Summer, it seemed, always crawled in from the bay, floating out of the open hearths of all the offshore steel mills, or maybe, you guessed, it came by a freighter from some white-heat place like Ceylon or Sumatra. No matter, the cool pale sunlight of spring was gone, and now the water of the bay was a sickly brown and the smell of it drifted through the cathedral quiet of afternoon streets and blended with a certain staleness coming from corner saloons with their doors open. There, inside, working men sat silently under ceiling fans and in front of fat, beaded glasses of beer.
If you were a kid in Baltimore then, summer with all its oppressions was a special time. A time for swimming off a pier a few blocks away and then splitting a watermelon against a fire hydrant; or just a time to sit in the cool dark of a dirt cellar and watch a spider work across a dusty window, or maybe ponder the strange language of box scores under white steps. Then as night fell, a time for just lying in a dark bedroom, listening to the clang of streetcars and exploring the neighborhood news.
"Who was that guy on the corner today?" asked a younger brother, his eyes watching welding torches flicker in a shipyard across the harbor.
"He was a baseball player, a professional."
"He said he was released."
"That means he woke up one day and they told him to go home, and that they didn't want him."
"Is he still a player?"
"No, he'll have to work in a factory now."
This July in Baltimore summer was still summer. Desert quiet hung over the neighborhood streets in the afternoon. The painted screens of the row houses, with their dreams of running brooks and country green, were still there; people sat on their front steps supremely content with the order of their lives, and attendance at Oriole games, an ageless civic embarrassment, again revealed apathy and disinterest in this old, old baseball town. The Orioles, in second place, were third from the bottom in league attendance. This fact disturbed the Mayor. It disturbed the Orioles even more.
During the All-Star break, the club fired Hank Bauer and replaced him with Earl Weaver. Who the hell was Earl Weaver? The name sounded as if it belonged on a record jacket with Flatt and Scruggs or maybe playing third guitar in some Alabama roadhouse. Forget the name. A faceless fungo-hitting coach for the Orioles with a politician's mind. Weaver was doing what he said he would do: "Make things happen." The club won 11 of 15 games under Weaver (including three of four from Detroit and two of three from Cleveland) and chopped Detroit's 9½-game lead to 5½ games. Last weekend the Orioles and the American League, shrouded in dreariness and mediocrity, prepared for a series with the Tigers at Memorial Stadium.