The Rumor

E5: The Four Keys

Sam Dingman
Host
Mac Montandon
Host
Host

The Rumor - The Four Keys

SAM: At the end of our last episode, Mac and I had a very confusing conversation with Bill Malstrom.

MAC: Very very confusing.

SAM: Tantalizing! But also...confusing. For one thing, after spending thirty minutes talking about a freak power outage at Oriole Park on a hot day in 1997, Bill got cagey about the exact date in question, and refused to confirm that the outage took place on August 14th before a game against the Seattle Mariners.

MAC: To confirm that, Bill said, would put him on, quote, “thin ice,” because the story he told us about the pinched yellow wire that explains the power outage might have implications for Cal Ripken’s record-breaking streak of consecutive games. Which, of course, is exactly what we suspected. But Bill also told us that he couldn’t say whether the yellow wire story is connected to the Streak without making a phone call to...someone...who works for the Orioles. And then, right at the very end of the conversation…

MALSTROM: I can tell you that what you're going to hear is going to completely take rumor and all the juicy stuff that people love to read about. It's going to, it's going to debunk all that. If you want to sell a copy, you might want to print what you've heard or read well. But well well, that's what really happened. I could tell you.

SAM: That's the thing, Bill, is we actually do want to know what really happened. We're not interested in advancing some kind of fake, salacious, salacious narrative.

SAM: So what the fuck were we talking about?!

MAC: [laughs]

[music fades]

MAC: As of this recording, we haven’t yet heard from Bill about whether or not his Oriole contact will let him talk to us. But he did eventually text me to say that yes, it was the Mariners that the Orioles were supposed to play on the night of the pinched yellow wire. So based on that, we’re now reasonably confident that Bill’s story about the little yellow wire is a story about August 14th, 1997.

SAM: Somehow though, our story feels simultaneously like it’s almost over, but also like it’s never going to end. Because if what Bill’s saying is true - that the whole outage boils down to a pinched yellow wire, and that the rest of the story, whatever that may be, would, in his words, “take all the juicy stuff” out of The Rumor...why not just tell us? Why add additional juice by being all cloak and dagger about it? What we have here, Mac, is a juice paradox - he’s telling us there’s no juice, but then he’s adding more juice!

MAC: I have to say, Sam, all this juice-talk has brought up a couple things for me: 1. I’m very thirsty. Parched, even. And 2. I know there are more moves we can make in the investigation––non-Malstrom moves that will bring clarity out of the weird shadows he’s cast over the proceedings. What’s better suited to unlock something, mystery or otherwise,...than a set of keys?

SAM: I think I know where you’re going with this…

MAC: I think you do.

ERIC: In the lower press box where the writing press sits, there was a control box on the wall there. And from there you could just turn on...

ALONZO: ...all the lights...

ERIC: ..with a key switch.

MAC: I’m Mac Montandon.

SAM: I’m Sam Dingman.

MAC: And from Blue Wire, this is The Rumor.

SAM: Episode 5: The Four Keys.

MAC: In the aftermath of the Malstromian Juicery, Sam and I got busy tracking down the Four Keys. The other four guys on Ray Winfrey’s crew on August 14th, 1997 who had access to the “old box,” which was the panel of switches and buttons in the back of the Oriole Park press room that controlled the stadium lights. Ray sent us their names and contact info, and we heard back from two of them right away: Eric Howell and Alonzo Andrews. So we asked if they’d be down to talk to us at the same time - not realizing we were orchestrating a reunion.

ALONZO: Hey, Eric.

ERIC: Hi Alonzo, how are you buddy? It’s been so long.

ALONZO: So it's been a real long time.

ERIC: I got a 13 year old now.

ALONZO: Wow. Well, you know, my son is, yeah, Eric knows that my son is Sisqó.

SAM: I'm sorry, Sisqó, as in the Thong Song?

SAM: I still can’t believe this happened.

MAC: We had...so many more questions about the precocious young Sisq, but Alonzo had another story he wanted to tell.

ALONZO: You remember the night the lights went out in Memorial Stadium?

MAC: No.

ALONZO: You have got to be joking. All the lights went out.

SAM: Memorial Stadium, for those who don’t know, was the stadium the Orioles played in before they moved to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

ALONZO: This was in the middle of an Orioles baseball game. These were mercury vapor lights, and when they go out, they have to cool off before you turn them back on...

And, what was amazing about Alonzo telling that story is that he had no idea that ballpark power outages were exactly what we called to talk about.

MAC: Yeah, it turns out, when you get two old lighting engineer buddies on the phone, they don’t need much prompting to start swapping war stories.

ALONZO: Oh you remember the joke I pulled on you.

ERIC: Uh which one?

ALONZO: The one about the lights…

MAC: Can I ask you, Alonzo?

ALONZO: Oh, well, one night lights went out during the game // Eric didn’t have anything to do with it, but I wrote it up like it was in the newspaper and put it on our personal computers, and he saw it and went, “I didn’t know it went viral!”

ERIC: Well - that doesn’t count for the time the lights actually went out in // Oriole Park.

MAC: And then, just like that, Eric segued into the exact story we were hoping he’d tell us.

ERIC: I'm at Best Buy and I'm talking to some guy about mini disc players and he goes, Oh, how long you worked for Sony? I work at Oriole Park and he's like, what are you doing here? All the lights on the first base just went out. I'm like, oh, well, I got to go now walking out the store. And Ray calls me, says, you need to come in. And so I'm heading back to the ballpark and Alonzo's already up in the tower.

SAM: So Eric gets to the ballpark, where Alonzo, Ray, and Bill are in crisis mode. There’s thousands of confused and angry fans milling around, and clusters of mystified players on the field wandering around pointing, Joanna Hogg-style, at the sky. Mac and I were acutely familiar with those images from our repeat viewings of the local news B-roll we told you about in Episode 3. But the real story was unfolding way up where everyone was pointing - where the cameras weren’t looking.

ALONZO: we put on a harness...

ERIC: ...five point restraint or in essence got a kind of like a bungee cord in the middle of it, you have to climb up to the upper deck of the seating area. And then there's a gate and you open up the gate and you got to climb up the ladder there and open up the little hatch at the top. Once you're on the one on the top of the ladder or on the top of the canopy, at that point, you can kind of tie into this travel line that goes up to the top of the pole there. It's about 200 feet from the top of the light tower to the bottom of the lower concourse. And it's about 85 feet from the top of the light tower to the upper concourse. If you're falling off of that thing, it's the you know, the impact’s going to get you.

MAC: But climbing the tower is only half the battle. The hard part didn’t even start until Eric and Alonzo reached the top of the lighting tower.

ERIC: You know there's about 300 lights in each tower

ALONZO: ...and you know they didn’t have one panel here, they have…

ERIC: ...three or four panels...

ERIC: And each of those has 20, 30 breakers in them.

ALONZO: It’s over a 100 breakers in there.

SAM: So Eric joins Alonzo a few hundred feet in the sky, high above the chaos below and they begin the painstaking work of testing each breaker individually - the needle-in-a-haystack operation Bill explained last time.

ERIC: So, you know, effectively what had happened was, you know, years of turning the lights on and off. A simple screw in the cable tray had made it sway finally through one wire, and it blew a hole on the side of the cable tray and shorted out all lights down the whole first base.

MAC: So this would seem to confirm exactly what Bill told us - a loose screw pinches a little yellow wire, and suddenly…

MAC: ...and thus, a rumor is born.

SAM: Had we done it? Had we just disproved the central allegation of The Rumor - that the power outage was faked?

MAC: Sam, can we just, I love your questions here but can we just pause for a second? Because I need to tell you something, which is when you first showed me this in the script. Yeah. I really loved it. And it really like sang and I was like, ah, another beautiful Dingman-ian etched gem turning way to transition us into the next section of the story and I was with you…

SAM: I don't like where this is going.

MAC: And then I sat with it for a minute, or hours or whatever it was. And after a while I was like, wait a second. I actually don't feel like it, it spoke for how I was feeling which was oh, we haven't done it. Like there's still so much more to do.

SAM: ...aha...

MAC: Like this was one of the first times where I was like, huh, maybe Sam should just be speaking for himself here?

SAM: Yeah, well, this question is making me wonder why I wrote the line. Had we done it? And I guess I did that because I really want us to have done it.

MAC: Like, just have it be resolved.

SAM: Yeah, but not from a truth standpoint so much as a okay, now that we're talking about it, I'm afraid of our podcast.

MAC: Please say more about that.

SAM: Cards on the table. I guess. I've really wanted this to be a podcast about disproving the rumor, not proving the rumor, because I don't know if this has been made clear in the show. But I love Cal Ripken so much. And I also love Jeff Reboulet and Mike Bordick. And, and this is not how to be a good journalist. But every time we got on the phone with one of these people, I was hoping we would they would want to be our friends.

MAC: Yeah, yeah, I get that.

SAM: And every time one of our episodes has come out, I have woken up on that Monday with this spasm of fear that we're gonna get an email from Mike Bordick, saying, What's wrong with you, man?

I get that part. But then yeah, there's sort of the other messy stuff on these barely lit cul de sacs of memory and rumor and speculation and all this murky stuff. And for me, it just feels like there's so much still unresolved that I can't even at this moment, think about what a tidy bow would look like, I guess.

So I guess what this is making me think about is, I may not be a qualified journalist in the sense that I am trying to make friends with sources. But I do know enough about documentary storytelling to know that the story is never about the factual question you're trying to answer. That question is always a vessel that sails you into deeper waters. And what's tricky about this story is how deep those waters are for us when it comes to the story of Cal Ripken and the story of the Orioles. And it's complicated by the fact that we're investigating a conspiracy theory, which is very fraught. And honestly that makes me think about something that David Mikkelson, the co-founder of Snopes, who we spoke to in episode one, told us about rumors and conspiracy theories.

MIKKELSON: A lot of what drives conspiracy theories is people trying to make sense of things that otherwise make no sense to them.

MAC: David may have made some bad choices over the years when it comes to citing his sources…

SAM: caveat, caveat!

MAC: Which we did talk about in relation to that Buzzfeed News story we told you about in our first episode. But it’s hard to quibble with his expertise when it comes to apocryphal stories. After all, when we spoke to him, he told us that whether they’re spreading via chain letter, usenet group, or presidential Twitter account, they’re basically all about the same thing, which is dealing with loss.

MIKKELSON: I mean, what we spent 60 years debating who killed John Kennedy, realistically, you know, the mob killed John Kennedy or Castro killed John Kennedy, is a lot more satisfying explanation than some loser killed President Kennedy. How can something so important had been taken away from us by someone so insignificant?

SAM: I'm as surprised as all of you listening about the amount of airtime we have given to the Kennedy assassination on a podcast that's ostensibly about baseball. But when David said this, I feel like he was articulating my fears about The Rumor being true. How could the Ironman, the man I watched transcend the realm of humanity and become godlike the night he broke Lou Gehrig’s record be the same be the same guy who allegedly got into a fistfight with his moviestar friend and then called the Orioles and asked them to cook up a lame plot to protect his ego?

MAC: Yes, but it’s important to keep in mind that Cal Ripken didn’t write the legend of the Ironman. We wrote it for him - we’re the ones who turned him into something he’s not. Now the question is: why did we do that?

MIKKELSON: It's kind of like, you know, a way of people regaining control over something they have no control over.

SAM: That's the answer that feels so scary to get to. What have I lost control of? And if I have to give up Cal? Am I ever gonna be able to find something else that brings order to the chaos?

MAC: Right. I think there's something about regaining control that sort of unites us in our quest in the story, and also really is at the heart of the story, no matter what's true. Was Cal trying to control his own narrative?

SMA: Yeah. Well, and speaking of controlling the narrative, if you think back to the conversation with Eric and Alonzo, it was a moment where we thought we'd finally gotten our arms around this slippery sea lion of a story. Their account seemed to confirm Bill's account, which seemed to dismiss the idea that there was anything sketchy about the outage. And then, just when we thought we had our arms around the sea lion, it squirmed.

MAC: Did it ever, I mean, right. We were on the line with Alonzo and Eric in the first place because they were two of the Four Keys. And they told us it was just the two of them on the scene with Ray and Bill that night, trying to diagnose and fix the lights. The other two keys? They weren’t there that night. That means, when it comes to the allegation that someone got funky with the lighting controls on August 14th, 1997, the only people with access to those controls all had pretty solid alibis. Hello, and here's where the story turns again. There is an outside chance they weren't actually the only ones with access.

ALONZO: Somebody from the Orioles did have a key, but they didn't use it, it was the emergency key...

ERIC:... it was an emergency thing.

SAM: Do you know who that would have been from the Orioles? Who would have had the key?

ERIC: No...

ALONZO: What was his name? It started with an E.

SAM: Now how great of a plot twist would it be if the E that Mac met at the tropical-themed birthday party turned out to be the E with the key? What if E sent us down this primrose podcast path, only to discover that...he was the one who cut the power all along?! It was E! In the closet! With the hedgeclippers! Case closed!

MAC: Hang on there, Louisiana District Attorney Jim Garrison, as portrayed by Kevin Costner in the 1991 film JFK. While this wrinkle is intriguing, it’s also entirely possible that this second mysterious E character accessed the old box that night for totally unsuspicious reasons. Like...turning on the lights for a night game.

MAC: You guys have probably heard, like, the rumors that relate to to the night we're talking about, like after it happened, people started saying or passing a rumor around that, you know, the team had orchestrated this power outage to a streak going.

ALONZO: I heard those.

ERIC: I've heard these before.

ALONZO: No, that’s not it.

ERIC: We’re going to debunk that one.

MAC: OK!

SAM: At this point, The Rumor was hanging by a little yellow thread.

MAC: But we still had just a couple more questions for Eric and Alonzo. Eric’s reference to mini disc players made it pretty likely we were talking about a night sometime in the 90’s, but since confirming the date is where things with Bill Malstrom went - ahem - haywire, we wanted to be as specific as possible.

SAM: We're talking about August 14th of 1997, I assume?

ALONZO: Right...

ERIC: Yeah, it would be about right. Yeah, just just after I started working there.

MAC: And last but not least - this was a game against the Mariners, right?

ERIC: Mariners, that's what it was. So now travel back a couple of years at the Mariners. Some tiles fell out of the Superdome ceiling in the middle of an Orioles game. And the Mariners said, oh, we're fine. The Orioles were like, no! We're done. We're out. And I think it was kind of almost a retaliation.

MAC: Wait - what?

ERIC: The Mariners, they were walking out. They were done.

ALONZO: They were leaving.

ERIC: They were walking down the hall while we’re still getting all this stuff fixed.

MAC: Eric might have just debunked one rumor. But had he started a new one?!

SAM: After the break, the falling tile theory…

SAM: Mac and I checked out Eric’s story about the falling tiles - and it’s at least partly true. Back in July of 1994, a series of games in Seattle between the Orioles and Mariners at what Eric called the Superdome but is actually called the Kingdome, were postponed. And that happened because a few hours before one of them was supposed to start, some Kingdome roof tiles came crashing down into the seats close to the field. Fortunately, no one was hurt. And when Mac and I started asking around, we heard from some other sources that the falling tile theory is a sort of sub-rumor to the main Rumor about August 14th, 1997. The basic idea is that the Mariners wanted to play the 1994 games as scheduled, but the Orioles didn’t like the idea of fifteen-pound hunks of ceiling raining down on their heads, and refused to play. And so, according to this alternate theory, when 1997 rolled around, the Mariners used the power outage to get revenge. They bailed on the August 14th game out of sheer pettiness.

MAC: The idea seemed at least as credible as the Ripken-Costner fight - especially after Sam and I went back and re-listened to part of our interview with Jeff Reboulet - the part where he tells us about the night of the outage.

REBOULET: We look over there and you know, in the Mariners side, they're already drinking beer over there, so they must have nothing's going on before we did. Some of them already showered and were like in their clothes.

MAC: You could see like, Mariner players in their dugout, you mean and they'd showered?

REBOULET: Yeah, I guess it's safe to say now but I think Jay Bugner already had his cowboy hat on if I remember and had a beer in his hand. So I think he like, like I don't even know if he didn't step into the stands and go sit down. And I'm going okay, well, clearly, this is not happening. I guess the Mariners decided they weren't playing is what happened.

SAM: “The Mariners decided they weren’t playing.” This gets Mac and me thinking - maybe we still aren’t asking the right question. If it isn’t, “Did Cal Ripken and Kevin Costner get into a fistfight?” or, “what really caused the power outage?” Maybe it’s: “what really caused the game to be postponed?”

MAC: This new question gave us a good reason to track down something we’ve been meaning to: the Seattle side of The Rumor.

LARRY STONE: [00:07:28] I just remember there being a lot of confusion and a lot of frustration from the Mariners side.

SAM: Larry Stone was the Mariners beat writer for the Seattle Times back in 1997, and still writes for the paper. He was in the pressbox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards the night of August 14th.

STONE: They had Randy Johnson going that night. And that was the decision, ostensibly was whether it was safe to play or not. The Bank of lights was on the first base side. You know, Randy Johnson, the most intimidating left handed pitcher of the day and maybe in history, you know, from a batter's standpoint, you did not want to stand in with anything but first class lighting, I understood that.

MAC: The Randy Johnson Factor, you may recall, is something Cal mentioned in his NPR alibi…

CAL: I remember it very well. The bank of lights went off and Randy Johnson was pitching for the Seattle Mariners. And we were deciding what to do about that. Was there enough visible light out there to actually see a guy throwing over 100 miles?

MAC: If anything, both Larry and Cal may be somewhat underplaying the dominance of Randy Johnson. Randy’s nickname after all was the Big Unit - he stood six foot ten inches tall, and pitched with an almost-sidearm delivery that, for left-handed batters, made it seem like those hundred-mile-an-hour fastballs were coming in from behind their backs. And he threw as hard as Cal says. In one instance, a bird flew into the path of one of Randy’s offerings, and when Randy’s pitch hit the bird, the bird literally exploded.

ARCHIVAL TAPE: Randy Johnson throws ball and hits dove; Fans gasp

MAC: That’s actual audio of fans in the stands gasping at the moment Randy’s pitch pulverizes a morning dove.

STONE: You had this fearsome, you know, pitcher, and not only for the players, but for the fans with a screaming foul ball into the stand. If you couldn't see it, and if it hit somebody, there'd be a liability question.

SAM: So even though a few other people thought there was enough light to play that night, Larry thinks the safety concern was valid. And when it comes to The Rumor, he doesn’t remember hearing anything in the pressbox about Cal Ripken being MIA.

STONE: I know what the rumors were and everything, but they posted the lineup and, um, and and I mean, if he wasn't in it, that would have been a huge story. So he was in the lineup.

SAM: To hear Larry tell it, it doesn’t seem like there was much confusion in the pressbox on the night of the outage. It wasn’t until after the game, when Larry interviewed Mariners manager Lou Piniella, that he learned what was happening behind the scenes.

STONE: I just remember when we did finally get to go down and talk to them. He was very agitated about the whole thing. Basically, what happened was, they will they brought the union into it, it became a their player rep was Dan Wilson, the catcher, and they they had a lot of meetings during the course of the evening as they decide whether or not to play this game. And at one point, an Orioles representative came in and asked the mariners to have a vote about whether they wanted to play a split doubleheader the next day or a nighttime doubleheader. And so they had this vote in the Mariners took this to mean that the game had been canceled. So a lot of their players showered including Randy Johnson took a shower as if okay, we're done for the day. And at that point, the word was brought to the Mariners that they they decided they were gonna play and that that vote on the doubleheader was only a contingency on if they had canceled. So, Lou Piniella then, this really irritated Lou because he told him, look, you're gonna play without us. It's gonna be a forfeit because my guys have showered they're ready to go home..

SAM: Talking to Larry, I got to thinking about what I remember as a sort of mini-rivalry between the Orioles and the Mariners back in the mid-to-late 90’s. It wasn’t exactly the Hatfield-McCoy-type vitriol between the Yankees and the Red Sox. But the other Mariners memory that haunts me is from four years before the outage - June 6th, 1993. It was an afternoon game, the Orioles were leading Seattle 5-1, and I was sitting in the stands shoveling soft-serve ice cream into my mouth from a plastic bowl shaped like a miniature batting helmet, watching my second-favorite player, pitcher Mike Mussina, dominate the Mariners. Mussina was cruising along, until the seventh inning, when Mariners catcher Bill Haselman stepped to the plate…and Mussina hit him in the shoulder with a pitch.

ANNOUNCER: Ooh, and he’s plunked...and Haselman’s charging the mound! What in the world is that all about?! Ooh, an ugly brawl…

SAM: Haselman throws down his bat, spikes his helmet, sprints towards the pitcher's mound and he wraps his arms around Mike Mussina and starts trying to tackle him. Mike Mussina doesn't miss a beat. He raises his fist in the air and starts beating it against Haselman’s back. And all of a sudden, the two of them are surrounded by this swarm of red faced teammates who are ripping at each other's jerseys, baring their teeth.

ANNOUNCER And you just hope someone didn’t get hurt. And now another big scrum to the left of the pitcher’s mound as bodies flyin’ all over the place.

SAM: The whole afternoon had been so blissful, and all of a sudden it had erupted into this volcano of rage...

ANNOUNCER: And more pushing and shoving now - now another brawl breaks out, Jay Buhner’s involved, Randy Johnson’s involved - oh boy this is ugly...

SAM: I was 11 that day. And at that time in my life, I spent most of my days at school, worrying that I was going to get hit with sucker punches, just like the ones that were being thrown down on the pitcher's mound. So this was a crisis for me. Oriole Park at Camden Yards was supposed to be my refuge. And all of a sudden, it had descended into something just as gnarly and brutal as the world outside the fence. And I remember being so upset, I couldn't even watch. I turned away from the field. I buried my face in my dad's arm. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Sometimes these guys have demons that get the better of them.”

ANNOUNCER: Awful, this is often an ugly scene here at Camden Yards. And the 46,000 fans in attendance are rightly booing...I mean this is ugly - we’re going to have to get law enforcement down here in a minute...just so ugly…

ANNOUNCER: Ohh, and a punch is thrown by the Orioles...

SAM: I still shudder a little when I think about that afternoon. And I think Mac that this brawl story is one of the keys...

MAC: ...there, you said it...

SAM: ...I said it. To understanding the Mikkelsonian riddle. Why did I need this myth that baseball was something higher and more holy? But also, in a more practical sense, until we talked to Larry, I had never considered the implications of the brawl for Cal and the streak, because Larry remembers that the brawl almost ended the streak

STONE: They had this huge fight and he got hurt.

MAC: After we spoke to Larry, I did some digging - and sure enough, it was later reported that after the fight with the Mariners, Cal’s leg was injured badly enough that he told his wife Kelly he wasn’t sure he could play. He did end up playing, of course - the Streak didn’t end that day. But a couple episodes back, we allowed ourselves to wonder whether or not Cal’s alleged scheme to get himself tossed in that game Aaron Ledesma told us about was evidence of his willingness to cut corners to preserve the Streak. And it seems only fair to note that if he was that concerned about preserving it, he probably wouldn’t dive into a scrum of angry meatheads duking it out on a pitcher’s mound.

SAM: Speaking of petty resentments amongst grown men, we also asked Larry for his thoughts on the Falling Tile Theory.

LARRY: I dismissed it as being bogus from the start. These conspiracy theories, they just sort of gradually take hold and you're never sure where they originate from. And there that's all hazy and murky.

SAM: “Hazy” and “murky.” Two adjectives that, for my money, suddenly don’t seem to apply to the events of August 14th, 1997 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

SAM: Mac and I have never investigated a Rumor before.

MAC: And we’ve never eaten an elephant, either.

SAM: But we hear it’s one bite at a time.

MAC: So let’s chew on everything we know so far…

MAC: Sometime before the Orioles game against the Mariners on August 14th, 1997, a breaker fails, and the lights in the tower above the first base line at Oriole Park at Camden Yards suddenly go dark, delaying the start of the game. Meanwhile, Eric Howell is at a Best Buy not far from the ballpark - he’s having an intense conversation about mini disc players when he gets a call from Ray Winfrey saying he needs to get to the ballpark right away. When he gets there, he meets up with Ray, Alonzo Andrews, and Bill Malstrom. They get most of the lights in the tower working again, but there are 18 bulbs that won’t come back on.

SAM: At some point, Cal Ripken arrives at the ballpark and suits up. He is, by all accounts, ready to play. As the delay drags on, he and Jeff Reboulet toss a ball around in front of the dugout, waiting for an update from the umpiring crew. At some point, ballpark TV cameras capture Ripken in the dugout, peering inquisitively up at the sky.

MAC: Eventually, the players union reps from both teams confer, and there’s some sort of miscommunication that leads to the Mariners thinking the game has been officially postponed until the next day. Several members of the Orioles claim they were actually pushing to play the game in spite of the darkness, but eventually it doesn’t matter who said what: around ten pm, head umpire Al Clark formally makes the call that the game has been postponed.

SAM: Hours later, Ray and his crew successfully determine the cause of the outage: an errant screw and a pinched wire. It seems like a freak accident. But did someone deliberately try to cause the outage, knowing the system might have a few errant screws floating around in it?

MAC: Well, even if they wanted to, in order to do it, they’d need to push a big black button on a control panel in a locked closet in the press box behind home plate. And according to Ray Winfrey, there are only five people with keys to that closet - Ray himself, Eric Howell, Alonzo Andrews, and two other guys who Alonzo and Eric told us weren’t at the ballpark on August 14th, 1997.

SAM: Don’t forget about Mystery E!

MAC: Right - the non-tropical E who may or may not have had E-mergency access to the control box.

SAM: At this point, Mac and I decided there were only three other people in the world with relevant information about what happened that night: Kelly Ripken, Cal Ripken, and Kevin Costner.

MAC: And so, believing ourselves to be at least as reputable as Chuck Booms, we sent multiple messages to Kevin Costner’s reps, asking if he’d be willing to speak with us. And they said: no.

SAM: I sent two messages to Kelly Ripken, explaining that we were working on a story about an alleged altercation between Cal and Kevin on the same night as a mysterious power outage in 1997, and that while we understand it’s a potentially painful memory for her and her family, we want to be as responsible as possible in telling it, and would welcome any comments about the story that she’d be willing to share. As of this moment, we haven’t heard back. And last but not least...

MAC: Yes - with a decided lack of least-ness...we reached out to Cal Ripken through a variety of channels, including attorney Arnold Weiner, who, you may recall, had told us he’d be happy to pass along our request. But we got no response. No response, that is, until we tried one last channel - Cal’s PR rep. And the PR rep...did reply - forcefully. He dismissed The Rumor as nonsense, and reiterated Cal’s assertion from the NPR interview that The Rumor can’t be true because Ripken was on the field that night. And the PR guy summed up his sentiments on our story with this memorable quote: “It is the greatest bunch of bullshit in urban legend history.”

SAM: Well, Cal Ripken’s PR rep, we respectfully disagree.

SAM: Because it turns out there is actually someone else who knows what went down on August 14th, 1997.

AL: I have no problem talking about it. I made a mistake. I made a huge and drastic mistake. I did a favor for somebody that I should not have done.

MAC: And because this story has always been about more than The Rumor.

SAM: From the beginning, I’ve been scared that this story will be the thing that takes the hedge clippers to my ponytail once and for all. But, maybe it doesn’t have to be that way...

TYLER KEPNER: I feel like I've always felt like a kid in that movie, Almost Famous, where, as a young reporter, you know, he sees all the underbelly of what he is covering, but he still loves it. He never loses that sense of wonder, even though he sees the other side.

MAC: And while I haven’t been scared that the story will be the end of me, I have been scared that one day we won’t have any more stories to tell. Which is why I’m still looking for answers...

ELI: Our actual conversation was very short and abrupt - he was not happy to be talking about what I asked him about.

MAC: Wait - so did he confirm if he was the estate manager?

ELI: He did not.

SAM: There may never be an end to The Rumor. But were we looking for the truth in the wrong place all along?

LEITCH: Like it does feel like the last time where you could be this generic vessel that would be propped up as the American ideal. It feels actually kind of like the end of something.

MAC: All of that and more is coming up next time, on the finale of The Rumor.

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 Orioles, Mariners game of June 6th, 1993 from MLB.com. 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.