Quoth the Ravens, Nevermore

Posted on 30. Oct, 2000 by in Uncategorized

The last page of the playoff edition of the New Haven Ravens
program tells the story of Rally and Ribbi’s wedding. Apparently,
the two mascots became Mr. and Mrs. Raven on August 6 at Yale
Field. Guests at the wedding included the Mariner Moose, who
flew in from Seattle, and local mascot Handsome Dan, the Yale
Bulldog. Immediately following the wedding, a baseball game was
played.
Baseball doesn’t seem to be a top priority for Ravens fans. It’s
certainly on the list-maybe above the sumo matches that occasionally
occur between innings, probably below the fireworks that follow
some games, and definitely below cotton candy and beer. Way below
beer.
This doesn’t make it easy for the Ravens marketing team. When
a Major League team makes the playoffs, selling tickets is not
a problem. For the Ravens, the opposite is true. Playoff games
are not on the schedules printed at the beginning of the season,
so people don’t plan on coming to them. The playoffs also happen
during the school year, when parents are not as likely to bring
their children. So the Ravens resort to gimmicks like fireworks,
giveaways, and having twice as many mascots as your average baseball
team.
On September 14, the Ravens hosted game three of the Eastern
League championship series. They had split the first two games
with the Reading Phillies, so the title was well within reach.
Game three also happened to be college night-for three bucks,
a few friends and I got seats at the picnic tables behind the
right field fence, free food, and two-dollar drafts. "Free"
tee-shirts, too-if you tipped the bartender. Because we were
basically the only ones out there, we got a lot of attention:
from other fans, from Ravens employees, from the players, and
from the mascots. The mascots’ attention was something we probably
could have done without-let’s just say that Rally wasn’t being
too faithful to his new bride or all that respectful of my friends’
personal space.
At first, everybody else in the crowd seemed to be enthusiastic
about the game, but that was probably just because beers were
half-off when the Ravens were up. We kept cheering well after
the Ravens took the lead, but that was probably just because
we were drunk. By cheering for the Ravens I mean, of course,
harassing the opposition. In particular, we belittled the Phillies
right fielder’s ability, his home town, and members of his family
whom we had never met. And with such a small crowd, he heard
every word we said. I know, because he laughed at us. The Ravens
players heard us, too, because their right fielder tossed me
a baseball, and the pitchers in the bullpen joined us when we
started the wave.
That one tossed baseball began the greatest friendship with a
professional athlete that I’ve ever had. I didn’t know it at
the time, but one short day later, I’d be at a bar putting back
drinks with Keith Gordon, ex-Major Leaguer. Our enthusiasm had
paid off: Two sales executives who were working the game came
over to thank us for coming out, and we ended up with free tickets
to the next night’s game.
The Ravens had won, and we were back for the series final-this
time behind the home dugout. That night, the Ravens became Eastern
League champions, clinching the "World Series of aa baseball
on the East Coast of the United States of America." I found
myself chanting "We’re Number One!" along with the
fans and players, celebrating my two-day-old loyalty. We felt
like we were part of the team, especially after our friends from
the night before stopped by to talk to us, and even more so when
they invited us to tk’s to celebrate with the Ravens players
and staff.
It was there that I ran into Keith Gordon, the Ravens player
who had thrown me that baseball. And that’s how he ended up buying
me drinks. There was really no way to turn him down. I tried
all the excuses I could come up with. I told him I had already
had a couple beers. He grabbed the waitress and told her to get
me a Sam Adams. I reminded him that I was there as a journalist.
He yelled across the bar and told the waitress to make it two.
With a glass of beer in each hand, I pointed out that I weighed
much less than the average professional athlete. He bought me
another beer.
Gordon’s Major League stats aren’t exactly impressive. In three
games with the Cincinnati Reds in 1993, he had one hit in six
at-bats. He struck out twice. He told me he got called up by
the Orioles for a week but I guess he never batted in Baltimore.
In his eleven years in professional baseball, he didn’t last
a month in the Majors. He might never make it back. But he didn’t
seem upset by that. He almost quit before the season and may
not play next year.
Even if Gordon does return to baseball, he won’t be coming back
to New Haven. For the last few seasons, the Ravens have been
a farm team for Seattle, and now the Mariners are pulling out
of the deal, taking the players with them. It’s not a surprise.
New Haven doesn’t appreciate the team-attendance records are
the lowest in the league. Next year, the Ravens will still be
here, but a new flock of players will play for the St. Louis
Cardinals farm system. Chances are, Mark McGwire won’t be among
them. And maybe most of the Ravens won’t make the big leagues.
But when has Mark McGwire ever bought me a beer?

 

 

Michael Gerber, a senior in Ezra Stiles
College, is a contributing editor for
TNJ.

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