It was just like any typical hot, humid summer day in Baltimore.
Back then in the late 60’s and early 70’s such days often included trips to see my grandparents. And as certain as death, taxes and the Orioles making the playoffs, we would find my grandfather sitting at the far end of the kitchen table upon our arrival.
Most times he sat alone. Sometimes he even sat in the dark, probably to stave off the sometimes, oppressive heat trapped inside those un-air conditioned Fells Point homes.
Next to him was a transistor radio, set to the dulcet tones of Chuck Thompson and Bill O’Donnell, the Orioles broadcasters.
Inning after inning; game after game my grandfather would sit in silence absorbing the call of Thompson and O’Donnell. He would even chuckle from time to time when an excited Thompson-ism burst from that leather-bound transistor.
“Ain’t the beer cold!”
No matter the score, Jaja Joe sat there until the very end.
He was as loyal a fan as there was.
Every now and then my Dad would score 4 tickets to a game right behind the Orioles third base dugout there at old Memorial Stadium. Our feet (well at least my little ones) would actually rest atop the dugout. Talk about a thrill for a kid!
We would meet my grandfather and uncle on bus No. 22 and get off right at the doorstep of the park on 33rd Street.
Jaja was a man of few words, yet even as a youngster I could sense his quiet pride. You could just see it in that Cheshire cat grin. He was proud of us, and those moments.
And of course he was proud of his Baltimore Orioles.
He passed in 1990, not much longer after my Mom died suddenly in 1989. The doctors diagnosed him medically although no one will ever convince me that his rapid demise wasn’t tied to a broken heart having lost his daughter.
If Jaja had lived longer, I have no doubt that his loyalty to his Orioles would have never wavered and it would have carried him through 14 losing seasons and countless hours of sitting at the end of that kitchen table without a hint of reward.
He would have maintained hope.
Today the Orioles are knotted with the Yankees in the ALDS.
And somewhere out there I know that Jaja Joe’s prideful grin is shining like a million suns — his hope rewarded.