At this time of the season with the All-Star break, several items have caused me to reflect upon the past and to resurrect memories a former era of Orioles greatness. I was in middle school and high school during the fabulous Orioles teams of the late 60s and early 70s.
Knowing that a great many of our readers are not nearly as old (and cannot imagine life before the computer age), it is certainly surprising for some of them to hear what a committed fan in those days had to do to follow their favorite team, especially if they were outside the reach of the local radio broadcast. I was on the edge of the signal as an Orioles fan in northwest New Jersey. WBAL could definitely not be heard in the daytime, but after sunset I could usually dial it in well enough to follow the games.
A few times each season when visiting family in Howard County, we would be sure to time it so as to attend a home game. The Orioles were not often featured on the Saturday game of the week, and in fact I can remember watching on what was called the first national appearance ever of the Birds. So the All-Star game was a yearly highlight for me. It would mean that I could get to actually see at least a couple of the favorite players whom I heard so much about on the radio.
The primary method I had for following the Orioles was to get the daily newspaper, where there would be a four or five paragraph summary of the previous day’s game. The local paper (one that I would later work for as a sportswriter) at that time did not have a Sunday edition. So every Sunday after getting home from church, while lunch was being prepared I would walk up the road a short distance to a local liquor/package goods store and spend 25 cents to buy a big city paper – which on Sundays would print all the statistics for every player in both leagues. This was a treasure for me, along with whatever I could get from Baseball Digest monthly editions.
Every kid in my school knew that I was a die-hard Orioles fan, and my fortunes rose and fell with the team. So, it was always comforting at that time to weekly see the names of now famous Orioles dominating the tops of the lists of statistics. Both Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson were regulars in one category or another. Boog Powell would often be high on lists of homers and RBIs. Along the way, Paul Blair, Luis Aparacio, Don Buford and a few others would show up. And of course on the pitching side, the most dominant names included Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Wally Bunker, and Mike Cuellar … along with others. The point I am making is this: there was nothing rare and everything common about Baltimore Orioles players being among the very best in the game of baseball.
And THAT has returned, even if we have not quite yet seen the Orioles make it back to an appearance in a World Series. Right now, there are Baltimore players in the first handful of guys mentioned at many positions of the sport – witnessed by the presence of five guys on the American League roster. How many of you reading this would have imagined that just, say, two to three years ago?
A lot of good stuff has happened, and Orioles fans need to temper any frustrations with a thankful posture for all the good that has transpired. We have a reason to especially be interested in the the All-Start game. Like when I was a kid, the world is spinning properly again, the sun shines, and the orange and black birds fly high once again.