Last Friday, the nation paused from celebrating Lotto fever to sing 50 Happy Birthdays to Stanley Kirk Burrell, who is better known as MC Hammer.
As a youth growing up in Oakland CA, young Stanley hung around the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, befriending members of the Oakland A's, and selling stray baseballs and dancing for money on the parking lot. The owner of the A's, Charles O. Finley, one of those men to whom the tag "colorful" is invariably applied, hired young Stan as a batboy, clubhouse assistant and "pipeline." As "pipeline," his job was to stay on the phone with the Chicago-based owner and give him a play-by-play rundown on the progress of the ballgames.
Because he looked like the young Hank Aaron, the slugger whose nickname was "Hammering Hank," the players started calling Stan "Little Hammer," or just plain "Hammer."
Because he often served as master of ceremonies at local events, Stan added "M.C." to "Hammer," and a show-biz identity was born. After high school, he joined the Navy, and came out of the service to record such tender ballads as "U Can't Touch This" from the album "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em."
And roughly 77% of the stop signs in the greater Baltimore area bear the postscript seen above.
There came a time that Mr Hammer and I were standing side by side. In 1996, I went to an Orioles/A's game at Kramden Yards, and Hammer was there to root for his team. The City police, not knowing that his star had long since faded right after people stopped wearing Zubaz pants, surrounded him with a security delegation rivaling the size of the one that the president takes to the UN. I was wondering what all the buzz was, and then all of a sudden, the cops stopped forming a human wedge around Hammer when the realization that he was not about to be mobbed by anyone dawned on them like the time Bush figured out he got us into the wrong war! And while the police argued among themselves (no gunplay) as to what the next move was to be in order to guard this visiting dignitary, the man himself was standing next to me, so I said, "Whaddya say, Hammer?" and received a "Glad to see ya" in return.
I'm pretty sure he wouldn't remember our brief encounter, but I've got my memories, and no one can touch them. Break it down!