Domenic Vadala: Tying together the past and present

I’ve liked a lot of movies in my life; as an Italian-American, “The Godfather Trilogy” and “Rocky” are both up there. I’d also throw in “Back to the Future,” as well as a few others. However, by far my favorite movie of all time will always be “Field of Dreams.” That movie uses baseball to tell a story about a father and son righting old wrongs. It also ties together the past and present in an unparalleled manner.

This coming weekend, the O’s will pay homage to one of the most important pieces of their past, Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. Along with the likes of Frank Robinson, Earl Weaver, and Jim Palmer, “Steady Eddie” will take his rightful place as an Orioles legend as his bronze statue in the left-field picnic area is unveiled prior to Saturday night’s game. Murray, of course, is the fourth of six players to be immortalized in statue form, with Cal Ripken Jr., and Brooks Robinson having their unveilings next month. Ripken was my hero growing up, and Brooks Robinson was my dad’s. Murray, along with Rick Dempsey, is probably my favorite Oriole in history not named Ripken. Needless to say, my plan is to be at the Yard Saturday night for the ceremony.

The Orioles announced in the beginning of the offseason last year that they were going to unveil these statues to pay homage to these great players. It was something that was promoted throughout the offseason, the spring, and into the season. And from what I can see, it’s been a rousing success from the standpoint of fan interest and excitement. I felt that it was also timed very well with the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards. Having said that, Orioles fans have only really had the past to hold on to over the course of the past 14 years. But is there now more than just the past?

What the Orioles could not have foreseen was the way that this season has unfolded. I didn’t buy into the 100-loss predictions that some people were putting out there, but I’m not sure I would have predicted in March that this team would be in a pennant race come August either. As opposed to 2012 being the year that the Orioles erected statues of the franchise’s Hall of Famers and trudged through another lousy season, 2012 has been the year that the Orioles returned to contention. (And yes folks, I did use the term pennant race above.) This team does have it’s flaws, and generally they’re fairly glaring. However, they’ve made it this far. Do we not remember the why not team of 1989?

Ironically, 1989 was also the year that “Field of Dreams” was released in theaters. Sometimes you have to sit back and admire life’s little ironies. I’ve taken note of the fact that Buck Showalter, along with a few current Orioles, have attended the ceremonies that have taken place thus far. That brings past and present together full circle. However, the greatest tribute that the 2012 Orioles could pay to their Hall of Fame predecessors would always have been to play winning baseball. And I have news for people - they’re doing just that. Obviously, the two facts are mutually exclusive in the sense that one bears no relevance to the other. Yet it does have a nice ring to it in the sense that a franchise is paying homage to it’s legendary past, while returning to glory in the present and for the future.

Murray will mark the first of the statues of players that I actually remember as a kid. When they pull down the curtain, I’ll probably be thinking of my dad, who passed his favorite team onto his little boy. Sports is at its absolute best when it transcends generations, and to me, that’s part of what the Orioles are all about. Perhaps Orioles fans should look at the last 14 years as part of a process. All things fall away over time, only to often be rebuilt better. This is best illustrated by James Earl Jones’ soliloquy as Terrence Mann toward the end of “Field of Dreams.”

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”

Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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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