Longtime Orioles usher Charlie Zill, battling lung cancer, honored at first-pitch ceremony, 7th-inning stretch

8 photos

Battling lung cancer, Charlie Zill, the longtime Orioles usher celebrated by fans for dressing up in overalls and “Zillbilly” teeth and twirling a fake orange fiddle during the 7th-inning-stretch playing of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” just wanted to attend one more game. Wednesday night, he got that and more, throwing out the ceremonial pitch prior to the Orioles’ contest with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Zill, who wasn’t told he’d be taking the field until he arrived at the ballpark, received a nice ovation from the evening’s modest crowd, many of whom were still settling into their seats. Speaking even louder than their cheers was the reaction I got from two older men, scurrying up to the ledge over the out-of-town scoreboard like tweens chasing a batting practice homer, when I informed them they had just missed Zill’s big moment.

“Shoot! Darn! Really? We did? Darn!” they alternated, wrinkling their faces. Even in standing room’s carnival atmosphere, you don’t typically see indignation like that until at least the second inning. I don’t know whether they knew Zill personally, or just felt like they did, like thousands of Orioles fans, but clearly, the “self-professed born showman” who loves “making people smile” meant a lot to them. And that made me smile.

Baltimore Sun: Popular Orioles usher Charlie Zill dies of lung cancer at 56.