Matthew Taylor: Here’s hoping Birds take wing in The Bronx

The Orioles begin their season series with the Yankees on Tuesday. The last time the teams met, the O’s posted an improbable 4-3 victory in 11 innings at Camden Yards. Luke Scott homered off Mariano Rivera in the ninth, and the Birds used good fortune - and even better managing - to escape unscathed in the 11th inning after the Yankees put a runner on third with nobody out. It was a thrilling game, made more special for me by the fact that I was there with my dad and my wife. Dad and I still talk about it as if it were a playoff game rather than a fairly meaningless late-season contest.

That September ballpark visit was the latest in a lifetime of memorable Orioles moments for me. Those experiences and the conversations they’ve inspired with family and friends motivated me to start Roar from 34 in 2006. The name derives, of course, from the infamous Section 34 rowdies at Memorial Stadium, led by the patron saint of Baltimore baseball fans - and Orioles Hall of Famer - Wild Bill Hagy. The tagline for my blog explains it best: “Humor. History. Homerism.”

It helps to possess a healthy sense of humor while following a team through 13 consecutive losing seasons. It’s how I channel my frustration. Never was that more true than in the Orioles’ 30-3 loss in 2007 against the team they faced this past weekend, the Texas Rangers. That was bad. It makes Saturday’s 13-1 loss to the Rangers, well, not half bad. I wrote about that 30-3 game in the early morning hours. Yes, I lost sleep because of the Orioles.

Now for the history part. I wasn’t an Orioles history buff before I started Roar from 34; however, in light of the franchise’s recent challenges, I’ve come to believe in the importance of exploring the rich tradition that made Baltimore fall in love with its Birds in the first place. I guess in some ways I’m trying - to borrow from James Earl Jones’ “Field of Dreams” oratory - to remind fans “of all that once was good and it could be again.”

I write regular Flashback Friday posts that provide me the opportunity to revisit past players and moments. Meanwhile, one of my ongoing projects is the Eutaw Street Chronicles. I hope to tell the story behind each home run that’s landed on Eutaw Street at Camden Yards, the ones that are commemorated with baseballs on the sidewalk listing the hitter’s name, the team he played for, and the date it happened. You’ve heard of the Bronx Bombers; these men are the Bronze Bombers, and I want to tell their stories.

Finally, Roar from 34 offers good old-fashioned homerism. I used to be a journalist, so I understand the value of objectivity in one’s reporting and writing. But I’m a homer (except when I’m sitting in the press box - or, more accurately, sitting on my hands in the press box). I can joke about the team losing and tell you about a time when they weren’t, but ultimately I want this team to succeed. Speaking of which, Baltimore’s climb back to respectability will require staring down the only two opponents who’ve shared a division with the O’s since they moved to Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954 - the Red Sox and the Yankees. The latter opponent awaits Tuesday.

Baltimore’s last winning season against the Yankees came in 1997, although the teams split the season series in 2007. That’s a far cry from 1964 to 1974, when the Orioles did not lose a season series against New York. Those were in fact the glory days, and (for now) they’ve passed the Birds by. Here’s hoping things soon change, and I’ll be able to share memories of great seasons rather than great moments.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Read his ruminations about the Birds this week as continues a season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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