E2: Something Magic Happens
MAC: When we left you last time, we’d just talked to a guy named Doug who claimed to have it on, quote, “fairly good authority” that The Rumor is true. Doug told us he was going to text a few folks to see if they’d be willing to talk. So while we were anxiously awaiting his reply, Sam and I decided to see if we could figure out how Cal Ripken and Kevin Costner even became friends in the first place…
SAM: ...because on the one hand, it seemed sort of strange that they were friends. But on the other hand, Kevin Costner is famous for being in baseball movies. Cal Ripken is a famous baseball player. They probably just found each other somehow.
MAC: We had some theories, but the truth is, it turns out the way they met, it's a pretty amazing story.
SAM: It's October 19th, of 1990, and Kevin Costner is in Washington DC for the premiere of Dances with Wolves. The film he produced, directed and starred in and which would eventually win him a cupboard full of Oscars. The premiere was at this stately old movie house in Washington DC, called The Uptown.
ARCH CAMPBELL [00:14:25] I've always referred to it as the worst premiere of the best movie [00:14:32][6.4]
MAC: Arch Campbell was there covering the event - he’s been a film critic for over forty years.
ARCH CAMPBELL [00:11:04] There's a big red carpet, all kinds of lights. You know, the whole front of the place is blazing with lights, red carpet interviews. And I was on the red carpet. [00:11:18][14.5]
MAC: That night on the red carpet, Arch is scanning the crowd. And he notices that it’s more than just movie people.
ARCH CAMPBELL [00:14:50] There's Senator so-and-so. [00:14:55][5.0]Oh, my God. Oh, look, there's Cal Ripken!
SAM: At some point that night apparently, Cal and Kevin strike up a conversation, and a bromance is born. Before long. Kevin Costner is spotted at Orioles games sitting in Cal's box seats, sometimes alongside Cal's wife, Kelly - eyebrows, eyebrows - but that all comes later. And at the premiere Arch told us something similarly, eyebrow raising transpires.
ARCH CAMPBELL: [00:11:53] They start the movie and it's running pretty good and they get about to the third reel and it starts going and suddenly the screen goes dark and the lights come on and sure enough, the bulb and the projector blew out. [00:12:09][16.0]
[SFX: outage effect from earlier]
ARCH (ct’d): So when that happens, they go, “Boooooo!” There’s this huge groan in the theater...
MAC: Now, the idea that a friendship which allegedly ended the night of one mysterious power outage...was born on the night of a mysterious power outage... Well, Sam, I think that felt pretty uncanny to us.
SAM: Yeah, there was zero canny-ness!
MAC: A decided lack of can!
SAM: But the more we thought about it, that's the whole point of rumors and conspiracy theories; everything fits together a little too well. And at one point we got on the phone with the film critic Matt Zoller Seitz, and we told him about the lack of canny-ess and the two men at the heart of the rumor, and he said,
MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: There’s something mythically perfect about it…
[music in: Run for the Man]
MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: You know, like a movie star with the charisma of a ballplayer, fighting a ballplayer with the charisma of a movie star. It's like the yin yang symbol. [00:56:09][10.9]
MAC: So now, Sam and I are determined to try to understand what makes the myth so perfect...
SAM: And as our investigation commences it's not long before, perhaps fittingly, we find ourselves attempting to move from our world into the world beyond the veil...
Sam: [00:40:21] There is a hole under this fence. You think we could crawl under? [00:40:23][2.2]
Mac: [00:40:25] you might fit through that.
Sam: [00:40:36] Do you think it is a hoppable fence? [00:40:38][1.7]
Mac: [00:40:38] Oh, it’s definitely hoppable [00:40:43][4.2]
MAC: And a short drive across town, Sam takes on that rather rusty mailbox. We're now driving past Mad Dog’s house again...
Sam: EP1 replay
Mac: EP1 replay
MAC: This is not a metaphor!
MAC: I’m Mac Montandon.
SAM: I’m Sam Dingman.
MAC: And from Blue Wire, this is The Rumor.
SAM: Episode 2: Something Magic Happens.
[PREROLL AD BREAK]
MAC: Okay, so quick recap: we started this investigation after I met an off duty police detective we're calling 'E' at a tropical themed birthday party. And E told me he knew and ex Baltimore cop who was there the night Cal Ripken and Kevin Costner allegedly got into a fistfight, which allegedly led to Cal being too injured to play in the Orioles game that night, which allegedly led to the Orioles faking the power outage to preserve Cal's consecutive game streak, allegedly. So the first obvious step here would be talk to E's guy. However, there was a slight problem with that plan. Because E's guys said he didn't want to talk…
SAM: Minor setback...
MAC: ...just a small setback. But I figured if this alleged fight between Ripken and Costner, actually did happen. And this former cop was there that would suggest there was probably a police report of some kind. So I sent a request to the Baltimore Police Department. I asked for records of any incidents at or near the Ripken residence around the time of the mysterious 1997 power outage. And they got back to me pretty quickly, possibly, because the search didn't take very long. There were only two reported incidents. And one of them wasn't at Cal's house. But the other one was, so I called Sam right away.
Mac Montandon: [00:02:58] The trespassing one happened July 11th of '97. And that was at the Ripken address. And I guess in my mind, I was like, you know, that's about a month before the outage. Could it have been sort of like a precipitating event of some sort? And I have to tell you, after looking at the report, which doesn't have a lot of information granted, but the little bit it has like does nothing to dissuade me of thinking it could somehow be related. [00:03:35][37.4]
SAM: So while we're on the phone, Mac sends me a scanned PDF of the trespassing report, and I open it up. And right away, I notice this one section that's titled investigative interviews. And you can see that there's a name of a person who the police interviewed at the scene, but that name is whited out.
Mac Montandon: [00:06:36] Right. OK, so there's that curious thing. And then the other thing that caught my eye is that their suspect vehicle: year of car unknown, make Audi, // But so but then, of course, // I Googled Kevin Costner and Audi. [00:08:06][22.7]
Sam Dingman: [00:08:08] Uh huh. [00:08:08][0.3]
Mac Montandon: [00:08:12] And yeah, it seems Costner might be an Audi
fan. Again, all circumstantial. [00:08:14][2.1]
Sam Dingman: [00:08:16] OK, wait a minute....all circumstantial. [00:08:17][1.1]
SAM: So we I myself Google “Kevin Costner Audi,” and there it is: a picture of Costner resting his left hand on the trunk of an Audi S8 sedan, alongside an article about how he and his son apparently enjoy shopping for Audis together. Classic, father-son activity. And as I’m looking at this picture, we I realize, this is one of those moments where it is very tempting to fall into the trap that Snopes’s David Mikkelson told us about last time. The delusion that just because a story imposes a certain logic on something you can’t otherwise explain, there must be some truth to it. Kevin Costner likes Audis? Someone in an Audi hopped the fence at Cal’s house in the middle of the night in July of 1997? Case closed!
Mac Montandon: I mean, If everything was completely non sordid and Kevin was there to visit both Kelly and Cal. He's not hopping the fence, right? [00:14:54][17.7]
Sam Dingman: [00:14:56] That's right. [00:14:56][0.0] // [00:15:10] Right. Yeah, you're only hopping the fence if you're not supposed to be there. [00:15:12][2.0]
MAC: Sam and I quickly realized we were molding this fairly obvious coincidence into a pair of tin-foil ball caps.
SAM: Which were not very comfortable.
MAC: No—prickly. After all - you can basically Google “Kevin Costner” plus any luxury car brand and find pictures of Kevin and some sweet wheels. We were speculating - and as tempting and entertaining as that was, it wasn’t going to get us very far. And the more we thought about it, we actually weren’t sure how far we really wanted to go.
SAM: Yeah, shortly after this speculation session with the police reports––
MAC: Sweet sesh!
SAM: Spec sesh––I called up a journalist named Michael Olesker. Michael has covered crime and sports in Baltimore for decades. And when I told him we were looking into The Rumor and we start talking about Cal. And Michael tells me this kind of a cautionary tale about previous attempts to question Ripken’s legacy.
Olesker: [00:31:26] he was boosted up so much in the local press that after a while the writers and broadcasters realized that they took their careers in jeopardy if they said anything negative about him. // To criticize Cal was not only to criticize Cal, but to criticize the hometown ethic.
MAC: That “hometown ethic” that Michael’s talking about has to do with this phrase we heard variations of in almost every conversation we had about Cal Ripken, Jr - “lunch pail.”
ROCH KUBATKO: [00:07:28] And that's why he was viewed as that lunchpail kind of ball player where he was just the gritty, I'm going to get up in the morning and I'm going to go to work. And that's this is my job. [00:07:38][10.1]
WILL LEITCH: [00:09:23] it's not just that Cal Ripken is a great player, is that he's a lunchpail guy and he goes to work every day. [00:09:34][11.0]
JOHN MOAG: [00:20:36] You know, he was a pack your lunch bag and go to work kind of guy. [00:20:43][7.0]
SAM: So Cal, remember, is best-known for breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. And Mac, I don’t know about you but I’ve had the experience of telling people that Cal Ripken is our favorite ballplayer, only to have them sort of snort and say something like, “Oh yeah, big deal. The guy showed up for work every day. Who cares?”
MAC: Yeah, I've had that experience just the other day with my wife.
SAM: Oh no! [laughs]
MAC: She doesn't get it, man. She doesn't get it!
SAM: She's a wonderful person. But like many, probably also wonderful people, the Streak doesn't seem to her like a big deal.
ROCH KUBATKO: [00:21:53] It isn't that sexy. But in Baltimore, it's perfect. [00:22:01][7.8]
MAC: That’s Orioles beat reporter Roch Kubatko - and he’s right. As a certified person From Baltimore, I can tell you: it’s a lunch pail town. Which is partly why, according to Michael Olesker, reporters have long been loathe to take Cal’s name in vain.
OLESKER: I don't mean to imply that he ever did anything wrong. // But I do mean to imply that the message that went out there consistently was, here's this God.
MAC: Did we really want to take on...a God? And how did Cal go from blue collar everyman to deity?
SAM: Well - the more we think about it, the more we think the answer to that question has a lot to do with...Kevin Costner.
Alison Glock: [00:11:51] he was just sort of like he was the sexy, you know guy, the lead, the leading man, but // he wasn't like aggro. He's not going to be texting you all the time. [00:12:15][23.6]
MAC: We’ll be right back.
[MIDROLL AD BREAK 1]
MAC: Long before Dances With Wolves, Kevin Costner waltzed into the American zeitgeist with his performance in Bull Durham - which, amazingly, was written and directed by a former Oriole minor league ballplayer.
SAM: Hat tip to Ron Shelton, who declined our interview request.
MAC: ‘sup, Shelly?
MAC: In the movie, Costner plays this guy named Crash Davis. Crash is an aging minor league catcher who, ironically, can’t ever catch a break. He’s been bouncing around the minor leagues for twelve years, and he knows he’s never going to be a big league star, but the organization trusts his ability to mentor younger players. At one point in the movie story, he’s competing with another character for the affections of a woman named Annie, played by Susan Sarandon.
SAM: In one of Bull Durham’s most famous scenes, it’s late at night, and Crash is leaving Annie’s house. And, just as he’s heading for the door, Annie asks him what he believes in. And when he hears this question, he pauses, he slowly turns to face her. He strolls back into the living room, and in this very smooth, even tone, he says…
MAC: Are you doing this, Sam…
SAM: Yes! I am going to do it. I am going to skip the first part because it’s very sexy, and I think I’m going to leave the sexiness to Kevin Costner, so I’ll pick it up about halfway through… “I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a Constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. Goodnight.”
MAC: At which point, Annie swoons.
SAM: Yes. Which I'm sure none of you did on my read of that monologue. But that's why Kevin Costner is a movie star and I am not.
SAM: But, my favorite thing about that monologue is that just a few years later, in his role as Louisiana DA Jim Garrison in the movie JFK, Costner makes an passionate case that Lee Harvey Oswald did NOT act alone.
MAC: Yes, more on that in our next episode. But for a less...conspiracy-minded take on Costner’s performance, Sam and I spoke to journalist and filmmaker Allison Glock.
Alison Glock: [00:12:15] You know, it's sort of like I'm super sexy and cool and I'll be over here while you figure that out, you know. [00:25:44] That was a unique character. Like that was a unique iteration, // of a masculine hero. [00:25:53] // He just seems accessible in general.
MAC: Allison wrote a profile of Costner last year, and she told us that one of the things that fascinates her about Costner’s is his ability to speak to the whole country.
Alison Glock: [00:10:50] He's sort of this that everyman guy, but he also has like this backbone of integrity. Yeah, and I think that he's also unique and that he appeals to everyone, you know// He's sort of like this walking Americana type dude. [00:11:19][28.8]
SAM: “Walking Americana.” When people start describing you that way, you’ve become more than a movie star.
Alison Glock: [00:10:19] tcertain actors that seem to sort of have a much bigger footprint than just the acting part. Yeah, yeah. They end up having a cultural footprint and I see him in that category [00:10:32][13.0]
MAC: We also talked Costner with writer Will Leitch, who co-authored an exhaustive ranking of Costner’s best film performances for Vulture late last year - number one, by the way, was Bull Durham. And when it comes to Costner’s appeal as a movie star, Will sees something aspirational.
WILL LEITCH: Costner always felt like you, but what you could be.
SAM: Now, something about that harmonizes with the appeal of a guy like Cal Ripken Jr. - a guy who gets up every day and goes to work, even if, as was the case for the 1988 Orioles, you’ve lost twenty-one straight ballgames and the season already seems like a lost cause. It’s a feeling that a lot of people have - a sense of being sort of unsung and unseen. And, once Costner established that beloved persona with his performances in Bull Durham, and later Field of Dreams, there was a cultural footprint for Cal to sink his cleats into.
WILL LEITCH: [00:39:27] both of them represent this. You, but better. You, but what you could be you, what if just things were turned out a little bit differently for you. // Neither one of them is normal at all. Cal is this incredible athlete who's able to do all these great things. And Kevin Costner was incredibly good looking and was able to to to do something that thousands upon thousands upon thousands of actors have moved to Hollywood to try to be able to pull off. And only he was able to do. But it doesn't feel that way. It feels like it's just you but adjacent. [00:40:01][33.5]
MAC: Will makes an excellent point here, and it may sound sort of abstract, but to Sam and me it made sense in a visceral way. Cal's transcendent power was never more palpable than the night he broke Lou Gehrig's record. And in a remarkable feat of foresight, we heard The Rumor actually had a correspondent in the stands that night. His name is… Sam Dingman.
SAM: Hello everyone! For Blue Wire sports, I’m Sam Dingman.
MAC: Hello Sam, can you hear us down on the field?
SAM: Yes, coming to you live from the distant past––September 6, 1995––at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I am 13 years old, and my dad has just pulled me out of school early so that we can come to this historic game. I remember being so excited about this game that I was literally quivering, mostly because of Cal. But also because I was there with my dad. And for me, that's the part of the Ripken story that I have always connected with, this idea of a father passing something along to his son–– a legacy. And my dad and I really built our relationship on playing catch with each other, which I know is very on the nose. But I asked you - why is it on the nose? Once again, we must invoke the ‘Walking Americana’ that is Kevin Costner because in his role as Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner builds a baseball field to conjure up the ghost of his dead father. And at the movie's emotional apex, he asks his father a simple question. Say it with us....
MAC: Hey Dad...wanna have a catch?
SAM: Mac's Costner is way better than mine, I think.
MAC: I had an easier line, I think.
SAM: Every Saturday, my dad and I used to go to the park. And I would imitate the wind ups of every member of the Orioles pitching rotation, and my dad would squat behind home plate and play catcher. But around the time of the 21-31 game, my dad and I had gone to the park and I had thrown a pitch that he couldn't catch. I threw it too hard, and he missed it and it bounced off his shoe. And I actually broke his toe. And I remember him saying to me afterwards, we can't do this anymore.So going to this game together––it was huge. It was a chance to do a baseball thing together again. So it's the fifth inning and the Orioles get the first two outs, and I will never forget that third out. It was a pop up at the second base. There was something so appropriate about that. It was such a simple and unassuming way for history to be made. And then with the third out safely in hand, I remember watching as waves of people just stood up and started clapping.
Sports announcer tape: What began on May 30 1982 and continues September 6 1995. This game with the angels trailing is now in the book. And let it be said that number eight, Cal Ripken Jr. has reached the unreachable star.
SAM: Ripken came out of the dugout and waved to everyone - and we all roared. And he hugged his wife and his kids and his mom. But then there was a change in the air. Just when you thought the roar would finally start to subside, it sustained. And it got louder. And as it did, Cal started to walk down the first base line, along the first row of seats. And people started rushing down the aisles and reaching out to him. And he stopped and reached back. He grabbed their hands and shook them. Some people leaned out and hugged him, and he hugged back. And as he went along the wall, more and more fans kept doing this. Stretching out as far as they could to touch him, to say thank you. And he went around the entire ballpark doing this - shaking hands and saying thank you right back. They stopped the game for almost twenty minutes while he did this. At this moment where he accomplished one of the most singular feats any player has ever achieved, he made it about us. I found out later that on the national TV broadcast while this was happening, none of the broadcasters said anything. Everybody just shut up and watched this humble act of gratitude unfold. And all the while it was happening, I don’t remember anyone talking at the ballpark either. It was just this persistent, rhythmic, clapping. My dad’s and my seats were too far from the field to make it down to where Ripken was when he passed us, but I do remember looking over at my dad at that moment, and seeing this single tear rolling down his cheek. I’d never seen him cry before. And I remember thinking - maybe we can’t play catch anymore, but we’ll always have this. In that moment, Cal did feel like a god. But like a God who walks among us, like you and me. But better. Like if one of us became a God, just by showing up every day. That was the magic of Cal Ripken.
SAM: That moment is also why The Rumor feels so scary, because if it's true, it breaks the spell. And I know magic and spells are sort of woo-woo words to throw around, but we're not using them lightly. For one thing, if magic exists, I think that night at the ballpark is what it feels like. But also, magic is part of the narrative of being an Orioles fan. If memory serves the night, Cal broke the record, the Orioles jogged onto the field to the sound of a song called 'Orioles Magic'. It was written in 1980 by a baseball fan and jingle writer named Walt Woodward and it was basically the team's theme song. And in another remarkable feat of foresight, we here at The Rumor actually have the lead singer of a 1990s rock band on hand to sing a few bars for you. His name...is Mac Montandon.
MAC: Hello everyone. Now before I launch into this little number, it feels important to point out that my band was called...Postman. That’s right - years before that word was associated with Kevin Costner, it was associated with...Mac Montandon.
SAM: Who’s “walking Americana” now, Kev?
MAC: Yeah, thanks Sam. Hell of a good question! Anyway, Orioles Magic goes like this: Somethin’ magic happens...every time you go. You make the magic happen...the magic of Orioles baseball! When the game is close, and the O’s are hot...there’s a thundering roar from 34 to give it all they’ve got...and you never know...who’s gonna hear the call…
SAM: Orioles Magic is a bright, bouncy, sort of corny song about how great it feels when the Orioles win baseball games.
MAC: every game has a different star, that’s the magic of Orioles baseball!
SAM & MAC: Orioles Magic...feel it happen...Orioles magic, feel it happen! O-R-I-O-L-E-S - Magic, magic, magic, magic…
SAM: Listen to those sultry pipes…
MAC: I’m sorry, everyone!
SAM: But there's one line in particular that has always stuck out to me.
SAM (reading) : There’s a love affair between you and the team. You’re the reason why we win when we win and you know what the magic means.
SAM: Orioles magic is an anthem to the personal relationship that Orioles fans have with the team. And for me, Orioles Magic is what made it feel like Cal’s story was my story too.
MAC: And we never really questioned that feeling until our conversation with Michael Olesker, who told us that Cal and the Orioles worked hard to establish this notion of Cal Ripken Jr. as a mythic figure.
Olesker: [00:16:40] Cal, of course, // knew how to market himself. [00:16:52][11.1]
SAM: So was it magic? Or was it a magic trick?
MAC: We’ll be right back.
[MIDROLL AD BREAK 2]
SAM: [00:34:11] According to the directions, that's like literally the site of Cal’s house. [00:34:14][3.5]
MAC: [00:34:17] This thing I thought was a golf course?! [00:34:23][6.0] //
SAM: After Mac and I spent all that time poring over that police report about the trespassing incident on Cal’s property back in 1997, we realized that if it wasn’t Kevin Costner who drove an Audi up to the perimeter and hopped the fence, it was probably somebody not so different from us. A fan so in love with the myth of Cal that they wanted to see what it felt like to walk in the garden of the gods. So we looked up the address.
SAM: [00:34:30] The directions are telling us to go through, huh? A giant wrought iron gate. [00:34:38][8.0]
MAC: [00:34:41] Stone pillars leading up to the gate, [00:34:44][3.1]
SAM: [00:34:44] manicured hedge [00:34:48][4.4] // But we can't even see a house from this gate. Hmm. This is like a whole estate. [00:35:16][20.8]
MAC: The property is in an exurb of Baltimore called Worthington Valley. And while the Ripkens no longer live there, it was recently listed for sale on Zillow. According to the listing, it has six bedrooms, thirteen bathrooms, and occupies some twenty-one thousand square feet of property nestled amongst a series of green hills. Among other things, the property features, quote, “landscaped grounds, two 4-car garages, a regulation Baseball Diamond & Large Pond, state-of-the-art security systems, and wrought-iron gates leading to a beautiful estate drive.”
SAM: Did the Ironman - Baltimore’s blue collar superhero - really live...here? On a sprawling estate with a baker’s dozen bathrooms?
Sam: [00:38:44] so Mac and I are now walking towards a wooden fence that is under a row of evergreen trees and we're looking out at a big construction site. It's unclear what they're building. The footprint of it is huge.We can see some guys in the distance under a construction tent where I'm now waving to, they are waving back. One of them has gotten up and is maybe walking over. [00:39:18][34.2] // [00:43:21] Let's see if he does come over here. Oh, he's coming over here. Oh, great. Hey, how's it going? Sorry to be lurking, we just had a question, we are huge Orioles fans. [00:43:50][29.6] Did this used to be where Cal Ripken lived? He did.
SAM: So at this point a huge truck went by and drowned out our recording, but what happened next is that a very nice and slightly suspicious kid named Jacob approached Mac and me, who were leaning over the wooden gate at the edge of the property. Jacob asked what we were up to. We told him we were recording a podcast about the Orioles, and asked what he and his crew were working on. He told us they were refurbishing a koi pond - which from what Mac and I could see, looked to be about the size of an Olympic swimming pool.
Sam: [00:46:17] And, um, do you get Orioles fans stopping by and gawking frequently? [00:46:21]
JACOB: [00:46:22] This is the first time, actually. No. Yep. First time. [00:46:25]
Mac: [00:46:39] Can I ask just one last thing before we head out? Did you ever hear anything about Cal and Kevin Costner, the actor? Nothing? [00:46:49]
JACOB: [00:46:50] Yeah, no, no. [00:46:52]
Mac: [00:46:52] There's some story actually allegedly took place on this property with those guys. And, uh, OK [00:47:01]
Sam: [00:46:27] Well, thank you so much, man. I really appreciate it. And thanks again for being cool about us sort of lurking by the fence [00:46:37][10.7]
SAM: Now in retrospect, Mac and I understand that our trip to Worthington Valley was sort of misguided. The lesson of the police report probably shouldn’t have been - let’s go do the almost the same thing that this police report describes. But standing there, outside the wrought iron gates, we aren’t thinking about that. All we can think about is the apparent gap between Cal’s “lunch pail” identity and his actual life. Like Kevin Costner, he lived in a different world. Maybe he wasn’t really a blue collar superhero. Maybe the Ironman was just a character he was really good at playing. Maybe his story isn’t our story after all.
MAC: But an uncomfortable feeling still isn’t evidence. The existence of Cal’s koi pond is not proof that he told someone to take a set of hedge clippers to the lights at Oriole Park on August 14th, 1997. To find out what really happened, we still needed to find someone who was on the scene that night - whatever that scene really was. So while we were in town to skulk around the perimeter of Cal Ripken’s old house, we made an additional stop, for some additional skulking...
Sam: What an odd journey has brought us to this moment… it’s the first house to the right.
MAC: Now, why are we awkwardly casing yet another house in the Baltimore suburbs? Well, after the cop E told me about at the birthday party wasn't willing to talk. I got a different tip that there was another ex-Baltimore cop who might know something about The Rumor.
ARNOLD: [00:12:16] You know, it says something about a person who is a policeman and yet has a vanity license plate that says Mad Dog. //
SAM: That's Arnold Wiener, a Baltimore attorney who once brought a successful lawsuit against the ex-cop in question, who yes, goes by Mad Dog. Back in 1992, Mad Dog allegedly tackled and arrested a client of Arnold's, a local biology teacher, for selling game tickets outside Oriole Park at face value; which, as Arnold pointed out, was not a crime.And the more Arnold told us about Mad Dog, the more intrigued we became...
ARNOLD (ct’d) [00:14:17] He has a very distinctive appearance that he worked at assiduously, he wears very, very fancy suits, flashy ties. And the shoes were so fancy, they look like Spats. And in the summer, he always wore a straw hat.
ARNOLD: There was a restaurant. I think he would frequent // I believe it was the new Whyman, which has just recently closed. It was a place that was frequented by lots of Baltimore characters, including John Waters. And and I must tell you that if you ever saw Mad Dog, you would you would think that he was not out of place being in the same venue with John Waters.
MAC: We were very bummed to hear that the new Whyman had closed, and for three reasons. One, their egg and toast breakfast was both delicious and reasonably priced. Two, how cool would it have been to hang out there, while the Baron of bad taste himself held court? And three, it would have been an easy way to get some face time with Mad Dog.
SAM: But nevertheless, we were determined to get Mad Dog to bark. We tracked down a phone number and some email addresses, but he didn't answer our messages. So later on the same day we visited Cal's old house, we decided to repeat our now signature move –– just show up and see what happens.
MAC: When we pulled up outside the house, we discovered as Arnold had suggested a car with a license plate that reads Mad Dog, as well as some other troubling decorations…
SAM: NRA sticker...Yankees sticker! Oh no, oh god. All right, let’s go do this!
SAM: So Mac and I screwed up our courage, and we wrote Mad Dog a note saying we were working on a story about Oriole Park in the late 90s and that we'd heard he had some insider information. We left our email addresses and phone numbers and slipped the note into his mailbox.
SAM: The note ended up in the mailbox…
[reprise cold open clip from Ep 1] SAM: All right, now we should go!
MAC: And then, we waited for Mad Dog to contact us. For...two days. And...he didn’t.
SAM: So...we went back to Mad Dog’s house, and spent another long minute staring at the mailbox.
Sam: Am I gonna do it? I’m gonna do it.
[Sam wrestles with the mailbox again]
SAM: It’s empty.
MAC: Mad Dog, has received the note.
SAM: Well, I think that might mean he doesn’t want to talk to us.
MAC: As we sprinted back to Sam’s Subaru, we were feeling dejected. It was quickly becoming clear that investigating a rumor is no easy task. The whole thing’s based on whispers and hearsay. And as flimsy as the Mad Dog lead was, it felt like the most tangible thing we had to go on.
SAM: But just when the whole Mad Dog misadventure was starting to feel like a waste of time, Mac and I had a follow-up call with Arnold Weiner, the lawyer we originally called to learn more about Mad Dog. And as we were explained to Arnold that our project is actually more about Cal Ripken, Arnold said something we weren't expecting...
WEINER: [00:20:15] our firm represents Cal, [00:20:20][4.9]
[00:20:36] Gotcha, gotcha. So I it's this, you know, is is out of place
to to ask, please, please let us know. But were we to I think
eventually we'll reach a point with this story where obviously it would
be amazing to to talk to him. Is that a request we could maybe send
through you if you don't feel that would be appropriate? I completely
WEINER : I'd be glad to pass it along.
SAM: Somehow by chasing Mad Dog down a dead end street, we suddenly found ourselves standing on Cal’s doorstep.
MAC: You called before I could finish texting “holy shit.” I literally
was about to hit send on my “holy shit” text, but that’s how fast you
SAM: [00:30:27] Oh my God, I can't stop laughing.
MAC: What...just happened?!
SAM: Well, I just think we just accidentally called Cal Ripken’s lawyer’s office.
MAC : I don't think that's...there's no way we could have known that.
[music in: Run For the Man]
SAM: When Arnold told us he could pass a message to Cal on our behalf, it was obviously tempting to take him up on that offer right away. But...we also weren’t quite ready to call up our childhood hero and ask him point-blank if he was part of an elaborate conspiracy to preserve his own legacy.
MAC: Sam and I know we’re probably only going to get one chance to talk to Cal - or one swing if you will -- and we want to make sure that if that happens, we’re going into that conversation with all the information we can possibly find. At this point, we don’t exactly have any evidence to confront Cal with.
SAM: But if we weren’t quite ready to talk to the God himself, surely we can handle some light-hitting middle infielders...
REBOULET: On certain nights, you know, cow would want to have a conversation about baseball or whatever, and you say you want to hang around after the game. I'm like, yeah, so we sit around after we work out, everybody go home and we be in the clubhouse, you know, maybe maybe having a few adult beverages and // just talking about the team and what have you, different situations that go on and just talking baseball till three or four in the morning.
MAC: If someone cooked up a scheme to postpone the game on August 14th, 1997, that conversation probably didn’t happen at Cal’s house. It seems much more likely that it happened in the Orioles clubhouse. And if Mad Dog wasn’t going to bite, maybe some of Cal’s teammates would...
AARON LEDESMA: [00:43:28] Ripken, you know, his name was in the lineup,
but he didn't go out for BP. He was like you better get your shit
together Ripken is struggling right now and there's a good chance he's
not playing and there's a good chance that you're going to be the guy.
Oh my god! OK. All right. OK, let me compose myself here.
SAM: Next time on The Rumor, Mac and I try to hop the fence..
BORDICK: the clubhouse was our sanctuary. Yeah, this is our team, you know, if you're part of the team, you're welcome. If you're not and get out of here
SAM: The Rumor is hosted, produced and written by... Sam Dingman & Mac Montandon.
MAC: Editing and mixing by Sam Dingman. Research and archival by... Mariam Khan. Booking help by... George Noble. Production coordination by... Devin Shepherd.
SAM: Additional production support from... Isabelle Jocelyn & Shwetha Surendran. The Rumor is executive produced by... Peter Moses & Jon Yales.
MAC: We used archival audio in this episode from the ESPN telecast of the September 6th, 1995 game between the Orioles and the Angels. Our outro music is Farewell Transmission, by Songs Ohia.
SAM: If you like the show, don’t forget to tell two friends, and make sure to leave us a five star review in Apple Podcasts. Thank you for listening, and we’ll talk to you next time.
The New Voice of Sports