Wild Bill Hagy


Wild Bill Hagy

William "Wild Bill" Hagy (June 17, 1939 – August 20, 2007) was an American baseball fan and cab driver from Dundalk, Maryland who led famous "O-R-I-O-L-E-S" chants during the late 1970s and early '80s from section 34 in the upper deck at Memorial Stadium.

Hagy's chants and persona developed him into an icon associated with the Baltimore Orioles for years. While leading cheers from "The Roar from 34" at Memorial Stadium, Wild Bill became a Baltimore institution. Standing at six foot two inches tall with what most would describe as a "beer belly", Hagy was an easily recognized figure at the ball park, always adorned in sun glasses and a straw cowboy-styled hat. He was one of the great characters of the Baltimore sports landscape and a true die-hard Orioles fan. His passion and energy for the Orioles made him a Baltimore legend. Hagy found the inspiration in his cheers from Leonard "Big Wheel" Burrier, a famous fan who led the Baltimore Colts in similar cheers. Longtime O's fan revere the local legend's connection to Baltimore baseball, as evidenced by the "Roar from 34" fan blog [http://www.roarfrom34.blogspot.com] .

Hagy is said to symbolize the term "Orioles Magic" as his cheers sometimes led to comeback victories for the O's. Eventually the team recognized his enthusiasm and let him do his Orioles cheers from atop the dugout. Hagy's fame led him to meet Presidents such as Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and to get writeups in "The New York Times". For many Orioles fans he is closely associated with the Orioles and their victory in the 1983 World Series.

In 1985, Hagy boycotted Memorial Stadium for not being allowed to bring in his own beer. At the end of a game he tossed his cooler of beer onto the field, never to return.

Hagy did return to Camden Yards however, the night Cal Ripken broke the longtime record for consecutive games played. Hagy led the fans in his famous cheer on one of baseball's greatest nights.

Hagy grew up in Sparrows Point and drove an ambulance, an ice cream truck, and eventually a cab until he retired in 2004. Hagy's last known O-R-I-O-L-E-S cheer was performed at Ripken's Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York. Hagy died at his home in Arbutus, Maryland in 2007.

"O!"

Since its introduction at games by the "Roar from 34" led by Wild Bill Hagy et al in the late 1970s, it has been a tradition at Orioles games for fans to accent the line of "Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave" in the "The Star-Spangled Banner" by yelling "O!" "O" is not only short for "Oriole," but the vowel is also a stand-out aspect of the Baltimorean accent. This tradition is even carried out during the Orioles' spring training home games in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

The tradition is sometimes carried out at other sporting events, both professional and not, and sometimes at non-sporting events where the anthem is played, throughout the Baltimore/Washington area and all over Maryland, notably at Baltimore Ravens and Maryland Terrapins games. Even fans in Norfolk, Virginia chant "O!" even before the Tides became an Orioles affiliate. "The Star-Spangled Banner" has also been shouted over during Washington Redskins and Washington Capitals home games. In 1993, at the MLB All-Star game at Camden Yards, before a national television audience, James Earl Jones was invited to speak the national anthem with the Morgan State University choir providing background vocals. Jones was apparently not told of the "O" tradition because when he got to that line in the song, the 48,000 fans yelled "O" and Jones, startled by the occurrence, lost his place in the reading. The Morgan choir, however, covered the fumble and Jones was saved total embarrassment. It also caught attention in the spring of 2005, when some fans performed the "O!" cry at Washington Nationals games at RFK Stadium. Many Washingtonians are Orioles fans, as the Orioles were the closest team to Washington between the Texas Rangers' departure and before the Montreal Expos' relocation. At Cal Ripken's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the crowd of over 70,000 fans, most of them from Baltimore, carried out the "O!" tradition during Tony Gwynn's daughter's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"The Star-Spangled Banner" has special meaning to Baltimore historically, as it was written during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. As a patriotic song, it signifies American freedoms; including, presumably, the freedom to shout "O!"

Orioles Honor Hagy

On Tuesday, June 17, 2008 the Baltimore Orioles honored "Wild" Bill Hagy one more time by handing out honorary #34 T-shirts on their "T-shirt Tuesday." Interestingly, the Orioles win-loss record going into the game was an eerie 34-34. 21,535 fans attended the Orioles as they hosted the Houston Astros. The jumbotron(sic) featured video tributes to Hagy throughout the night. In the bottom of the 8th, some true Orioles magic was witnessed, as down 5-4 with 2 outs, and a 3-2 count Melvin Mora belted a fastball into right-center field scoring Adam Jones and Brian Roberts as the tying and go-ahead runs of the game that the Orioles eventually won.

ee also

* Memorial Stadium (Baltimore)
* Baltimore Orioles

References

* [http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/baseball/bal-te.sp.hagy21aug21,0,2929770.story?page=1&coll=bal_tab02_layout "Baltimore Sun" article]
* [http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-md.rodricks23aug23,0,3732214.column?coll=bal_tab02_layout Thanks, Wild Bill, for the memories]


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