It was Cal Ripken Jr. who said, “You can be a kid for as long as you want when you play baseball.” And in the end, isn’t that what the game is all about?
Despite all the drama and tension, baseball is fun. It is supposed to bring joy, every night a chance to escape for nine innings.
With that in mind, we’re taking stroll down memory lane to highlight the times in Orioles history that did just that. The ones that provided levity and laughs, and for those reasons, went on to live forever.
Let’s look at the 10 most comical moments in Orioles history:
1. Rick Dempsey Rain Delay Theater, Part I
Sept. 30, 1977
A singular figure in Orioles lore, Dempsey remains beloved to this day as much for his personality as for his on-field accomplishments. Consider his "rain delay theater" a blend of both, and one of the more famous comedy bits in MLB history. Dempsey would expand his act in the years to come, incorporating supporting actors and costume changes into his performances. But as with so much art, nothing beats the original.
This was Dempsey at the height of his rain delay powers, his one-man show at Fenway Park in 1977 when he pantomimed Babe Ruth, dashed around the tarp-covered diamond and ultimately plunged headfirst into home plate. In his 2017 memoir, Dempsey said his antics were inspired by Sparky Lyle, who’d win the American League Cy Young Award in ’77 for the Yankees.
2. Rick Dempsey Rain Delay Theater, Part II
Oct. 3, 1982
Back by popular demand, Dempsey revived his pantomime performance for the Memorial Stadium faithful in July 1978, and reprised it with a twist on the final day of the 1982 season against Milwaukee. That’s when Dempsey dressed up like old friend Robin Yount and recruited teammate Sammy Stewart to play Jim Palmer. They packed their guts with pillows to mimic the Hall of Fame duo in absurdist, legendary style.
3. Weaver won’t go quietly
Sept. 17, 1980
Now for one a bit less good-natured, but that will live forever nonetheless. Earl Weaver was known for many things, among them his temper and penchant for getting ejected from ballgames. One of his most infamous umpire interactions came in the middle of an eventual 9-3 win over Detroit, when first-base umpire Bill Haller called a balk on O’s pitcher Mike Flanagan. Weaver had history with Haller; years earlier, he’d publicly said Haller shouldn’t be allowed to call Tigers games because his brother, Tom, was their backup catcher. On this night, Haller was wearing a microphone as part of his participation in a documentary about umpiring in the Major Leagues. He quickly tossed Weaver, and Weaver responded by spewing an animated, profanity-laced tirade. The mic caught every word.
4. Cal gets a good-luck kiss
May 2, 1988
When looking back on this one, context is important. The Orioles were 1-23 (yes, you read that right) at the time, having returned home to “Fantastic Fan Night” at Memorial Stadium after what was statistically the worst start in baseball history. And by 1988, Morganna the Kissing Bandit was well known. She’d been hopping over railings to peck MLB stars for years, and had already planted lips on the likes of Fred Lynn, Steve Garvey, Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Don Mattingly and others.
Next on her target list: Cal Ripken Jr., who would later homer in the Orioles’ 9-4 win over Texas. But as she often did, Morganna stole the show. She was also charged with trespassing and spent eight hours in jail, according to the Baltimore Sun.
5. John Lowenstein leaves the field a hero, on a stretcher
June 19, 1980
There aren’t many scarier moments on a baseball field than when a player is hit in the head, but Lowenstein -- true to his nature -- was able to provide some levity when he found himself in such a situation. Trying to advance to second after driving in the tying and decisive runs in the seventh inning of Baltimore’s eventual 4-3 win over Oakland, Lowenstein was struck by Jeff Newman’s throw in the back of the head. He was removed from the game and carted off the field in a stretcher, while the 15,491 fans on hand at the Coliseum held their collective breath. Before disappearing into the dugout, Lowenstein reassured them he’d be OK by hoisting his torso and both arms airborne in sudden, triumphant fashion. He played both ends of a doubleheader the next day.
6. Wild Bill Hagy gets the crowd going
With his signature look and humble backstory, Hagy, a local ice cream truck and cab driver, became a Baltimore sports icon for the way he famously led chants of “O-R-I-O-L-E-S” during the late '70s and early '80s from the upper deck at Memorial Stadium. While he was long an Orioles superfan and ballpark fixture, the 1979 World Series thrust Hagy onto the national stage. This video of Hagy conducting chants from the top of the home dugout, while more than 50,000 fans chanted along with him, speaks to the cult hero appeal he held.
7. Frank Robinson runs Kangaroo Court
Aug. 13, 1969
In this rare footage, a glimpse into the inner workings of the Orioles’ clubhouse when Frank Robinson ran it -- and its Kangaroo Court. Think throwing a no-hitter got you a free pass in those days? Think again, as Jim Palmer learned. Shortly after completing the lone no-hitter of his career in an 8-0 win over the A’s, Palmer was accused of poor baserunning by Judge Robinson, despite the fact that he’d finished 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI as well. After jury approval, Palmer was fined.
8. Dempsey grabs the mic
Dempsey turned his act musical in 1986, when he serenaded a rain delay crowd to Chuck Berry’s classic “Johnny B. Goode.” Soon, Dempsey & the Invisible Orioles Magic Band was born, complete with Eddie Murray and Floyd Rayford on the drums, Mike Boddicker on bass and John Habyan and others handling backup vocals.
9. Jack Cust goes swimming
Aug. 16, 2003
Remember Cust, the left-handed slugger who had a productive four-year run with Oakland in the late 2000s? Before that, Cust was briefly an Oriole, appearing in 28 games with Baltimore from '03-04. He is remembered for one in particular, when he committed a baserunning gaffe that led to a 5-4 extra-innings loss to the Yankees in August 2003. Attempting to score what would’ve been the tying run, Cust lost his footing not once, but twice, before he was tagged out inches away from the vacated plate, having tumbled face-first down in front of it. Nobody in the Orioles dugout was laughing when it happened, but 16 years of hindsight have lightened the mood a bit.
10. Komminsk goes up, over and out of sight
Sept. 5, 1989
How about one that benefited the Orioles? Deep into their storybook “Why Not?” stretch run in 1989, every win and every run mattered. Which is why such a swing of emotions unfolded when Indians center fielder Brad Komminsk seemed to take a home run away from Ripken Jr. on this September night at Memorial Stadium, only to have his momentum carry him over the center-field wall. No matter the ball remained secured in Komminsk’s glove; his body landed outside the field of play, and Ripken was rewarded with a home run all the same. It proved pivotal in Baltimore eventually securing a 3-1 win.