danger than the queen, but the Secret Service men held their breath just the same. The crowd roared its approval.

From there the royal party repaired back to Mr. Jacobs’ sky box on the mezzanine level just to the left of the press box. They sat comfortably behind bulletproof glass as a high school chorus mangled “God Save the Queen” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” over a sound system wracked by feedback.

They stayed for two whole innings, and I sort of felt bad because they were two very boring innings. Five walks, little action. Really, Your Highness, baseball is not that dull! I wanted her to stay longer, but by 8:45 the motorcade had shuttled her away. I also was hoping to have her stop by our booth and possibly read the “Esskay Meats Out-of-Town Scoreboard,” but that was not to be. See if I vote for her in the next election!

All in all it was a very exciting night. In three previous years in the minors the most important dignitary I ever saw attend a game was the Phillie Phanatic.


Chris said...

Too bad Reggie still wasn't on the O's back then:

"I must. Kill. The Queen."

Brent McKee said...

The Queen knows about boring - she watches Cricket. By the standards of a game where they change announcers more often than they do players any game of baseball is relatively exciting.

Grubber said...

You guys all misunderstand Cricket, it's not a game, it's an excuse.

A test match in cricket goes for 5 days.

When you tell your wife you're just going to watch the game, you are getting a 5 day pass. Divorce rates are high in Australia.

Scott the Reader said...

When I lived in Manhattan, I roomed with the guy who built the Phillie Phanatic, so one of the costumes (there were two or three of them) was always in the apartment undergoing some sort of rehab.

I'd like to say I took the opportunity to do some sexually-inappropriate things with it, but unfortunately it didn't occur to me at the time.

VP19 said...

That wasn't the first American athletic event the queen had attended. In 1957, she was at the Maryland-North Carolina football game at Byrd Stadium -- a game that in itself had intrigue, as it was the first time Jim Tatum (who had built Maryland's great teams of the early fifties, then left for UNC after the '55 season) had coached at Byrd since leaving College Park for Chapel Hill. The home crowd had more joy than their Baltimore counterparts of 34 years later, as the Terrapins won 21-7.