At Charlestown, Orioles either win or face corner of shame

When the Orioles win, Baltimore rejoices.

As a kid, I knew immediately by glancing at the cartoon bird on the front page of The Sun, where Jim Hartzell’s creation left little doubt whether the beloved Birds had won or lost the night before. Granted, things got tricky for late-night games or West Coast tilts, but you get the idea.

Hartzell’s bird heralded every game result on the paper’s front page from 1966 until 1979. It debuted in 1954, when the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and the artist suggested to team ownership that they needed some sort of symbol for the club. It appeared on everything from corporate checks to Sporting News dispatches, cigarette lighters to coffee mugs. But it was most widely known by its in-season, results-oriented appearances - over morning coffee, during bus rides to work, on doorsteps and stoops across Charm City.

Other artists later penned the Oriole, and Hartzell died in 2003. The bird - regardless of whoever was behind its appearance, has remained a fixture in Baltimore.

Charlestown Bird tall.jpgThe folks at the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville, as lively a collection of seniors as you’ll ever want to meet, love their Birds and their baseball. So it’s only natural that they have put their own spin on this tradition of glancing at a cartoon bird and immediately knowing whether the Orioles won or lost their most recent game.

Pictured here is the small, stuffed Oriole that nests outside of a Charlestown resident’s apartment. If the Orioles win, the bird gleefully holds a card announcing the score. If the Orioles don’t, well, that’s a bird of a different feather. After losses, the bird is turned around, facing the corner in shame until the next victory releases him from his own personal purgatory.

As traditions go, this one is pretty longstanding. It’s been going on for about 20 years.

Here’s hoping the Charlestown Oriole spends more time out of the corner than in it for the remainder of the second half.

(A tip of the ol’ ballcap to Mel Tansill, public affairs manager for Erickson Living, for the photo and explanation.)

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