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It’s Back to School for Yankee ‘Hero’

October 11, 1996

OLD TAPPAN, N.J. (AP) _ Jeffrey Maier went back to school today after a two-day absence _ one to attend a the Yankees-Orioles playoff opener, the other to reap the rewards of providing the Yankees with a home run in that game.

More than a dozen reporters and cameramen surrounded the boy as his parents escorted him into the Charles DeWolf Middle School shortly after 8 a.m.

``I’m just glad to be back in school,″ Jeffrey said.

He arrived a few minutes before the late bell and after most of the other students had already been hustled inside by principal William Cobb.

``This is going to be as unspecial a day as possible,″ Cobb said.

He said Jeffrey will not be punished for cutting school because his parents took him out.

A few days ago, Jeffrey Maier was just an above average Little League pitcher, a kid who loved the Yankees so much he cut school to see them play the Orioles.

But Jeffrey quickly became an instant celebrity and a hero here in his hometown when his attempt to catch a fly by Derek Jeter in the eighth inning helped propel his beloved team to a playoff victory.

Only a ticker-tape parade was missing from Jeffrey’s whirlwind day Thursday, when he was idolized on national television, feted by the Daily News in New York _ and reviled in Baltimore.

``I’m not as famous as the Yankees,″ he told a horde of reporters during a media availability at The All-Star Cafe in New York. ``The players go out there every day. The Yankees deserve the credit.″

At the Maier home Thursday, his grandmother, Lorraine Briemer of Alexandria, Va., met another pack of reporters desperate for details to add to the lore of Jeffrey’s fast-growing legend. She obliged, saying Jeffrey’s dream is to be a pro baseball player.

``He’s such a nice kid. I am sure he is very excited about what is happening. But he has got his feet on the ground,″ she said.

Briemer remained in town after Jeffrey’s bar mitzvah Saturday. At the reception, each table was assigned a team name _ Jeff’s was the Yankee table _ and a banner proclaimed, ``Welcome to Jeff’s World Series.″

Jeffrey’s classmates at Charles DeWolf Middle School, all of whom seemed to have watched the game, chased after reporters, fighting over who was better friends with Maier and who was happier for him.

``It’s a one-in-a-million chance to do that kind of stuff. You wish it could happen to you,″ said Daniel Lysogorsky, 14.

The Old Tappan Deli, which delivers lunch daily to the school, offered ``the Jeff Maier Special:″ Turkey sandwich, cherry Coke, small pretzels, $4.75.

Baltimore fans had no plans of their own to lionize the boy, who they felt stole their victory. Officials jokingly suggested Maier should be arrested.

``That’s grand theft and it’s bookable in Baltimore,″ police commissioner Thomas Frazier said.

Other Orioles fans found little humor in the controversy.

``I’m insulted by the whole thing,″ said Mark Espenshade, 31, of Columbia, Md. ``For New York to label that kid a hero, it’s just a joke.″

But Maier was unfazed by those who said his attempt to grab the ball unfairly gave the Yankees a run, pushing the game into extra innings. The Yankees won 5-4 in the 11th inning.

``They don’t understand,″ Jeffrey said. ``If they were me, a 12-year-old kid at a New York Yankees playoff game, they would try and catch the ball, too.″

After lunch, Jeffrey took advantage of eight tickets he received from the Daily News and went to Yankee Stadium to watch Game 2, to pose for pictures with other fans, and to sign autographs.

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