Baltimore Orioles: And then they were champions


MASN replayed the Baltimore Orioles’ defeat of Toronto last season earlier this morning – the game in which the O’s clinched the AL East. So as we get set to begin a new season’s worth of home game’s, I felt that it was worth taking a look back at that moment and what it meant.

We all know the story by now; the O’s were a once-great franchise that fell on hard times. Then in 2012 seemingly out of nowhere, they came back and made the playoffs. Which brought us to last year, when the Orioles won the American League East for the first time in 17 years. The fans packed the yard once again, especially on that magical night in mid-September when the O’s defeated Toronto to win the division.

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The celebration that ensued is a moment that in my view will be etched into the psyche’s of Baltimore sports fans for generations. The image of the O’s coming back onto the field to share their champagne and beer celebration with the fans is one that will be remembered for some time. Granted some players such as Nick Markakis had been around for much of the losing over the years. However the fans were the ones who truly had suffered all of that time.

And as the outs were gleefully counted down that night, Baltimore fans realized that in short order they would all be champions. And for a franchise that had been as down for as long as the Orioles, that’s quite a feat. Obviously at the end of the day there’s only one team that’s happy and celebrating, and that was the San Francisco Giants in 2014. However division crowns had been so few and far between in this town, that I would submit that the 2014 AL East title meant about as much to Orioles fans as a World Series title did to San Francisco fans.

Maybe that’s a stretch; however work with me for a moment. In both good and bad seasons, the O’s are possibly more connected with their fans than any other franchise. This is a team that literally makes this community tick every summer. Merchants near Memorial Stadium and now Camden Yards depend on business which is generated by people coming to games. When the O’s win, Baltimore wins.

Ultimately, that’s all beside the true point. Baltimore is a town in which there

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have been several noteworthy sports “moments” over time. And that night last September is one that is now potentially up there with the 1958 NFL Title Game, and the 2012 AL Wild Card game. Sports is often at it’s best in unscripted moments such as Adam Jones pieing fans after the game, or the players showering each other with champagne on the field.

And those were purly “Baltimore moments.” Only Orioles fans can understand what that meant to the city and the fans, because they lived through disappointment after disappointment year in and year out. Just when they thought things had reached their nadir, the O’s would blow a 5-1 lead in the last of the ninth at Fenway, bear witness to Manny Ramirez hitting his 500th homer at the yard in front of only Boston fans, or be forced into a brawl with the Yankees after one of their own purposely hit Tino Martinez.

For the first time in so many years, it was about the Orioles. How good Toronto’s prospects were bore no relevance in that game; it was about the Orioles. Whatever amazing feat Boston may have accomplished that night was inconsequential, because it was about the Orioles.

And that in and of itself is meaningful for the fans of Baltimore. Perhaps for the first time in a long while, the city officially took it’s team back in a sense. The fact is that there are a million metaphors and idioms that we can throw out there, but we all also know what that moment meant. And it’s one that the O’s will have to fight to re-create this year. That fight starts today.

The shining of a moment will eventually fade to black and white, however the memory should last forever. So given that it’s the home opener and they’re playing that same team, I felt it was worth looking back on that night. What those players accomplished last year was nothing short of a miracle for those who had followed the team for some time. And neither time, nor struggle will ever dim the glory of their deeds.

Next: Baltimore Orioles: Home opener against an old foe