I sit at work in the evenings these days, watching pitch counts online. It’s no TV, but I’m rapt as I wait for the pitch speed and placement to show in the little 3×2 box, to see the dots that represent the batters move around the diamond. I’ll admit I didn’t used to care; but now the hats on one of the teams are black with a little bird, or with a big orange O, or, best, a black brim and white front with a smiling orange cartoon bird on it. My Orioles are back in the playoffs!
They haven’t been there since I was in college. I don’t know their names, and I feel a little guilty for this, but is there a powerful Brady Anderson among them; a Cal Ripken, symbol of the city and the community; a reliable Mike Flanagan; an underrated, under-the-radar Mike Mussina; a meteor who shines bright and burns out like Gregg Olson; a stolid Eddie Murray; a manly, powerful Jim Palmer; or even a lovable bust like gentle Ben Johnson? I’m not sure I can remember who they are yet. I’m not sure that, after all these years, I want to remember who they are yet.
But I do remember my Orioles. I remember dinner in front of the TV, in my parents’ bedroom in 1983. We sat on their blue bedspread and watched Jim Palmer pitch to some doomed Phillie.
I remember going to see the Orioles play the Jays in ’84, the visitors in that era’s awful powder blue aways. I walked down towards the field, away from the nosebleeds, to get a better view of the game, heedless until I heard my name over the PA, searching for a lost child.
Then 1988 came along, and I watched the O’s lose 21 in a row – and rooted for the last 10, and would have rooted for 22 through 32 as well, since if you’re going to lose you might as well be the very worst.
And then there were the ’90s, and somehow we never could get past the Blue Jays or the Mariners. Oh, how Randy Johnson vexed me. But at least that carpetbagger Eli Jacobs sold the team to local boy Peter Angelos, removing the risk of the ball club moving to DC.
So I don’t know anybody’s name. And we lost in the 12th. But this is the best year of baseball I can remember since Jeffery Maier became an unrepentant jackass, and even if their run ends later this week I’ll be a shocked and happy fan.
May we somehow do this again next year, and the year after, and then try a little winning streak on for size for a change. Then someday it can maybe be Buck Showalter’s photo in my basement for my kids’ friends to ask about, just like I always asked my friends’ parents to tell me about the photos of Earl Weaver that graced their dens and beer taps and paneled cellar walls.
Baseball. That’d be something!