Queen attends her first baseball game

By PAUL WALSH UPI Sports Writer

BALTIMORE -- Queen Elizabeth II attended her first baseball game Wednesday, and after meeting with members of the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics, ventured about 20 feet onto the field with President Bush and waved to the enthusiastic crowd.

The queen, dressed more appropriately for an evening affair in her below-the-knee blue and red dress, black gloves and three strands of pearls, entered the Orioles dugout along the third-base line and formed a receiving line with husband Prince Philip and the president and Mrs. Bush. The first lady wore a blue and white floral print dress.


While the honored guests took their dugout positions designated with their names on 3-by-5 cards, the song 'Brown-eyed Girl' blared over the Memorial Stadium public-address system and their images were flashed on a giant video screen in right-center field.

'I've been playing baseball for 10 years and I'm used to a normal atmosphere,' said Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. after his four handshakes. 'This is a lot different. There's a lot of excitement.'


A's Manager Tony LaRussa said the players were told to 'be natural' while meeting the dignitaries.

Oakland slugger Jose Canseco apparently took his instructions literally, chewing gum while shaking the hands of the world leaders and their spouses in the dugout protected by bullet-proof glass to the sides and five police officers on the roof.

The queen only shook hands and smiled while greeting each team member, until Bush introduced her to Orioles coach Cal Ripken Sr. She then exchanged pleasantries with the father of current Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. and Billy Ripken. The senior Ripken then chatted with Philip and patted him on the right arm.

Breaking from the tight schedule, the Bushes, the queen and the prince stepped onto the field in foul territory and waved to the Memorial Stadium crowd for about 30 seconds.

From the field, the two couples were led to their seat in the mezzanine-level box of Orioles owner Eli Jacobs where scorecards were waiting on each of their black-leather cushioned chair. Elizabeth then shed her gloves, giving a rare public glance of her fair-skinned hands, and the 65-year-old British monarch nestled in for her first baseball game.

As Oriole pitcher Jeff Ballard prepared to throw the first pitch, Bush announced in the box, 'Oh, here we go.'


The queen occasionally watched the game on a monitor to her right. When there was a close play at the plate, Philip drew his field glasses from a hip case, but he brought them to his face backward.

Late in the first inning, protesters advocating a reunited Ireland tied a sign that read 'Bread not bombs' to a flagpole behind the rightfield bleachers along with seven helium balloons.

Several Orioles ushers freed the sign, but it flew over center field in full view of the queen and prince before landing behind the left- center field wall.

At 8:38 p.m. and after just two innings, the Bushes and their English guests departed.

Early in their nine-day U.S. trip, word surfaced that Philip had once played baseball. This came as a surprise to the queen.

'We are fortunate to have a president who likes baseball and comes to games whenever he can,' said Fay Vincent, the major-league commissioner, who sat with the queen, the prince and the Bushes.

'(Bush) told me the queen wanted to come to a ball game and he suggested Baltimore,' said Vincent, added that he saw Bush play baseball at Yale in the 1940s.


Also seated in the same box with the queen and Bush were Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Vincent.

After the second inning, Jacobspresented the queen with gifts for her six grandchildren -- regulation-size bats for each child with their names inscribed on them.

Bullet-proof glass extending three-fourths of the way up to front of the mezzanine-level box was installed earlier Wednesday as protection for the royal couple and the Bushes.

The queen dined before the game in the stadium's Dugout Lounge with about 200 friends and relatives of Orioles management. The menu included beef tenderloin, Maryland crabcakes and blackened breast of turkey.

Typical ballpark fare also was available, such as hot dogs and popcorn. A wet bar included Old Peculier, a beer imported from England, and California wines. There were paper napkins with the orange Orioles logo at the queen's disposal.

The queen declined to eat during the reception, but did drink a Beefeater martini, said Kim May, a waitress who worked the closed affair.

'She was very pleasant, she was very nice,' said May. 'She shook a lot of people's hands.'

Philip chose Tomato tortellini with garlic chicken as his main course.


Howard Urick, the caterer who coordinated the menu with Jacobs, was unfazed by his royal assignment.

'It was easy, only 200 people and it's one shot,' Urick said.

Forty minutes before the queen arrived, about 50 protesters from the Baltimore Emergency Response Network staged a brief demonstration near the stadium. They chanted 'IRA, USA' in support of reuniting Ireland and hoisted a sign that read 'Irish blood on the queen's hands.'

But by the time the motorcade arrived with the royal couple and the Bushes, the demonstrators had dispersed.

About 50 minutes prior to the start of the game, demonstrators seat in the rightfield bleachers raised a sheet with the message 'One world, one struggle, free Ireland.'

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