Baltimore Orioles: Where were you 15 years ago?


Courtesy of Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

On the eve of the Baltimore Orioles’ first playoff game in 15 years, it’s fun to think of where each of us was at that time in our lives, and what was going on in the world at the time of the last playoff run. First off, the last Orioles playoff game was game six of the 1997 ALCS, which was the deciding game in that series. It was won by Cleveland by a 1-0 score. Speaking for myself, I figured that the team would be great again in 1998, and that we’d only have to wait one year before seeing them back in the playoffs again…

…it’s been a long year in a sense. In fact, it feels more like 15! I was a junior at James Madison High School in Vienna, VA (Go Warhawks!) in the autumn of 1997. More than one time during those playoffs the Orioles had afternoon games during the week, which luckily for me would seem to always fall during my lunch hour followed by English. I managed to borrow my sister’s miniature pocket radio on those days, and I’d wear a heavy hooded sweatshirt and run the headphone wire up the back. When I got to class I’d immediately go to the teacher and explain that I wasn’t feeling well and that it would be better if I sat in the back of the class so as not to cough on other students. She gladly obliged, and there I’d sit listening to the games on WBAL with Jon Miller and Chuck Thompson.

October of 1997 was a fairly uneventful month in a sense aside from the MLB playoffs. NASA launched the Cassini-Huygens probe to Saturn on October 15th of that year. One intersting footnote is that one day after the Saturn probe (October 16, 1997) the NY Times ran it’s first ever color photograph on the front page. On October 27th the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 554.26 points, and one day later (October 28th) it gained a record 334.17 points. Also on that date, the New York Stock Exchange traded one billion shares for the first time in it’s history. The only real noteworthy world event was that on October 29th Iraqi President Saddam Hussein announced that Iraq would begin shooting down U2 surveillance jets which were being used by UNSCOM inspectors. President Bill Clinton was inaugurated for his second term in January of that year. Kurt Schmoke was the mayor of Baltimore, and Parris Glendening was the Governor of Maryland.

In other local sports (in 1997), the Baltimore Ravens completed their second season of play after moving to Baltimore (as the former Cleveland Browns) in 1996. The Ravens played in the Orioles’ (and Colts’) former home, Memorial Stadium, and they finished the season 6-9-1. (The tie, which is rare in the NFL, came on November 16th against the Philadelphia Eagles at Memorial Stadium.) The Washington Redskins (just down the road) finished the season 8-7-1 (with their tie coming against the NY Giants on November 23rd). The Washington Bullets changed their name to the Wizards in May of ’97, and in December they moved from their former home at the Capital Centre (where I saw many games as a kid sitting up in the rafters with my Dad) to a new arena called the MCI Center in downtown DC. The Wizards would finish the 1997-98 season with a record of 42-40, barely missing the playoffs. The Washington Capitals of the NHL also moved to the MCI Center from the Capital Centre that season, and they would go on to a record of 40-30-12. The Capitals would not only make the playoffs in 1997-98, but they also made the franchise’s lone Stanley Cup Finals appearance.

How much our world has changed since 1997. The internet was something that was barely starting to evolve at that time. Little did we know that it would literally make the world turn 15 years later when the Orioles made the playoffs again. Back then if you went to a game you had hard copy paper tickets that were stubbed at the turnstile. Now you have that option, along with the option of printing tickets out at home, or even just storing them on your telephone. Speaking of which, you were considered a big shot in 1997 if you had a cell phone. And by cell phone I mean the big Zack Morris style phone fromSaved by the Bell. I know that my family didn’t get one until two years later, and that was a “bag phone” that my father kept in the car in case there was an emergency. It literally looked like the President’s “football”! Now we all have our smart phones which are in effect our life lines. How times change…

…and how this team has changed in such a short time. At the beginning of the year we thought that 2012 would simply be the 15th consecutive losing season. When someone would say “1997,” you probably responded by saying “that was the last time the O’s were in the playoffs.” Now instead you’re able to throw in the words “…until now.” Hopefully another generation doesn’t have to go by before we find ourselves on the eve of an Orioles’ playoff game again. However needless to say, the world has seen massive changes since the last time the O’s played in a postseason game. For the record, the Orioles’ manager at that time was Davey Johnson…who also finds himself back in the postseason for the first time since 1997, this time as the manager of the Washington Nationals.