Baltimore Orioles: Past, present, and future in Baltimore
When I was a youg kid in the 1980’s I spent a lot of Saturday mornings tailgating with my father and his college buddies outside of Byrd Stadium at the University of Maryland before football games. And in fact, we still all get together on occasion to renew that tradition at various sporting events. Nevertheless as great of a time as I had doing that, I always noticed a certain bitterness on the part of my father towards the entire “football establishment.’
My father grew up on the Baltimore Orioles and the Baltimore Colts. And as we know, the Colts were ripped away from Baltimore in March of 1984. If you ask my father now, he’d tell you that it wasn’t that big a deal to him and so forth. However in hearing his stories about the likes of Raymond Berry, Jimmy Orr, and of couse the great Johnny Unitas, as well as hearing stories from my uncles about how much all of them loved the Colts, I would submit that it was a big deal – at the time and now.
Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
So perhaps it’s somewhat fitting that on the same day the resurrgent Orioles, long thought to be dead and gone, are going for a sweep in the ALDS, Baltimore’s Ravens are in Indianapolis playing none other than the Colts. Let’s not forget that as much as some folks wanted the entire public to forget about the Orioles’ storied past for the better part of a generation, it was always there. The Orioles of course have won three World Series’ to date, and between 1966-82 were the winningest organization in baseball. Throughout that time numerous hall of famers came through the dugout at Memorial Stadium, from Earl Weaver, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr., and of course the greatest third baseman of all time, Brooks Robinson.
However as we also know, following two seasons (1996-’97) of dominant baseball, the O’s fell on hard times. And it was no coincidence that the time period was the same as New York and Boston being dominant. Literally, there was nothing that the Orioles could do right; whether it was hiring coaches, keeping players out of trouble, executing double-plays, or even having guys stay on their feet on the base paths. If there was a will to have something go wrong, there was a way. Again as we know, this futility seemed to be all the more loud when the aforementioned AL East rivals would come to Camden Yards – along with their fans. The Orioles would suffer the shame of hearing their follies cheered in their own ballpark by rival fans.
Similarly as I said above, Baltimore football fans suffered when the Colts left. The warm relationship that the fans have with the teams was on display in the first two games of the ALDS, and that was also true of the Colts. It was during Colt games that Memorial Stadium got the nickname The World’s Largest Outdoor Insane Asylumn. We all by now know the story of the Baltimore Colt Marching Band, and how they kept the fire buring for the city to get a team to come back. (And for the record, their act of playing the Colts’ fight song on the State House steps in order to secure funding for new stadiums might have saved the Orioles from moving as well.) That in and of itself shows the love that this community has for it’s teams.
From Unitas, Berry, Robinson (both of them), Murray, Ripken, (Bert) Jones, to Lewis, Flacco, (Adam) Jones, Cruz, Markakis, and many more, Baltimore has seen it’s share of great athletes over the years. So again, perhaps it’s fitting that today we’ll see the past, present, and hopefully the future of the city’s sports teams all coming together like a bowl of crab soup. The football team will take on the old football team, while the once maligned and spat on baseball team will attempt to take it’s return to glory a step further.
Incidentally, there’s synergy between the Ravens and Orioles, just as there was between the Colts and the Orioles years ago. That wasn’t always the case. So while one could argue that it’s in fact Detroit who’s hosting the doubleheader with the Lions and then the Tigers, I would submit that that city of Baltimore is getting a much more unique doubleheader today. Sports certainly has had a checkered history in Baltimore at times, however that’s what makes today so special. The Ravens’ two Super Bowls were sweeter because the city had lost NFL football once. And this season has been special to Orioles fans because of the 14 years of losing.
And in both of those stories there lies a lesson in grit, bravado, and never giving up. That’s a lesson that can be taught by the Baltimore Colt Band (now the Marching Ravens), as well as by the very concept of the Fighting Showalters. Whether the Ravens and Orioles win or lose today is irrelevant; the battle’s already been won, and by the city of Baltimore at that.