Baltimore Orioles: A look back at Clinch-mas

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Let me be up front; this column isn’t being penned today for the purpose of Baltimore Orioles fans to feel badly about this season, or to invite crass commentary on 2015. It’s being written to look back at an important moment in franchise history, which occurred one year ago today. You know the event I mean; I believe it was known in these parts as Clinch-mas?!

One year ago this evening, the O’s defeated Toronto to lay claim to the American League East crown for the first time since 1997. (Again, the purpose of this article is to focus on that event and what it meant to the city – not what’s happened in the 12 months since then, be it good or bad.) If my memory serves me, it was a beautiful day around town just as today is. However there was a nervous energy around the area all day. People knew what was going down, and they knew what it meant. But I’m not sure they knew quite how it would go down.

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  • Speaking for myself, the two takeaways I’ll always have from that night are Adam Jones pieing fans, and the slow and broad smile that broke over the face of Nick Markakis when he realized he was an AL East champion. That was a moment to savor forever in Baltimore, and it’s something that I hope the fans will never forget.

    Division titles are won every year; but most franchises don’t have to wait 17 years between them. And that’s a big reason why it was such a huge moment for this franchise and for the Orioles fans. They say that absence makes the heart fonder, and in reality it’s really true. There’s a whole generation of kids who had never seen the Orioles as anything more than losers at the hands of Boston and New York. But the 2014 team put them and everyone else on notice to the effect that the past was the past.

    Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

    And yes, September 16, 2014 is very much in the past now. However I’m not sure anything less than a World Series title would bring back the energy that we saw in the city on that day, and of course the next day – in the wake of the division crown. There are some moments in cities’ sports history which seem to always resonate, and this was one of them.

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    Perhaps it’s better compared with the University of Maryland winning the 2004 ACC Tournament than anything else. It wasn’t quite a world series title, but it was pretty huge. I suspect that my calls for nobody to mention what has happened since then are probably going to be ignored. Someone’s probably going to leave a comment to the effect that it’s effectively meaningless since they didn’t win it all, or that the luster is gone since this year hasn’t shaped up the way they wanted…

    …but I would submit that makes it more special. This year’s Orioles team really illustrates how moments like that don’t come around everyday – and I’m sorry, but that’s a fact. Even if this year’s team had managed to contend for the division title, we wouldn’t have seen the “moment” that we witnessed last year. It would have been special for sure; but it wouldn’t have been quite the same.

    A world series-clinching moment and celebration would most definitely trump what we saw on this night one year ago. But for now the memory of that night will have to do – unless…the Birds aren’t mathematically eliminated, are they?

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