I grew up an Orioles fan; but I neutralize my personal feelings when writing this column in the name of objectivity. Having said that, you might see a bit of that change for the purposes of today’s column. It’s tough to see a franchise like the Baltimore Orioles celebrate such a rich history (and in this case a rich present) and not be moved, especially when you’ve personally been a part of that history growing up going to the games.
But first thing’s first – the current Orioles gave the sellout crowd at Camden Yards a thrill before the ceremony began in the calculating manner by which they picked apart the St. Louis Cardinals. Chris Tillman turned in another solid effort, almost making it out of the seventh inning. Tillman’s line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K. On the flip side,the Orioles chased St. Louis starter Justin Masterson early, and put up six home runs on St. Louis’ pitching.
With the O’s already leading 1-0 after a Nick Hundley RBI-single in the second, Manny Machado sent a three-run homer into the seats to give the O’s a 4-0 lead. An inning later, J.J. Hardy led off the last of the third with a solo shot of his own, and then a three-run deal in the last of the fourth. After four innings, the Orioles had a sizable 8-0 lead over what’s perhaps the best team in the National League.
The question wasn’t so much would the lead hold, but perhaps more so who else would get involved in the homer parade. Adam Jones chimed in for his 22nd of the season in the fifth, and in the sixth Chris Davis added a solo shot and Ryan Flaherty a two-run homer. To close out the scoring for the night, A.J. Pierzynski got St. Louis on the board with a two-run home run in the seventh, to run the final to 12-2 in favor of the O’s. Ubaldo Jimenez will come off the DL to make the start in this afternoon’s game (meaning the Orioles will need to make a roster move), and he’ll be opposed by old Oriole foe John Lackey.
Following the game of course, the Orioles formally celebrated their 60th anniversary by having a laser and fireworks show and a look through the years at the great moments and players in Orioles history. All of this was done by having stars of the past being announced and welcomed back intermittently throughout the show.
First off, you have to be impressed with the fact that so many former players made it back. I thought it was pretty amazing to see the likes of Dick Hall (who my Dad’s generation remembers well) mingling with Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, and players of my era – Eddie Murray, Brady Anderson, and of course the great Cal Ripken Jr.
One thing I noticed was that there wasn’t one player that was brought out as “the feature guy” so to speak. When Memorial Stadium closed the Orioles made a point of announcing Earl Weaver last, mainly because he seemingly bridged all of the generations to that point. However this being the 60th anniversary of the team, the idea was that not one player or coach was thought to be more important than another. That’s the essence of being a team.
And speaking on a personal level, sprinkling the music from Field of Dreams into the ceremony
was a beautiful touch. This was a presentation that was incredibly well orchestrated by the Orioles. And while not mentioned by name, featured in the film that was shown to the fans were the late Earl Weaver, Mike Flanagan, and Cal Ripken Sr., as well as the voice of the late Chuck Thompson.
At the end, the current Orioles came back onto the field and shook hands with the stars of the past, symbolizing one team in the great city of Baltimore for the past sixty years. These kinds of events are incredibly moving, because it brings us back to those old memories of watching the team as children. For me personally, that’s a very powerful image.
But perhaps the most powerful image of all is the fact that this franchise is honoring it’s past at the exact moment in time that it’s in the midst of reclaiming it’s former glory. It cannot be lost on the Orioles fans that they gathered last night to honor the likes of Palmer, the Robinsons, Powell, Murray, Ripken, and others, but that their winning ways are now a part of the team for which they played once again. Would the ceremony been just as moving had the Birds been looking at another 69-win season? Probably; but luckily for Orioles fans they don’t have to find out.
And on that note, it’s worth saying that the Orioles fans are as much a part of the celebration as the players. It shouldn’t have been lost on those former players that the fans are once again coming back to the yard to see their team play – and play well! Needless to say, Baltimore, and the Orioles are both one and the same. And it’s a pretty special thing they have going. I think that if the fans and players could say one thing to each other in closing, the comment would be the same on all sides: THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!