Gunnar Henderson was looking forward to devouring the cheeseburger he’d just ordered at the Triple-A Norfolk Tides’ Harbor Park Stadium on Wednesday afternoon when he was summoned to the manager’s office.

Henderson, the Orioles’ top minor league prospect, was sporting a .297 batting average after amassing 19 home runs, 76 RBIs and 22 stolen bases over 112 games this year with the Tides and Double-A Bowie as he prepared to play against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs later that day.

The plan was for the Selma, Alabama native to rotate between first and second base over the next few games against the Iron Pigs.

That quickly changed when he was informed, to the delight of Orioles fans who’d been eagerly anticipating his arrival, that he was heading to Cleveland to make his major league debut, playing third base and batting sixth later that evening against the Guardians.

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His Big League coming-out party got off to an auspicious start with his very first appearance at the plate. Facing a count at two balls and two strikes against Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie, the rookie launched the next pitch 429 feet into the Progressive Field seats.

“That ball was hit,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said after the game. “It was loud. A no-doubter off the bat. Our dugout exploded. The helmet didn’t get out of the batter’s box.”

O’s fans might have another ritual to celebrate along with its now-established Omar’s whistle announcing the arrival of dominant rookie closer Felix Bautista and the gaudy chain being draped around the neck of a player who’s just smashed a home run.

And that would be the sight of Henderson’s helmet flying off with his long-flowing blonde hair fluttering in the wind as he quickly runs the base paths.

“Every time I swing it comes off … I guess I got too much hair going,” he told the media after the game.

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In the ninth inning of the 4-0 win, he also hit a single to go 2-for-4.

If the fans at Camden Yards needed another reason to stoke their jubilance during this season’s improbable ascension, they’ve gotten it in the form of Henderson, who’ll get some reps at second base, shortstop and third in September and hopefully an extended run into October.

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His arrival at Oriole Park this weekend for the homestand against Oakland, Toronto and Boston has helped keep the place rocking. He hasn’t disappointed, batting .400 since being called up and hitting safely in every game he’s appeared in so far, along with making some spectacular plays at third base and shortstop. He nearly added to the home run party in the O’s 8-1 defeat of the A’s on Saturday night with a powerful shot down the right-field line that got everyone’s attention but went just foul. He then singled.

As the O’s walked off the field on Wednesday evening, I started thinking that Henderson’s performance might warrant a place on this totally incomplete and random list of great sports and entertainment debuts.

Aaron Judge

Six years ago, the New York Yankees’ Judge unleashed a 446-foot solo home run over Monument Park at Yankee Stadium in his very first Major League at-bat and went 2-for-4 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Michael Jackson

In his first solo project after leaving his brothers, Michael dropped the “Off The Wall” album. “Thriller” might have been the most commercially successful, but “Off The Wall” remains his best, most soulful work.

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Fernando Tatis, Jr.

When most kids his age were playing beer pong, Tatis was just 20 years, 85 days old when he made his MLB debut for the San Diego Padres, going 2-for-3 against the San Francisco Giants.

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Orson Welles, Citizen Kane

His acting and directing debut in “Citizen Kane” ushered in a new era of inventive storytelling and moviemaking. The cinematography and narrative structure shifted the paradigm in Hollywood. The film resounded with such thunderous echoes that media baron William Randolph Hearst, one of the inspirations for the Charles Foster Kane character, forbid the movie from so much as being mentioned in any of his newspapers.

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Kareem Hunt

The rookie running back from the University of Toledo had 148 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards and three touchdowns for the Kansas City Chiefs when they opened the 2017 season against the New England Patriots.

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Joey Gallo

The Texas Rangers’ third baseman finished a triple shy of the cycle with a walk and 4 RBIs against the Chicago White Sox in early June of 2015.

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The Clyde suede Puma

Contrary to the bizarre devotion of Michael Jordan fans (especially ones that get emotionally apoplectic when someone has the audacity to merely suggest that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or LeBron James might be the game’s greatest player ever), who’ll have you believe that MJ was the first NBA player with a signature shoe, that honor belongs to the inimitable New York Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier, whose silky smooth, blue suede Pumas debuted in 1973. Fifty years after their launch, they remain a fashion staple and footwear accessory that exudes cool confidence.

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Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers)

No group in the history of hip-hop music had a stronger debut album than the Wu Tang Clan. A Rolling Stone writer said it best: “Hip-hop had been harder, but it had rarely been this dirty. Steeped in dusty soul samples and spine-crawling pianos, the RZA’s epochal beats seem to hang suspended in billows of weed smoke, the perfect lush, menacing ambient for the project-stairwell grandstanding of Raekwon, GZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, et al.”

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Kaz Matsui

Against the Atlanta Braves in his first MLB game, the New York Mets’ second baseman knocked in a leadoff home run and followed that up with two doubles and two walks. He went 3-for3 with 3 RBIs.

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‘The Target,’ season one, episode one of ‘The Wire’

The premiere episode of “The Wire” is the opening chapter of the great American cinematic novel. It establishes the show’s recurring themes of the ineffectiveness of the war on drugs and pervasive ineptitude and dysfunction in urban American institutions. Our introduction to the world of “The Wire” is through the scene when we meet the show’s first murder victim, Omar Isaiah Betts, aka “Snot Boogie,” who is notorious for robbing the winnings at neighborhood dice games. When detective Jimmy McNulty asked a witness why they continually allowed Snot to join the games when it was inevitable that he’d rob them, the witness says, “You got to. This is America, man.”

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Anquan Boldin

The Arizona Cardinals rookie out of Florida State caught 10 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns against the Detroit Lions in his 2003 NFL debut.

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Willie McCovey

In 1959, the San Francisco Giants 21-year-old rookie and future Hall of Famer went 4-for-4 with two triples and 2 RBIs against the Philadelphia Phillies’ Robin Roberts, a future Hall of Famer.

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Redd Foxx, “Cotton Comes To Harlem”

The comedic genius Redd Foxx made his film debut as Uncle Bud in the 1970 film directed by Ossie Davis, “Cotton Comes To Harlem.” Foxx was already a Black comedy legend who’d released more than 50 albums, but his first movie role coincided with the slow erosion of barriers for African Americans in the mainstream entertainment business. After the film was released, television producer Norman Lear signed Foxx to portray the junk dealer Fred Sanford in the wildly successful NBC sitcom “Sanford and Son.”

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Whitney Houston

Her eponymous 1985 debut studio album was a monster. Thanks to a string of commercial hits like “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know,” and the cover of George Benson’s “The Greatest Love of All,” the project became one of the bestselling albums of all time. But for those of us tuned into the R&B-infused urban radio at the time, the real and most underappreciated banger was the Kashif-produced “Thinking About You.”

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Eddie Murphy

Comedian Eddie Murphy saw his film career blast into the stratosphere after his 1982 film debut as convict Reggie Hammond in “48 Hours,” which he followed up by starring in two more hit movies over the next two years, “Trading Places” and “Beverly Hills Cop.” Who can forget his rousting of a country bar and disdain for rednecks, including the classic line, “And I want the rest of you cowboys to know something. There’s a new sheriff in town! And his name is Reggie Hammond! Ya’ll be cool. Right on.”

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alejandro.danois@thebaltimorebanner.com

Alejandro Danois was a sports writer for The Banner. He specializes in long-form storytelling, looking at society through the prism of sports and its larger connections with the greater cultural milieu. The author of The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, he is also a film producer and cultural critic.

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