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September 6, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones (10) is congratulated by third base coach DeMarlo Hale (45) after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 10 - 6. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Oriole Way returned on September 6th

One of the most poignant and magical moments of the 2012 Baltimore Orioles’ season came on September 6th. Granted any game in which the O’s defeat the Yankees is going to be remembered well by the Baltimore fans, however this game had some extra “stuff” involved from the get-go. Being the 17th anniversary of 2131, the Orioles picked September 6th as the day that they would unveil the Cal Ripken Jr. statue. To anyone of my generation that grew up with Cal as our hero, it was quite a moment, as I recounted in the next day’s column:

…when my Dad and my uncles started to teach me about the hometown Baltimore Orioles, it was the young Cal Ripken Jr. that became my favorite player because he was from nearby Aberdeen. He didn’t become the “Iron Man” until years later, but I liked him because he was local. Seeing Cal now in any circumstance is a reminder of those times and thus a reminder of my Dad, who I thank God is still with us after a bout with cancer. So for me last night’s game was a “moment” before it even started with the Orioles unveiling the Cal Ripken Jr. statue on the anniversary of 2131. However it wasn’t until the game ended that September 6th became etched into Baltimore’s mind as the bond between past, present, and future.

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The presence of Cal Ripken Jr.reminds us of a quote that’s so eloquently weaved into Field of Dreams“…all once was good, and can be again.” As I said in the next day’s Birds Watcher column (which can be read in full by clicking here), the performance that the Orioles gave that night in the wake of that ceremony was Ripken-esque. That might not even do it justice…it was a virtuoso performance, and it was flat out awesome. The Orioles built a 6-1 lead only to lose it in the 8th inning. With the score knotted at six in the last of the 8th, Adam Jones stepped to the plate to write his part of Orioles’ September 6th lore:

One thing that struck so many people about Cal Ripken Jr. was how often he was able to rise to the occasion when the stakes were high. Most notably of course, 17 years prior to the day he homered on a night that already would have been remembered as one of the greatest in team history. Cal was a team leader, however that baton has now been passed to Adam Jones. In true Ripken fashion, Jones rose to the occasion. With the game and perhaps the fortunes of this Baltimore Orioles team seemingly in the balance, Jones sent a “no-doubter” deep into the night sky of the Old Line State. That ball seemed to travel the same trajectory as Ripken’s homer on this same date so many years ago. And on the coat tails of both of those home runs rode the fortunes of Birdland. They tie together the past, present, and perhaps even the future of the Orioles and the great city of Baltimore…

I think that up until that moment the idea of going to the playoffs (affectionately referred to by me as the “promised land”) was a cool idea to Orioles fans. Granted the O’s didn’t clinch a spot in the postseason until the end of the month, however at that moment it became a reality. Following the Jones homer the Orioles put more runs on the board off the bats of Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis, however that one home run and the urgency of that one moment in effect cliched the season for the Fighting Showalters. And what a backdrop under which to win that game:

Last night would have been a pretty poignant moment in itself given that the O’s drew even with NY in the AL East once again, however the fact that it was done under the backdrop of September 6th and the Cal Ripken Jr ceremony made it truly a night to remember…

…In penning this column I try to provide fair coverage of the O’s without getting overly caught up in the emotion of any one moment or coming across as a “homer.” However if these Birds continue on and make the playoffs after the events of September 6, 1995, combined with those of the last 14 years, and then September 6, 2012…quite frankly it would be the greatest story ever told. And with that said it would be a “Baltimore story.” A story of a once great franchise that returned to it’s past glory and left a city in awe of it’s greatness, both then and now. And the junction point of that history will always be September 6th

I felt that night and I feel now that the image of Adam Jones rising to the occasion when the team needed him the most while a beloved player who often did the same looked on, was great theater. And as I said that night, it tied together the past, present, and future of this great franchise. However in the span of time between Ripken retiring and this very special September 6th, the franchise had fallen on hard times. Cal Ripken himself addressed this at the end of his speech prior to the game that night, and yet his words seemed to serve also as a harbinger of what was to come later that evening:

“These ceremonies at times have been extremely emotional, drawing from the real experiences of success and failure. We celebrate success, and we also at least find out who we are in failure. These are the life lessons that play out on the baseball field. These are the life lessons learned from men like Earl, Cal, Sr., Frank, Eddie, Brooks, Jim and so many more who wore the Oriole uniform. This is the Oriole Way.”

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