The Rumor

E3: The Stories You Don't Hear About

Sam Dingman
Host
Mac Montandon
Host
Host

E3: The Stories You Don't Hear About

Sam: OK, so there's a guy in the oh, that's Lenny Webster wearing number 42. Wait, OK,.

Mac: How did you identify Lenny Webster in a profile?

Sam: Because I have a photographic memory of Oriole backup catchers

[music in]

Sam: His eyeballs are literally framed by the D and the O in “Do Not Air.” // Right at 14 seconds.

Mac: Oh, my God

Sam: Is that spooky or is that spooky?

Mac: Spooky.

SAM: When it comes to hard evidence of what happened at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 14th, 1997, there isn’t much.

MAC: Hence...this podcast.

SAM: Obviously. But one interesting document Mac and I were able to track down is a very short clip of local news B-roll from inside the ballpark that night.

MAC: This footage is just crazy.

Sam: Yeah. And then it goes to Randy Johnson pointing up at the light tower…

MAC: I see Davey Johnson talking to folks on the field...

SAM: Mussina in the dugout...

SAM: Mac and I have watched this tape over and over and over again - to the point that we’ve taken to referring to it as our Zapruder Film. Which, for those who aren’t aware, is an 8mm movie filmed on November 22, 1963, at a fateful parade in Dallas by a man named Abraham Zapruder. Zapruder accidentally captured the Kennedy assassination on film, and his footage plays a central role in the 1991 Oliver Stone movie JFK, starring - you guessed it - Kevin Costner as Louisiana District Attorney Jim Garrison.

MAC: At a climactic moment in JFK, Garrison plays the Zapruder film in a courtroom. A hush falls over the crowd as Garrison plays and replays the moment president Kennedy is struck by a bullet. A bullet, Garrison claims, that couldn’t possibly have been fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. It’s the moment that supposedly proves the assassination was a conspiracy.

COSTNER: This is the key shot...the president going back and to his left...from the front and right. totally inconsistent with the shot in the Depository.

SAM: Now, JFK is a controversial movie for a whole host of reasons - not the least of which is Costner’s criminally-bad Louisiana accent.

COSTNER: Someday, somewhere, someone may find out the damn truth. We better we better we might just as well build ourselves another development.

But for a young Sam Dingman, JFK was a revelation. It was the first time I’d been invited to consider the possibility that the people in power might be lying to us. Now I’m not saying I believe the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy, but to this day, when I hear the voice of doubt in my brain, it speaks with that cringey Kevin Costner drawl. JFK made me into someone who tends to look for reasons to doubt the official narrative. The kind of person who will watch and rewatch b-roll of local news footage looking for clues, the same way Jim Garrison scrutinized the Zapruder film.

MAC: Except that this is like if the Zapruder Film was even more indie and maybe directed by Joanna Hogg.

SAM: And, much like a film from the Hogg oeuvre, the b-roll features extended sequences of confused people wandering around muttering to themselves, and occasionally pointing at things.

MAC: So, you’ve seen The Souvenir.

SAM: One of my favorite films.

MAC: Anyway - the real excitement in the b-roll comes towards the end, when Orioles players Brady Anderson and Mike Moose Mussina are shown in the clubhouse giving brief, boilerplate statements about the outage to reporters…

ANDERSON: I went out there I thought it was playable. But you know, when you have so many different people, you know, the umpires and the Mariners and the oils and oil front office that have to come to an agreement. Sometimes, you know, there's no exact science to figuring out what to do. So things usually don't get done quickly.

MUSSINA: We're gonna play two games tomorrow 1:30 and 7:30. And, hopefully the lights down.

MAC: And sometime around our eighteenth or nineteenth viewing, Sam, if you remember, you post an intriguing theory where Mike and Brady were being used as decoys by the Orioles PR team to distract attention from the cause of the outage.

SAM: Did I really say that?

MAC: You did.

Sam: For these clips to exist, it would mean that Mussina and Brady had already been given the company line on this: if anyone sticks a microphone in your face, the line on this is “we don’t know what happened, it’s unfortunate, but we’ll go get ‘em tomorrow. You know, “nothing to see here folks.”

SAM: I guess, I really did say that.

MAC: Hearing that now, Sam, I feel like your theory might need a little workshopping…

SAM: Yeah, maybe just a little...

MAC: I mean, you can almost feel how The Rumor is driving us batty…

SAM: Yeah it doesn’t feel great listening back to that. But what’s so enticing about watching and rewatching and rewatching this clubhouse footage of Mussina and Anderson is the idea that maybe it’s the same clubhouse where, mere hours earlier, the plot to fake the outage was hatched. Maybe the apocryphal hedge clippers are hiding in one of those lockers behind Mike Mussina’s head!

MAC: There was no way to know without traveling back in time and breaking into the clubhouse. Which, in our own way, we set out to do...

MIKE 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: I’m Sam Dingman.

MAC: I’m Mac Montandon. And from Blue Wire, this is The Rumor.

SAM: Episode 3: The Stories You Don’t Hear About.

[PRE-ROLL AD BREAK]

SAM: Mac and I are quickly developing an extensive collection of dead ends in this investigation.

MAC: Let us now count the errors… of our ways…

SAM: One! It has been weeks since we talked to Doug, the guy who told us he could put us in touch with his contact in the Angelos family. And with every follow-up text Mac sends, that trail is growing colder and colder.

MAC: In fact, in our most recent exchange, I wrote to ask if there were any updates. Doug’s reply reads, and I quote: “Nothing. Which is code for get lost. Not out of character. Very private guy.” End quote.

SAM: very not ambiguous...

MAC: Decided lack of ambi...

SAM: Error number two of course is the spats-sporting Mad Dog. And the Dog is yet to bark.

MAC: And if we’re being honest, we should probably count the unreasonable amount of time we spent speculating about Kevin Costner renting an Audi, hopping the fence, and sneaking past Cal Ripken’s koi pond for a late-night rendezvous with Kelly as error number three. And that’s to say nothing of E’s cop friend, who started us down this road in the first place and then wouldn’t even talk to us.

SAM: Now as baseball fans, Mac and I are well aware that making a bunch of routine errors in the field is the kind of thing that tends to get you benched. We need to tighten up our investigative game.

[music in]

SAM: Fortunately, we were able to successfully make contact with three guys who made very few errors during their major league careers.

MAC: That’s right. Sam and I figured if we couldn’t travel back in time and perch, fly-like, on the wall of the Orioles clubhouse, the next best thing would be to talk to some of the players who were there on August 14th, 1997. And not just any players. Through an elaborate combination of Twitter badgering and messages to email addresses that begin with the word “info,” we eventually established contact with the entire Orioles starting infield from that night.

SAM: Except for, Cal.

MAC: Except for, Cal.

SAM: We’re not ready to push that button, yet.

MAC: True, but geographically, these three guys were as close as anyone was to Cal the night of the outage.

SAM: We speak of journeyman utility player Aaron Ledesma, at first base ...

AARON LEDESMA : I hope you guys use stuff that's not going to get me in a courtroom or anything // you guys sound very trustworthy. I trust you guys.

MAC: Scrappy underdog Jeff Reboulet at second.

JEFF REBOULET: My dad was more of a blue collar guy. Actually that was my walk-up music - “Blue Collar Man.”

SAM: And at shortstop, Mike Bordick - who had taken over that position from Cal Ripken at the start of the 1997 season, when the Orioles moved Cal to third base.

MIKE BORDICK From Day One, Cal Ripken wanted to play catch with me. He and I played catch every day.

MAC: So, Sam and I picked up the horn...and we went around the horn.

LEDESMA I coulda went in a couple different directions - most of ‘em bad. But baseball was my life raft.

SAM: Aaron Ledesma was the kind of versatile player every good team needs. He could -- and did -- play pretty much every position. And he could hit! Aaron, in fact, is a career .296 hitter over five major league seasons with four teams, including the 1997 Orioles.

MAC: And, Aaron might have done even better and for longer, if not for a series of injuries.

LEDESMA: I had a decent year my first year in pro ball - I showed some good promise. And then the next year I think, that’s when the injuries started. I started getting hurt - an ankle injury, an arm injury...

MAC: While he certainly caught some tough breaks, all those injuries -- knowing intimately how the body can break down -- gave Aaron a unique perspective on just what a mind-boggling thing Cal’s consecutive-games streak was. As a young player, the way Cal re-invented his position made quite an impression on Aaron.

LEDESMA: It was a big thing just being in the same room with him. Because. You know, going back to high school, he was my guy. I was a big shortstop. And I had been told by scouts...coaches...that I was too big to play shortstop. And then Cal Ripken was like, he was my guy. I was, well, this guy's bigger than me, you know, and he's an all star, right? So, yeah, he was my he was my he was my hero. I have a jersey that has a number eight Oriole jersey from high school that has number eight, has my name on the back of it.

SAM: All of which makes this story Aaron told us about a game earlier in the summer of 1997...kind of nuts.

LEDESMA : He came in to the to the clubhouse one day, this is when he was going to some serious back problems. And you can tell he was hurting. Right. he spent the entire pregame on the table, the trainers table. And everybody knows that Ripkin is struggling. And I get to the field and there's Randy Myers...

MAC: Here he’s talking about then-Orioles-closer Randy Myers, who took it upon himself to constantly give the new guy - Aaron Ledesma - a hard time.

LEDESMA: Like he's like, you better get your shit together because because 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.

SAM: Now just to be clear what Randy Myers is saying here when he says “you’re going to be the guy.” He’s saying, “You, Aaron Ledesma, are gonna be the guy who’s forever associated with your high school hero’s fall from grace. For the first time in fifteen years, the name that replaces Cal Ripken Junior in an Orioles starting lineup is gonna be Aaron Ledesma.”

LEDESMA: That I choose. OK. All right. OK, let me compose myself here. So, wow. So the game starts and I don't I still haven't even seen Ripken. But sure enough, man, he gets he runs out onto the field like you can tell his back is spasming up and I know what back spasms feel like and it's debilitating. You can't do anything. It hurts so bad. Your spine just, it's nerves and they just cut your body down. But somehow he got up and he played third base that first inning.

SAM: That’s why Cal’s the Ironman -- and the rest of us aren’t.

MAC: That’s true, Sam, but don’t forget that Aaron also told us another reason why Cal is the Ironman…

LEDESMA: He got through the top of the first and then he's up to bat and a couple pitches, go by an umpire calls a questionable strike, right? Then he turns the umpire he just starts he starts ripping into the umpire. And there's, you know, then you're thinking conspiracy theory, you know, like, did he did he have this pre-arranged with the umpire or he's probably like saying like, Alright, kick me out of here, cause I can’t play the rest of this game. So sure enough, and the umpire tosses him. And I'm the guy that replaced him. And I've played that whole game thinking that I just replaced Cal Ripken and but obviously that wasn't the case. I just didn't know like the rules or anything.

SAM: Aaron’s right -- even though Cal was ejected in what was actually the second inning, baseball rules count that as a game played for Cal, so the streak remained intact. By 1997, Ripken seems to know how to manage the Streak. If his back was spasming to the point that he couldn’t play, Cal doesn’t do what any other player would do -- take a few games off and heal up. He starts the game - but then maybe he makes sure he says something ejection-worthy to an umpire, which would allow him to get credit for playing in the game, but also get a few innings of rest. Now, is this evidence for a fondness for deception? Not exactly. But still - clever.

MAC: Clever. And there was one other thing embedded in Aaron’s story of the night he almost replaced Ripken that caught our attention. The plate umpire that night, the guy who gave the Ironman the heave-ho, that was veteran ump Al Clark. The same Al Clark who was crew chief less than two months after this ejection game, on August 14th, 1997 -- night the lights went out in Baltimore. It was Al Clark, in fact, who ultimately made the decision to cancel the game on the night of the power outage. So Sam and I made a note to add Al Clark to our quickly-growing list of people who might, theoretically, know something.

SAM: That's literally what it says at the top of our notepad, people who might theoretically know something. Aaron sure had given Mac and me a lot to think about. So we were hoping the next guy up in our reportorial lineup might make the truth about the Rumor seem even more tantalizingly close.

JEFF REBOULET : On certain nights, you know, Cal would want to have a conversation about baseball or whatever, and he'd say, hey, 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 and then they're talking about baseball. What's going on, you know, in general and, you know, 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: That’s Jeff Reboulet, former Oriole back up infielder and personal hero of Sam Dingman.

SAM : I was just saying to Mac, I'm so thrilled to be talking to you for a number of reasons. But one of them is I saw you take Randy Johnson deep in the playoffs and yeah, I think it was 97. Yeah. And it was just I just remember Camden Yards melted.

[Archival tape of Camden Yards]

REBOULET : Yeah. That was pretty cool. Yeah. There was there some pretty good stuff. There was a great year. Ninety seven man. I was a lot of fun.

MAC: When it came to the Rumor, Jeff just swatted it away.

REBOULET : Those stories are so false about everything going on that day. As a matter of fact, we were waiting at the game for the game and the lights went out. And Cal used to like to play this game in front of the dugout where you throw a ball like before you start the game, you warm up and you throw a ball // So he's like, you know, we're waiting around and it's kind of boring. He's like, you want to play that? You want to go out front and throw it. We'll get the fans riled up, think we're playing. And I said, sure. So we went out there and threw it during the power outage. You know, it wasn't like completely dark. It was actually kind of light. But the candle lit power was not high enough for major league standards or whatever. So we're out there chucking it around and people are yelling whatever. We were playing the game.

SAM: So, here, again, is someone basically saying The Rumor can’t be true because Cal was there and in uniform and on the field the night in question.

REBOULET: You know, all the stuff that goes on. The stories have changed five times of why the power outage happened.

SAM: For Jeff, the rest of all this–– the gossip, the whispering, the rumor–– it's not even worth getting into.

REBOULET: So yeah, those stories are yeah, no, there's no truth to any of those ones.

SAM: So while it was a blast reliving one of my favorite baseball memories with the player who made that memory - it hadn’t gotten us any closer to a stunning revelation about the power outage.

MAC: So far, we were 0 for 2. But we still had one more at-bat - this time with Mike Bordick, one-time All-Star, Oriole Hall of Famer, and former Orioles TV broadcaster. Surely, we thought, Bordick must know something about something. For several seasons after all, he stood not much farther from Cal, than Sam is sitting from me right now.

SAM: Those were amazing years for the Orioles. With Cal at third base and Bordick at shortstop, if you were an opposing hitter, you couldn't hit a ball through the left side of the infield. But Mike told us things got off to a little bit of a rocky start...

BORDICK : There are a few little hurdles involved, like on the way down to Baltimore. I picked up the newspaper and I saw my picture on the cover. I want to say it was like the Washington Post or something like that. And I said to my wife I was like oh my gosh, look at this. This is awesome. So, well, it was an article that just ripped me to shreds. Oh, no. Oh, it tore me right up. I called my agent. I said, this is not happening, man. They don't want me down here.

SAM: But, Mike also told us that Cal was a huge help to him in those early days. Which must not have been easy for him because Cal himself was in the middle of a big life event. He was moving from shortstop to third base, leaving the position that had made him a legend.

BORDICK : And I told part I said, well, I just need to hear from Cal. I need to talk with him. And to be honest with you, when I did get that phone call and and touch base with Cal Ripken. You know, first of all, I could tell he he definitely. It didn't want to, which I think every player doesn't want to move off the position. Yeah, they, you know, came up with it and love and Cal changed that position in the game of baseball. I mean, a big guy plays short and doing it better than anybody. Yeah, so, yeah, there was a lot involved right there. But Cal being obviously the person that he is, kind of he told me, he said, listen, you said you have to do what's right for your family.

SAM: Now to my ear, “you have to do what's right for your family,” Sounds like the kind of thing a mafioso would say to one of his captains. But it seems like that's not how Mike heard it. Mike heard that as a gentle endorsement of the plan for Cal to move a few steps to his right.

MAC: It’s kind of amazing that Cal seemed cool from day one with the guy who replaced him. And, according to Mike Bordick, that lasted through all the games and days and years that they were teammates.

SAM: So, perhaps it makes sense that Mike wouldn’t want to wade into the swampy waters of the Rumor…

BORDICK : We didn't talk about that - rumors and things, you know. At. I don't know, I think we were on the edge right in the 90s, the old school, new school. I think we're still a pretty heavy old school feel, especially in the Orioles clubhouse. Here the clubhouse was our sanctuary. We, this is our team. You know, if you're part of the team, you're welcome. If you're not, and you get out of here, and we don't even want to talk about.

SAM: And that was it.

MAC: Well, yes and no. Because, while old-school Mike believes what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse, he also believes the whole power outage thing was really strange.

BORDICK: I thought it was pretty bizarre. The whole light standard went out on the left field line and it was it was it was dark and the decision was made that it was going to be, you know, postponed move to another date, so we were all. I don't know. So this day, I think there was some sort of technical glitch blew out the lights. Everybody’s got their different ideas, but I’ve never seen any kind of evidence. Cal never looked any different or acted any different...people didn’t huddle up and tell stories in the clubhouse...

SAM: And that was it?

MAC: Listen, Sam, I know we love Mike Bordick, we’ve been over this, and we kind of just want to move on and not drag him into our own 20-year psycho-journey.

SAM: I love Mike Bordick. And I love Jeff Reboulet. And I love Cal Ripken.

MAC: Yes, we know. But can you for now, can you just rewind that thing he said about the light standard…

SAM: Yes.

BORDICK : The whole light standard went out on the left field line…

MAC: So, I believe that Mike Bordick believes everything he is saying here. But he says the lights were out down the left field line, when we know for a fact that they went out above the first base dugout. That would be right field. Now look - I’m not about to go all in that this mis-remembering by Mike reflects some deeper conspiracy at work. But I do think it’s worth keeping in mind that memories are not perfect. Us humans are as capable of getting wires crossed as the lighting system of a professional baseball stadium.

SAM: True. And honestly, the further we go with this investigation, the more it seems like our wires are getting hopelessly crossed.

MAC: Yes. Which actually brings up something I am feeling more and more. Let me see if I can articulate this: It’s just that, I can’t help feeling like we are getting close to something. And a big part of me is like: the next person we talk with is going to blow this whole thing wide open. But then we talk to them and they just create more questions than answers. It’s kind of like how I think about life -- we’re all wandering around blindly hoping we’re about to meet the person who gives us all the answers. But the truth is no one knows anything.

SAM: So if the truth is no one knows anything...does that mean...there’s no such thing as...truth?

MAC: Hang on a minute there, Foucault.

SAM: Ok, ok.

MAC: I’m still convinced that something like truth still exists. But when it comes to The Rumor, the power outage of August 14th 1997, and Cal and Kevin and Kelly...we still hadn’t landed on, shall we say, The Order of Things.

SAM: That one goes out to the Foucault-heads. But yes - in practical investigative terms, at the conclusion of our trip around the infield with Aaron, Jeff, and Mike, we find ourselves staring at yet another dead end. And really, what were we thinking? It’s like Mike Bordick says: what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. Sure, we can talk baseball with these guys. But we’re never going to be in the club.

MAC: In the end, all three of these guys are reciting similar versions of the boilerplate we’d heard Mike Mussina and Brady Anderson say in the Zapruder film. They’re all telling the same story - that this is a non-story.

SAM: But luckily for us and our investigation, there was another guy out there telling the story. And his version is much more complicated...

CHAD: You know, maybe I was born cynical and jaded and whatever. But whatever the public figure is, is putting forth. It's the opposite of what actually the reality is.

MAC: We’ll be right back.

[AD BREAK 1]

SAM: Back in the 90’s there was an HBO show called Arli$$ about a sports agent named Arliss Michaels, played by Robert Wuhl. Now, why are we telling you about a decades old TV show on this podcast? Well, it turns out that there’s an episode of that TV show based on the decades old Rumor that is the subject of this podcast.

MAC: Episode 4 of Season 4 of Arli$$ is called “The Stories You Don’t Hear About.” And it’s based on the alleged events of August 14th, 1997. Some of the details have been tweaked -- instead of an all-star shortstop, the athlete in question is a famous boxer, and the “celebrity” is not an Oscar-winning actor and director, but rather a glass-eyed Sammy Davis Junior impersonator. The setting has been transported from Baltimore to Las Vegas. But the core elements are the same: when the boxer discovers his wife cheating on him with the Sammy Davis impersonator, his agent conspires with the mob to have the power go out at the boxing arena, thus sparing the boxer from having to fight while he’s dealing with his sadness and jealousy.

SAM: Sound familiar?

MAC: A little bit.

NORMAN CHAD: I was a big Baltimore Orioles fan. And I got the story for Arliss based on the whole urban legend around the Cal Ripken Lights out game in Baltimore in nineteen ninety seven

MAC: That’s Norman Chad, who wrote the Arliss episode in question. When Sam and I found out that there was an entire episode of an HBO series based on The Rumor, it was kind of an epiphany. We had no idea the story had traveled that far, that fast.

NORMAN CHAD: I would have to be pitching that at the end of ninety eight it seems to me that early. Ninety nine. So that's pretty quickly after that. Yeah. For that to be in the culture that much where you know when I pitched it to the Arliss people they all know what I was talking about. I didn’t have to tell the whole story. // they knew what I was talking about. So it wasn't that hard of a sell in terms of this is the connection we’d make.

SAM: Now, Norman may have grown up as an Orioles fan, but he didn’t write the episode because The Rumor made him question his love for Cal and the team. If anything, it deepened his affections. In fact, he told us that he loved hearing The Rumor, for the very reason that it complicated Ripken’s image.

CHAD: Cal was the cleanest guy around. We love Cal, you know, it's impossible not to love Cal if you're an Orioles fan, if you're a baseball fan. So my friends, we always had a rule - that's cleaner somebody was, the dirtier he was. It's the opposite rule. The fact that Cal actually was in the midst of a horrendous marriage with his perfect union, and that he found somebody in bed with his wife. So of course, that's the case. You know, it's always the case. You know, the Pope is smoking hash in Vatican City. We know this to be the case. This is just the way it always is. So we weren't surprised. Even though chances are it wasn't true. We just loved that that rumor was out there.

MAC: Norman is now the second person to tell us that if the Rumor is true, it makes him like Cal more. Remember that Doug told us back in Episode 1 that the idea that Cal got jealous and lashed out at Kevin, that makes him more relatable somehow. Norman’s point is a little different, but still sympathetic to Cal. No one is ever exactly what they seem, and Norman thinks we’d all be a lot better off if we didn’t lose sight of that.

SAM: Now I felt a lot of things watching this episode of Arliss. But most of all, I felt a sense of relief. I mean here we are beating ourselves up for having such a hard time uncovering the truth about The Rumor. But the main theme of this story that was inspired by The Rumor is that no one in the public or the press ever really knows what’s happening in professional sports, because powerful people are constantly pulling strings - or circuit breakers - behind the scenes to manipulate reality. And after our conversation with Norman, I feel re-energized. Like, maybe we haven’t failed in our hunt for the truth - it’s just that the truth we’re seeking is deeper and more complex than we realize! Suddenly...I get this feeling. Like all of a sudden I’m...oh, I don’t know...Louisiana District Attorney Jim Garrison, or at least, the version of him portrayed in the 1991 film JFK by Kevin Costner…

MAC: I feel some drole coming on.

JIM GARRISON: This is not easy! Because the truth often poses a threat to power. And one often has to fight power at great risk to themselves.

MAC: Maybe we begin to suspect, our point of view on this story is clouded by the gauze of our fond memories of Jeff Reboulet demolishing a Randy Johnson fastball.

SAM: So good. Oh my god, he hit it so hard!

MAC: We needed to shake off the nostalgia. To see this story with the clarity of Norman Chad - the man who found a way to tell the story behind the story - the story you don’t hear about. So to borrow Norman’s formulation: Cal Ripken is the Pope, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards is Vatican City. And with that in mind, Sam and I go back to our personal Zapruder film one last time, to see if we can find evidence...of a hash pipe.

MAC: So when I pause it at the 10 second mark, Ripken’s right hand is on a piece of the dugout so does yours right across his hand does it say archive screen or do not err?

SAM: Yes. Which I'm sure they had no intention to have the double meaning we're now going to obviously insinuate that it does.

MAC: What I was looking at between the E of archive and S screener just above the top of the letters where his fingers begin, a conspiratorial minded person could see a red-ish mark, there

SAM: Yes, an abrasion, some might say.

MAC: Perhaps an abrasion. When I showed my wife, she thought it was, quote, knuckle shadow, which I don't know if that's a thing. But then maybe even more interesting...

SAM: Are you talking about the next couple seconds where he scoots it up?

MAC: Mm-hmm…

SAM: Right at 14 seconds. His eyeballs are literally framed by the “D” and the “O” in “Do Not Air.” It almost looks like he realizes his hand is in view of the camera and then he looks to where he knows the cameras are.

MAC: Oh my God!

SAM: Is that spooky or is that spooky?!

MAC: Spooky.

SAM: As Mac and I watch and re-watch this clip of the b-roll, there are five words echoing in my head...

JIM GARRISON: Back...and to the left. Back...and to the left.

SAM: Now I would never want to conflate the assassination of the president with an alleged fistfight between a baseball player and a movie star. But from a narrative standpoint, in this moment it felt like this could be our “back and to the left” moment. Were we watching Cal Ripken realize that his abrasion’d hand was visible on the ballpark TV cameras, and quickly move it out of frame to avoid detection…? Was this the moment that proves the Rumor is real?

MAC: Or had we finally watched this 74-second clip one too many times?

Sam: I feel like by watching this, we have learned so much more and also so little more.

Mac: I think we've confirmed a couple of things like until that is like when I saw Cal in the clip, I gasped because there was still a part of me that didn't really believe he might have seen him there that night but now I've seen with my own eyes that he is there so. Yeah, I don't know what it does for us in the bigger picture, but it does sort of like close that one small loop? Yeah. You know, I mean, I guess the other thing that occurs to me now is // it could be true, he beat Costner up and weirdly so the lights just happened to go out too

[music in: The Bus At Dawn]

SAM : Wait, say say more about that.

MAC: So far, It could all be true: that the fight happened, and yet Ripkin was at the stadium roughly around the time he needed to be // and it just so happens, coincidentally, the lights wouldn't work. Everything could actually be true.

SAM: So where does this leave us? So much closer, and still so far away...

MAC: Maybe it’s time to admit we’re not going to find that one person - or that one frame in the b-roll - with all the answers. The smoking hash pipe.

SAM: But our Zapruder film did actual reveal something: it doesn’t matter whether or not Cal Ripken and Kevin Costner got into a fistfight on August 14th, 1997. Even if they did, the Zapruder film, and our trip around the horn, pretty much prove Cal’s alibi from that NPR interview...

CAL: I was definitely there, I was ready to play.

SAM: We know that now, beyond the knuckle shadow of a doubt.

[music fades]

MAC: But what we don’t know -

SAM: But we think we can find out…

MAC: ...is why the lights went out.

[music in: Run for the Man]

SAM: And to figure that out, we don’t need to talk to Cal Ripken, or to Kevin Costner.

MAC: But we do need to go deeper - literally.

[SFX: Freight elevator slams shut, starts to descend]

SAM: Deep into the basement of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where miles of cobra-thick cables slither this way and that. All in service of a very complicated electrical system.

MALSTROM: I’m looking at the individual circuits that are going out to the electrical wiring system, trying to isolate a particular circuit out of dozens that is occasionally going to ground and tripping the main that’s feeding that tower. It’s comparable to a needle in a haystack.

MAC: I mean this sounds like a massive undertaking. Had you ever done anything at this scale?

BILL MALSTROM: No, but I never ate an elephant before either. But I hear it’s one bite at a time…

MAC: We need to savor every strange morsel. We need to put in the time to master the basic elements of this story.

SAM: It’s time to investigate The Rumor, the Oriole Way. To focus on the fundamentals.

MAC: Because the lights did go out on August 14, 1997 - and so far, no one has told us exactly why.

MALSTROM: I don’t know exactly what I can say on this subject. This is thin ice for me.

SAM: Next time on The Rumor, our quest takes a surprising turn: away from the story everybody knows, to the real story you don’t hear about. The story...of the power grid.

RAY: You hit one button and it goes from dark to bright.

[music in: Farewell Transmission]

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 Baltimore’s WMAR-2 News, and JFK, produced and distributed by Warner Brothers. Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, is available wherever books are sold. Our outro music is Farewell Transmission, by Songs: Ohia.

SAM: If you’re enjoying The Rumor, 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.