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Spitballin’

Put Wild Bill in the Hall of Fame

Wild Bill Hagy Deserves a Statue!

Ottmar Mergenthaler was a great Baltimorean. He invented the Linotype machine, which I’ve heard was important. I think it combined the typewriter and the coke mirror into one device, allowing the rise of gonzo journalism, but I’m not a scientist so I can’t be sure. Either way, it got him into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame. James Herbert “Eubie” Blake was also a great Baltimorean. His music revolutionized America’s sound, and he made it into two halls: the Big Band and Jazz and the American Theater halls of fame. Nine Baltimore Colts and one Raven made the pro football hall, and there are a dozen Orioles, dating back to the turn-of-the-last-century National League O’s, in the baseball hall. There’s even a pair of golden-throated O’s broadcasters, Chuck Thompson and Jon Miller, in residence.

Last week I was in upstate New York and decided to make a Baltimore baseball fan’s pilgrimage to Cooperstown, N.Y., and the Baseball Hall of Fame. I wore my traditional white-fronted disco-bird ball cap and Crush Davis souvenir T, and stuffed my pockets with freshly steamed crab claws to make offerings at the bronze plaques of Cal Ripken Jr. and Wee-Willie Keeler. Pilgrimage is the right term too. When I checked in on Facebook, the hall was listed as a religious center, which is appropriate, as not even the Holy Trinity with Jesus on first, the slap hitting Holy Spirit at second, and the Good Lord Himself manning (Godding?) short could turn the double play like Tinker to Evers to Chance. It was a truly reverential experience, which perhaps peaked when I took in the simple beauty of an Orioles’ ’66 World Series ring which was about the size of my high school ring and lent stark contrast to the 2003 Marlins Ring, easily the biggest on display at about the size of a Hyundai Elantra—not overlarge for a car, but I’d imagine it would make fist-bumping A.J. Burnett a life-threatening experience.

There were more than a few moments of shock and disappointment. The first was when I tried to wedge myself into the seats from the old Ebbets Field and realized my 21st-century ass had no place in a 20th-century ballpark. The second was standing in front of an enormous case in Abner Doubleday’s palace containing the Philly Phanatic. The great green behemoth stared silently from his crystalline prison, and I contemplated busting him out, Princess Leia style, when I was distracted by the dulcet tones of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” drawing me away from the tragic trophy-beast and to an exhibit on stadium tunes. My reverie was shattered, however, by a pair of Yankees fans complaining, “Whud da fug is dis? Bob Denver? Whuds dat godda do wiv baseball?” Everything, you pinstriped pinheads, everything. The biggest shock, however, came at the top of the stairs entering the third floor of the hall.

On the landing was an exhibit dedicated to the super-fans of baseball. In front of a fake stadium wall stood papier-mache statues of Pearl Sandow of the Atlanta Crackers, Philadelphia’s Yo-Yo, Lilly Hopkins from Boston, Cincinnati’s Harry Thobe, Hilda Chester, who rooted on the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the most glaring omission in the history of hall of fames. Where the hell is Wild Bill?

William “Wild Bill” Hagy was not just a great Baltimorean, he was the greatest. In ancient days, the gods took human form and walked amongst the mortals. The 6-foot-2-inch man-mountain with a belly bigger than Bel Air and a gloriously uncivilized halo of hair circling his smile and wedged into a half-gallon cowboy hat was surely the avatar of Baltimore itself. Wild Bill was the soul of Memorial Stadium. He was the Gandalf to the Orioles Magic. If you take the Budweiser brewery tour, you’ll find slivers of beechwood floating in the vats to provide that ineffable Bud-ness. At the Old Bay plant, instead of beechwood, there is a handful of Wild Bill beard clippings bringing the Bmore.

Perhaps the only thing more ferociously and fantastically Baltimore than the Roar from 34 and Hagy’s drunken dugout dances was the way he left. In 1985, Wild Bill, like the rest of us, was no longer allowed to bring his own beer to games. Most people believe it was wrecking balls that tore down Old Memorial Stadium, but true fans know the truth. It was slow-building, long-oscillating reverberations from Wild Bill’s final protest. When he hurled his empty cooler onto the field and walked away from 33rd, the stadium was doomed.

And yet, this Hall of Fame Human was left out of the super-fan exhibit. There have been horrors in the history of humanity, great tragedies that plague we people of Earth. The omission of Wild Bill Hagy is the 17th worst thing that has ever happened, just after the Black Death and just ahead of the Germans taking Justin Bieber’s monkey. And now, I call on you, Spitballin’ Nation! (It’s not a big nation, I know, kind of like a Liechtenstein or the island of Nauru.) Let us right this wrong! Let us stand together atop of the dugout of the righteous and let the Baseball Hall of Fame hear our cry! WILD BILL HAGY DESERVES A STATUE!

Tweet to the Hall of Fame, Spitballers! Email them! Write them! Tell them you won’t return to the hall until you can see Wild Bill at the top of the stairs! Sign our City Paper petition at citypaper.com/wildbill and lend your voices! We the people of Baltimore demand recognition, Wild Bill for the HOF!

Write Jim meyer at spitballin@gmail.com and Follow him on twitter @jimmy2bad, and if you’ve got a story about Wild Bill, especially if you bought ice cream from his ice cream truck or were taken to the hospital in his ambulance, let us know!

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