Pitchers and catchers don’t report for more than three weeks to Sarasota, but fans are already eager for the 2014 Orioles season.
FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center on Feb. 1 will unofficially kick off the new campaign, and before you know it, the sounds of bat meeting ball and ball popping into mitt will be emanating from the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota. Battery mates will show up first, then the whole team, then there will be exhibition games to follow as the Birdland faithful see how 2014 will shape up.
Since this is the 60th anniversary of the Orioles’ arrival in Baltimore, it seems only right to turn back the clock and get a head start on the nostalgia. Hey, that’s what an anniversary celebration is all about! What better place to start than the parade that welcomed the O’s to town, a route up Charles Street to 33rd Street and their new nest at Memorial Stadium?
Vice president Richard Nixon rode in the parade, which drew an estimated crowd of 350,000 on April 15, 1954. There were floats featuring black-and-orange winged critters and honors for the 1890s Orioles dynasty that produced Hall of Famers like Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw.
The O’s prevailed in their home opener, 3-1 over the Chicago White Sox behind Bob Turley’s complete game and three hits by first baseman Eddie Waitkus. Right fielder Vic Wertz, third baseman Vern Stephens and catcher Clint Courtney drove in the runs for the home team.
It didn’t matter that the 1954 team finished 54-100. Major League Baseball was back in Baltimore after a 52-year haitus and Charm City couldn’t have been happier.
Were you one of the masses who welcomed the O’s to town? Maybe you skipped school to participate in the parade or catch a glimpse of history? Feel free to share your memories in the comments section.