Ah, distinctly I remember. It was in the bleak December ...
With apologies to one E.A. Poe, we set off on another round of “Orioles Classics” on MASN, the first full week of them in the last month of an eventful 2018. Each game in these telecasts marked a different milestone in Orioles history.
We begin with a bittersweet goodbye to an old friend on 33rd Street. The next installment, from eight years prior, lets us relive the start of the final push toward the Orioles’ last World Series title. In an episode of more recent vintage we’ll get a look at a sinkerballing southpaw’s record-setting save against that season’s eventual champs. Finally, we go back to the ’80s - totally! - to find the first family of Baltimore baseball setting a record of its own while facing that season’s World Series winners.
Do any of these games summon a memory, either a nugget from the game itself or perhaps a recollection of the times in which it occurred? Maybe you happened to be at the ballpark on one of these occasions. What was it like to be in the stands that day?
We at MASN and the folks who read the blog would love to hear about it. Favor us with your memories in the comments below.
Friday, Dec. 7, 1 p.m. - On Oct. 6, 1991, the O’s took on the Tigers - the teams were in sixth and third place, respectively, in the seven-team American League East - in what would have been a meaningless final game of the season except for one thing: It was the last big league baseball game ever in Memorial Stadium. The Birds would open the 1992 season in shiny new digs downtown, and it was time to say goodbye to the place they’d called home since the club moved to Baltimore from St. Louis (where they’d been the Browns) in 1954. The Tigers jumped on O’s starter Bob Milacki in the first, plating four. Mike Devereaux led off the home half with a triple off Frank Tanana, then scored on Joe Orsulak’s grounder. That would be the extent of the O’s offense that Sunday, however. The truly memorable part of the afternoon came after the Tigers’ 7-1 win. The grounds crew emerged in white tuxedos to extract home plate from the ground for replanting in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and Orioles greats of the past, in their old jerseys, trotted out of the dugout and took their former positions as the theme from “Field of Dreams” played over the public-address system. If you can watch this and not get misty-eyed, well, there’s just no hope for you.
Sunday, Dec. 9, 3 p.m. - The Orioles fielded contenders consistently in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but always seemed to come up short somehow. With the heartbreak of blowing a three-games-to-one lead in the 1979 World Series against the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates still fresh in their minds, O’s fans couldn’t help being anxious on Oct. 14, 1983. The night before, their heroes had dropped the opener of that season’s Fall Classic 2-1 to the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. For Game 2 of the Interstate 95 Series, Mike Boddicker would square off against Phils righty Charles Hudson. With the O’s trailing 1-0, John Lowenstein led off the bottom of the fifth and drove Hudson’s 2-0 pitch over the center field wall. Rich Dauer and Todd Cruz both singled, then eventual World Series MVP Rick Dempsey brought Dauer home on a double to right. Boddicker helped himself, plating Cruz on a sac fly (the designated hitter rule was only in effect in World Series games in even-numbered years from 1976 through 1985) and sending Hudson to the showers. Cal Ripken Jr. got the O’s a superfluous run with an RBI single in the seventh. The O’s evened the series at a game apiece and never looked back, going on to dispatch the Phils in five games.
Monday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m. - After a long stint on the disabled list, the Orioles reactivated Zach Britton on July 5, 2017. All the time he was away, he was sitting on a tie with Tom Gordon for the most consecutive saves by an American League pitcher, with 54. After he returned, more than two weeks went by before Britton had another shot at a save. It finally came on July 23, 2017. With the O’s clinging to a 9-7 lead over the Astros (eventual world champs that year), the lefty struck out Yuli Gurriel and Evan Gattis but then walked Marwin Gonzalez, sending murmurs of anxiety through the Camden Yards crowd. Not to worry. Britton induced a groundout from George Springer to register his 55th save in as many opportunities, setting a new AL mark. The O’s lineup shared the wealth in terms of RBIs that Sunday afternoon. Trey Mancini had two of them, going 2-for-3 with a double. Adam Jones, hitting in the leadoff spot, went 4-for-5 with an RBI.
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 11 a.m. - For warming hearts amid winter’s chill, there’s not much that measures up to the memory of a father having a catch with his sons. Change the setting from a Saturday afternoon in the back yard to a Saturday night before 25,000 at the aforementioned Memorial Stadium, and you’ll get the picture of July 11, 1987. The O’s that evening faced the Minnesota Twins, who would go on to win the World Series that season, and would prevail this night as well. The Orioles, however, achieved something that night too. The game was the first time a father had managed two of his sons in a major league game. Cal Ripken Sr., after toiling for decades in the minors as a coach and manager and then as third base coach for the big club, had finally gotten his chance to be a skipper in the bigs. On this night he put son Bill Ripken, just called up from Triple-A Rochester, at second base and batting seventh in the order. Cal Ripken Jr. took his usual place in the three hole and at shortstop in the field. Unfortunately for all three Ripkens, the Twins had Frank “Sweet Music” Viola on the mound that night, and the boys went a combined 0-for-7 as the O’s lost 2-1.