I suppose it’s no secret that I haven’t followed the Orioles closely in years. And it’s no secret why — they don’t make it to Anaheim often, and Chavez Ravine even less; they’re almost never on TV over here; and, of course too many losses, too little in the way of positive changes. But the O’s are my team, and I love them. I love them even though they lost their last game 30-3, becoming the first team to give up 30 runs in 110 years. Actually, I think I love them even more now.
There’s something wonderful about being a fan of a team that is the worst. I remember, back in 1988, when the O’s lost the first 21 games of the season, to set the MLB record for most losses to begin a season. After 8 or 12 losses, we were all rooting for them to keep losing, to be the worst ever. Hey, worst ever is _something_, right? Second-worst is not only bad, but also forgotten, and if you’re going to be that bad why not be not forgotten? Sadly, my Birds didn’t get the all-sports top-division honors, which I think required losing 26 games, but 21 was darned good and looks to stay in the record books.
And of course I remember the 1983 World Series, where we plastered the overmatched Phillies. I remember the young Cal Ripken, and the chants of Eddie-Eddie! and Jim Palmer’s steely stare, all coming from our small Zenith color TV. And, in the ’90s, when we were a powerhouse, vying yearly with the powerful Blue Jays or Mariners for the AL Championship. There was nothing like the pitching duo of the massively underrated Mike Mussina and Gentle Ben Johnson, who towered over even Randy Johnson; later, Gregg Olson was a shut-down closer.
I wasn’t alone — as I’ve said before, “Baltimore went Orioles-wild after the Colts left”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/003087.html. When I was in second grade, one of my classmates was the son of NBA Hall of Famer and former Washington Bullet Wes Unseld. His dad was kind enough to take the whole class to a Bullets practice one day, but all the kids were disappointed. I mean, they weren’t the O’s. Then, in 7th grade, my completely overwhelmed English teacher decided that the midterm should be to list the Orioles starting lineup. Even dorky ‘ol me got enough to pass — heck, everyone knew who started for the home team!
In high school, one of my classmates got jeered at regularly for wearing a Red Sox cap. At least it wasn’t a Yankees cap, he would’ve gotten beaten up for that. We had our priorities straight, and one was definitely kicking that team when it was down — you see, the Yankees were originally the Baltimore Orioles, until, in a conspiracy, the New York Giants basically forced the Orioles to leave town and move to Manhattan.
“Jeffery Maier”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAHQiDCY6jg basically ruined my Junior year of college. The first time in years I get an Orioles game on local TV, and he blows it for my team. I’m not forgetting that, you little punk!
And then years of mediocrity. Seriously, years. Culminating in the Expos moving to DC and stealing half of our territory, thus making us that much less capable of competing with Boston and the Yankees, financially. No, it’s not been a good time to be an Orioles fan.
But that’s it. I’m a fan. And I’m mad! I’m mad at Peter Angelos for not fielding a good team in a decade. And I’m mad at me for caring. It’s the Internet age, there must be some way for me to listen to the O’s on the radio for free online. Umm, does anyone know what that is? ‘Cause I’d love to find it. I’m coming home, baby!
fn1. O-apostrophe-s is the official style, which would make more sense if the grammatically-correct Os was a word, which it’s not, unlike, say, As.
fn2. Our current Presidential administration may also believe this, although Nixon sets a high standard!
fn3. Don’t you wish you knew who held that record?
fn4. To put things in perspective, the previous record was, I think, somewhere in the early teens.
fn5. A pity he was a Yankee when, in the year that Mark McGwire broke the home run record, Moose — supposedly a finesse pitcher — got Big Mac out on three straight fastballs in the All-Star Game.
fn6. Wes Unseld was super-nice to all of us then and a couple of other times I saw him. I wish I’d been able to appreciate it!
fn7. I swear, it’s true!
fn8. So mad that I’m out-of-focus!