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Queen a hit with baseball fans

By PAUL WALSH UPI Sports Writer

BALTIMORE -- Though she did not hit a home run or pitch a shutout, Queen Elizabeth II won a standing ovation from the thousands of fans who came to see her and President Bush at Memorial Stadium.

Elizabeth got her first glimpse at America's national pastime on a warm and muggy Wednesday evening. After meeting with members of the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics, she ventured about 20 feet onto the field with Bush and the two world leaders' spouses and waved to the enthusiastic crowd of 32,596.

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The queen, dressed more appropriately for an evening affair in her below-the-knee blue andred dress, long 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.

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As the honored guests took their dugout positions, Van Morrison's 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.

'It was thrilling and very exciting,' said Orioles Manager Frank Robinson following his four handshakes. 'It didn't last very long because we were rushed through. I just shook her hand and said 'Your Majesty' and 'Your Highness.''

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

Oakland slugger Jose Canseco apparently took his instructions literally, chewing gum while making greeting the royal couple and the Bushes in the dugout protected by bullet-proof glass to the sides and five police officers on the roof.

'I got to meet the queen and the president but I didn't know what to say,' said Canseco.

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 seats in the mezzanine-level box of Orioles owner Eli Jacobs where scorecards were waiting on each of their black-leather cushioned chairs.

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After the British and American national anthems were sung by a Baltimore high school chorale, Elizabeth shed her gloves, giving a rare public glance of her fair-skinned hands. The 65-year-old British monarch then nestled in for her first baseball game.

Early in their nine-day U.S. trip, word surfaced that Philip had once played baseball, a revelation that surprised the queen.

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 television monitor to her right. When there was a close play at the plate, Philip drew his field glasses from a hip case, but in his haste he brought them to his eyes 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 a cluster of helium-filled 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.

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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 baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.

After the second inning, Jacobs presented 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 attended a reception 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 beer and California wines. There were paper napkins with the orange Orioles logo at the queen's disposal.

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

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

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.'

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But by the time the motorcade arrived at the stadium 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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