I went to Jupiter to see McGwire

March 23, 1999

If anyone tells you they'd go to Jupiter to see Mark McGwire play, it may not be an exaggeration. After all, I did, and the truth oozes so thick around me you could grow carrots.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos train at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., which had the added bonus of not being in Western Maryland during winter's last March gasp.

Really, I went there because I wanted to see my "new" team this year, the Montreal Expos.

I'm tired of the overpaid Orioles, who last season paid roughly $1 million in salary for each and every win. I should think it would be more cost effective to field a team of scrubs and then go up to, say, the Detroit Tigers before the game and tell them "Look, you're not going anyplace. Whatsay you let us win and we'll give you a million bucks. Deal? Great. Don't spend it all in one place."


Les Expos, by contrast, have a lot of young, lean and hungry and homeless baseball players who only earn hundreds of thousands of dollars as opposed to millions and are in the game for the sport of it, at least until they can become free agents and sign with the Rockies.

Also, there's talk Les Expos may move to Washington. Now I would never wish Washington, D.C., on any sports franchise. (Typical D.C. sports fan's logic: "A Jewish man is trying to buy the Redskins, but the NFL owners won't let him because six of the NFL owners are Jewish." Oh, I see.)

But if they're coming, I want to be ready. They have a future superstar outfielder in Vladimir Guerrero and a future superstar pitcher in Carl Pavano. The Cleveland Browns' rowdy fans were collectively known as the "Dog Pound." So I thought this spring I could drum up support for a section of rowdy fans called "Pavano's Dogs."

But the Expos weren't playing the day I was there, the Cardinals were.

Cardinals fans were certainly kinder than the Mets fans, who were also in South Florida to get their rudeness into shape and work on perfecting their rudeness fundamentals.

Pity New York pitcher Hideo Nomo of Japan.

Every time he'd throw a ball he'd hear from some New Yorker sloshed on Budweiser beer doing a bad Japanese accent: "Hey Nho-mho; Nho Butwhysir fhor YOU."

Light hitting pitcher Carlos Perez came to the plate. Nomo threw ball one, then ball two and the New York fans grew impatient. From the bleachers you'd hear:

Carlos Perez, Nomo. (Pause). Carlos Perez. (Pause). Not Mickey Mantle, Nomo, Car-los Pe-rez.

But for the Cardinals, probably a couple hundred happy, adoring fans in red and white were standing two hours before game time along the first base line, waiting for a glimpse and perhaps an autograph from their hero.

Me, I went to the souvenir shop and asked if they could sell me an ax and they said no, why, and I said "So I can bury it in the skull of the next octogenarian who comes up and says 'Awful lotta fuss out there over some fella named McGwire, heh-heh-heh'."

Next I went to the Astros' bullpen where I thanked Jose Lima for the 17 wins he contributed to my rotisserie team last year. "You may not have heard of him, but he's a darn good pitcher," I told a group of college kids with an air of insider authority.

Then Lima got sent in to face McGwire.

I won't say the ball went a long way, but it was so far over our heads we in the bleachers weren't even in the frame that night on the SportsCenter highlight.

But I was still pretty happy, until I got home and told a colleague that I'd seen Mark McGwire hit a home run.

"Oh," she said, somehow keeping a lid on the admiration and respect she clearly must have been feeling for me.

"Isn't that a pretty common occurrence?"

You just can't talk to women about sports.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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