After years of futility, Orioles give us something to cheer for again
I cannot speak of this. I must not speak of this. Not that I'm superstitious or anything, but I went to one game at [Name Redacted] Park this summer and my team lost. I don't dare go back. There was a 4 o'clock game Monday, the first in a doubleheader, and I skipped it.
I live close enough to Ravens M&T Stadium to hear the cheers, if not close enough to realize that the crowd on Sunday night was chanting "
But maybe it's quiet this year because we're holding our collective breath.
The Orioles were born in 1954 and I came along five years later. My family moved to Baltimore in 1965 and the Orioles won the World Series in four straight games a year later. I was seven years old.
And then it wasn't.
I hate fans who fetish-ize losing, who make a religion out of being cursed. I'm looking at ... Actually the fans of these particular teams scare me; I'm not going to call them out by name. But I hate them almost as much as I hate
Up and down, up and down, then just down. I have tried to find a way, an Oriole Way, of rooting for a team that has the odds stacked against it without being a bitter sad sack. This requires dignity and patience. Even my 2-year-old daughter, a toddler in every respect, knows that some things cannot be rushed. "Wait, wait, wait," she says, eager for pizza, pancakes, Pooh, the playground. "Wait, wait, wait." It's good preparation for an Oriole fan. Wait, wait, wait.
I have been waiting. I have kept my head down, trying not to get too invested in this season, so -- is no one talking about 1989? Do I dare, after indulging in my mini-screed about
I guess I do.
In 1989, the Orioles followed the infamous losing streak of 1988 by going all the way to the final weekend, still in contention for the AL East. (No wild card in those days, children.) It was a season of improbable heroes. Yes, Cal Ripken Jr. was showing up for work every day, but Joe Orsulak had the highest team batting average at .285. The roster also included Curtis Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley, who would be traded two years later for Glenn Davis. Glenn Davis! GLENN DAVIS! It's like my Niagara Falls. Slowly I turn ...
I'm sorry, where was I? Blah, blah, blah, something about dignity?
The player I remember from 1989 is Dave Johnson. A pitcher, low in the rotation. ERA of 4.23. Started only 14 games that season. Won four, lost seven. Came to the Orioles in a trade with the Houston Astros. He had begun his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that ruined Sister Sledge for me. But he was a hometown boy who pulled out some improbable victories at Memorial Stadium.
The same summer that Johnson was brought up from the minors, I finally got hired by the
But this was all before me on the day in 1989 that I headed to my interview. I said to my father: "It's so hard, so nerve-wracking, trying to find a new job."
My father, an editorial writer and therefore cursed with the ability to see both sides of everything said: "Yes. And if you don't mind my saying so, it doesn't help that you're going about it all wrong."
Gosh, dad, who would mind hearing such stirring words of encouragement moments before a key job interview? Isn't this where you're supposed to say something like,
I tell that story only so people understand how much it meant to me when, after I landed the job and started making my way onto Page 1, sometimes scooping my snooty rivals at the morning paper, my father then said: "You know, you're the Dave Johnson of journalism. Traded by Texas" -- I had come from the
OK, so that's my
Only it didn't.
The dream fizzled the last weekend of the season. I walked the streets of North Baltimore, dazed by how bad I felt. This was the price of fandom, something I had forgotten. From 1981-1988, working in Texas, I had enjoyed the Orioles from a literal and figurative distance that had muted the highs and lows. Now I was back and all distance was lost. I am tempted to quote a W.B. Yeats epigraph here, but that strikes me as whimsical,
However, I will quote H.L. Mencken, writing in the
Mencken wrote in 1925:
I am Laura Lippman of Baltimore and the Baltimore Orioles are my team for life. In dreams begin responsibilities. Damn, Yeats sneaked in here after all.