The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland on August 13, 1978 · 254
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The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland · 254

Baltimore, Maryland
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 13, 1978
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Morris and Ripken Continued from Puije 5 openness and a dream of someday playing in Memorial Stadium. That morning, they were also sharing the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Ripken, a slender kid with light brown hair, was barefoot and wearing jeans and his Aberdeen High School tee shirt; he was reading the sports page. Nor-ris, with dark, curly hair topping his broad shoulders, had on jeans, a blue tee shirt, a pair of tennis shoes and an Oriole baseball cap; he was reading Dear Abby. Both had a certain listlessness that said they'd rather be back in bed. Indeed, they confessed they had 'gotten up just a few minutes before. The bus from Bristol, they said, hadn't gotten into Bluefield until 1 A.M. Only an unusual 11.30 A.M. curtain call at Bowen Field, scheduled by manager Junior Miner in an effort to turn around the team's 5-11, last-place start, had gotten them out from under the covers. Along with Mike Boddicker, a 20-year-old relief pitcher from Norway, Iowa, and Larry Sheets, an 18-year-old outfielder from Staunton, Va., they rent the second-floor bedrooms from Ilee Short, a 70-year-old widow who explained she decided this year that baseball players couldn't be any more trouble than the teen-aged girls she had been boarding. The players pay $25 a week each for their room, two meals a day and laundry. The sum is equal to one-fifth of their gross pay of $500 a month that is the standard salary for first-year minor league players. (Though the salary is less than princely, for players like Ripken and Norris, picked in the second and fourth rounds respectively of baseball's spring draft, it does not represent their total compensation. While some players receive only transportation money back and forth from home when they sign, Ripken got a bonus of $20,000 and Norris $18,000. Half of the money was paid when they signed in June, with the remainder payable next year. In addition, there are incentive bonuses in their contract for every level the players move up that could total some $7,000 should they ever reach the major leagues.) They found the house through Fanning. Despite the beginnings of a new prosperity brought to Appalachia by the coal boom, Norris said, "Before we found this, we rode around town for a whole day looking for places. All we found were ratholes." The locker room at Bowen Field was not exactly palatial, either. Each player had a tiny, open cubicle; together, they formed a square around a pair of urinals. Outside, on a fence along the third base line, shirts were hung out to dry; in the Appalachian League, teams do their own laundry. For some three hours the players practiced such fundamentals as bunting and having the pitcher cover first on a wide ground ball to the first baseman. The practice session finished up with a boisterous batting practice, with the players arguing about whether or not every line drive would have been a hit or an out. FRIDAY was Norris's day. He was scheduled to start the 7.30 P.M. game and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Norris; his girl friend, Christine DePazzo; and his brother and sister-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Norris, Jr., had driven down from Baltimore for the occasion. It was to be Norris's fourth appearance of the year. "My first time out was a nightmare," he said. "I pitched one inning and gave up five hits and five runs." After that, however, he pitched three scoreless innings against the Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals. His last time out, against the Elizabethton (Tenn.) Twins, he pitched six innings, giving up four runs, three of them earned, for his first victory in professional baseball. Following the practice, Norris, Ripken, Boddicker and Norris's family went to a park next to Bowen Field to feast, picnic-style, on some crabs and spiced shrimp Norris's father had brought with him, a cure for culinary loneliness. That night, Norris pitched 6V3 innings, giving up just two runs and winning his second game as the Orioles beat the Kingsport (Tenn.) Braves 5-4 before 1,052 fans. Ripken singled to drive in one run and scored another in a three-run, first inning rally. "I'll go seven innings one of these days," Norris vowed. 0 The 14 ball caromed off the rail and dropped cleanly into the side pocket. "How was that for a shot?" Ripken gloated. "We're going to have to find a bigger place to play to fit your head," Norris countered. It was nearing noon on Saturday morning and Ripken and Norris were shooting eight-ball on one of the eight pool tables in the Mountaineer Bowling Lanes, located on a two-lane strip of fast-food joints and motels on the edge of town. "The last time we played I beat him six games to two," Ripken gloated again. Mountaineer Lanes isn't the only place around that has pool tables. But it's the only place the players felt comfortable in. "The other night we got rained out so we took a ride around," Norris related. "We passed one bar and pool hall with a whole bunch of guys standing around outside in the rain. They all had beards and

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