I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, about three miles from Memorial Stadium. That’s where the Baltimore Orioles played baseball. It’s where the Baltimore Colts played football.

My brother and I were crazy about the Orioles and Colts. Our uncle Oscar loved the Colts, took us to lots of games when we were kids. Fans at football games can get a bit rowdy. If you’re a 10 year-old, it’s good to have a sleeve to hang on to. Especially a sleeve connected to a guy like Oscar.

But baseball? It’s a bit gentler, safer for a kid. In the summertime, my brother and I would go to Orioles games by ourselves. We’d get to the stadium anyway we could; walk, ride a bike, take the bus. We’d get there early, so we could catch batting practice. We’d stand out in the left-field bleachers with our gloves, two raggedy young kids, hoping to snag a batting practice home run. Or a foul ball. Or maybe a pitcher in the bullpen would throw us a ball. Anything.

My brother and I collected Orioles baseball cards. We belonged to the Junior Orioles. When we played baseball in the backyard, we’d take the names of our favorite O’s players. My brother wanted to be called “Brooks” after Brooks Robinson (third base). I wanted to be Paul Blair, a black centerfielder. He was my favorite player. Paul Blair once threw me a baseball after I screamed “Hey, Paul, throw me a ball!” about 300 times during batting practice.

Section 9 was our spot for baseball in Memorial Stadium—the outfield bleachers. There were rows of yellow aluminum benches with no backs and no padding; when the weather was hot, it was like sitting on a stove, when it was cold, it was like sitting on a block of ice. It didn’t matter to us. We loved the O’s.

My brother and I played little league baseball for years. My brother was really good; he got all the trophies. I wasn’t any good, but I loved playing. I still like throwing a ball around. I really like batting cages. You stand in a fenced-in cage, and a pitching machine throws baseballs at you, and you try and hit them with your bat.

My Dad lived in upstate New York. Cooperstown—where the Baseball Hall of Fame is—is not far away. My Dad was an extra in a Tom Hanks baseball movie—A League of Their Own—that was filmed on the baseball field in Cooperstown. I’ve been to Cooperstown a couple of times, it’s a great place to visit if you’re a baseball fan. They’ve got batting cages—I tried the pitching machine that threw knuckleballs, and I didn’t hit one good ball.

The next time I stepped into a batting cage, I hit two good balls.

My band BootCamp was playing in a rock club in Ocean City, Maryland, one summer and there was a batting cage in an amusement park right behind the club. The afternoon before our Big Show, the drummer, Hit Man Howie Z, and our friend Roger—who would later name his only son Brooks—went down to the batting cage. We three were the only ones there.

All I had on was a thin, baggy, nylon bathing suit and a T-shirt. It was the beach, it was summer. I grabbed a bat, put my money in the machine and stepped into the cage. This was hardball; I was staring at an 80 mile per hour fastball machine. I stood next to home plate, bat poised, waiting for the first pitch. It catapulted out of the machine, and screamed towards me.

I swung, and hit the ball with all my might. The ball shot straight down, hit home plate, and shot straight up like a rocket and hit me squarely in the you-know-whats.

I hit the ground like a sack of cement. I curled up in the fetal position, racked in pain, breathless. Fastballs were screaming over my head, smacking into the backboard, and bouncing all around. Hit Man and Rog were trying to grab me in between pitches, trying to avoid getting hit by 80 mph fastballs. My legs wouldn’t uncurl. They eventually dragged me—still curled up tight in the fetal position—by my feet, out of harm’s way.

The BootCamp show that night was not as lively as usual. I sang while standing in one spot, all night long. I couldn’t move. But I did hit some high notes I’d never hit before.

In 1983, BootCamp sang the national anthem at Memorial Stadium for the Baltimore Colts football team. A couple months later, the Colts moved to Indianapolis. I hope our rendition of the Star Spangled Banner didn’t affect their decision. I thought we sounded great.

In 1986, BootCamp sang the national anthem at Memorial Stadium for the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. Earl Weaver, their long-time manager, retired a couple weeks later. I was starting to think maybe I was a jinx.

In 1992, the Orioles moved from Memorial Stadium to a new ballpark in the heart of downtown Baltimore—probably to get rid of the jinx. The new stadium was called Orioles Park at Camden Yards, and it was and is a beauty.

In 1995, I released the first Slim Man CD, End of the Rainbow. I wanted to take a copy to my dentist, who was also a friend.  Going to his office was like going to the Playboy Mansion; all the assistants looked like Playboy Bunnies and he was like Hugh Hefner—I think he even dressed in silk pajamas and ascots rather than scrubs and a mask.

I drove to downtown Baltimore, parked in an underground lot, and got in a limited access elevator–it only went to the top two floors. Guess who got in right behind me? Cal Ripken, Jr., shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. Rookie of the Year, 1982. Most Valuable Player, 1983—when the Orioles won the World Series. I’d seem him play hundreds of times, but had never met him. I introduced myself, told him I was a big fan. Cal Ripken, Jr. shook my hand. I gave him the End of the Rainbow CD that I was saving for my dentist. I told Cal it was my first CD; he gave it a look, and thanked me.

About five years later, the Orioles asked me to sing the national anthem at Orioles Park. I guess they were desperate. I’m a patriot. I love the USA. And singing the anthem is an honor, plain and simple.

I practiced “The Star-Spangled Banner” day and night for weeks. My neighbors probably thought I was either really crazy or really patriotic. Or both.  I tried singing the anthem every way I could.  I sang it slow.  I sang it fast.  I sang it half-fast, which is the way I normally sing.

The day finally arrived.  I got to Camden Yards that September evening, 2000, and a young woman from the Orioles office led me on to the field. The sky was cloudy, it looked like it might rain. Hit Man was with me, so was Roger. So was Griff, the guy who signed me to Motown—he’s a huge baseball fan. My Mom, in her wheelchair, was in the stands nearby. She was also a big Orioles fan, used to listen to the games on the radio in the kitchen at Rosebank.

The players were standing by. I walked up to the microphone at home plate, the crowd stood on their feet, hats off, hands on hearts. The announcer introduced me, and I started singing. I did the “Star Spangled Banner” Slim Man style—low and slow. The woman who had led me on the field kept waving her arms in a circle, motioning for me to speed it up. She looked like a third base coach waving a runner home.

But, like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.

I thought it sounded good. Nobody booed and nobody left, which to me is a successful gig. The anthem is not an easy song to sing. At least I remembered all the words. When I finished, I walked by Cal Ripken Jr., who was warming up outside the dugout. I was hoping he’d come up to me, give me a high five and say, “Slim Man! That CD you gave me in the elevator is incredible.”

He didn’t. But he did smile and shake my hand and say, “Nice job” as I walked by.

Then I started thinking…was he talking about my version of the anthem? Or the End of the Rainbow CD? He probably meant both. Right?

Swordfish with Capers and Shallots

A couple things…before you buy or cook your fish, take a sniff.  It should smell like the sea.  Fresh.  Your nose knows.  When in doubt, throw it out.

Swordfish sometimes has small, dark areas.  I cut these out.  They tend to taste really fishy.  You can use any firm-fleshed white fish — halibut, sea bass, or grouper.

Cooking times are always approximate.  The thicker the fish, the longer it takes.

Serves 3


3 pieces of swordfish, about a half pound each, about an inch thick, skin removed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

Flour (a ¼ cup should do)

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 tablespoons capers, plus a tablespoon of their juice

2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

¼ cup dry white wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Here we go…

Rinse off the fish, and pat dry with paper towels.  Sometimes frozen fish retains water, so pat dry until the paper towel is not damp.

Heat your oven to the lowest possible temperature, which is usually 170 degrees.  The oven at Slim’s Shady Trailer Park has a “keep warm” setting that works nicely.

Heat the olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat in a sauté pan, big enough for all 3 pieces of swordfish.  Let the olive oil and butter heat until the butter starts to bubble, about 2 minutes.

While it’s heating, put some flour on a plate.  Add salt and pepper to the flour, mix it up.

Press each piece of fish into the flour, lightly coating each side.  Lightly!

Put each piece of swordfish in the pan.

Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the thickness (thicker pieces take longer).  Grab your tongs.  Turn the fish over. Swirl the olive oil and butter in the bottom of the pan before you put the fish back in. You don’t want to put it in a dry pan.

Cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove the fish to a plate.  Put it in the warm oven.

Add the chopped shallots to the pan (the one you cooked the swordfish in), cook for 30 seconds or more until golden brown.

Add the capers and their juice, cook for 30 seconds or more.  Then add the parsley and white wine, and cook for 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat under the pan.

Remove the fish from the oven.  Put it in the pan for a quick minute, then, dish it up!  Put each piece of swordfish on a plate.

Pour a little sauce over top of each piece of swordfish.

Add a circular slice of lemon (remove the seeds), and a sprig of fresh Italian parsley. My incredible Italian kale recipe goes well alongside this fish dish, or maybe my amazing spinach and almonds recipe. Or perhaps Uncle Slimmy’s rock ‘em, sock ‘em broccoli and peppers? Yes indeedy!