Biggest win of the season?
That’s the debate after the Orioles gave up five runs in the top of the eighth inning last night to blow a 6-1 lead and proceeded to hit three home runs in the bottom half to send a sellout crowd into a frenzy and avoid falling two games back in the American League East.
I’ve been saying that the 17-inning win in Boston was the best game of the season. You can make a solid argument that last night’s victory topped it because it’s September and the Orioles pulled back into a first-place tie and dodged the kind of loss that sends teams spiraling downward.
And yes, they beat the Yankees in a packed house on the same night that the Orioles honored Cal Ripken Jr. That also counts for something.
Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver was here for the ceremony, and he had to appreciate the power display. He probably went through a pack of cigarettes while Pedro Strop was on the mound.
Buck Showalter grows uncomfortable every time a reporter brings up the similarities between the two managers. He acts as though he doesn’t see it.
“Really?” he said yesterday as the question stretched out.
Showalter has a deep appreciation for Weaver and what he meant not only to Baltimore, but to baseball. It’s like he doesn’t feel worthy of the comparison.
“The more time you spend around Earl, the more you realize there are reasons why,” Showalter said. “Things don’t just happen. Reminded me of when I got to spend some time with Billy Martin. They’re brilliant baseball men.
“When Earl was nice enough to come into our clubhouse (in Sarasota) this year and talk to the organization, it was something that nobody wanted to end. We thought about calling off the workout. Once he got comfortable in that baseball environment, it was ... you realized how little the game’s changed, the things you have to do to be successful. A lot of things that people are getting on their desks, the printouts, he had a printout in his mind. You always felt like with watching him manage that he could take his and beat yours, and take yours and beat his. And he’s been very kind to me and he doesn’t have to be.”
The 2012 Orioles are generating emotions that are linked to the franchise’s glorious past. Showalter is flattered, but also cautious.
“That’s quite an honor that anybody would even bring up that subject, but we have so many roads,” he said. “Those guys were so consistent and did it for so many years. We haven’t even scratched the surface of what they were able to do. But you feel them pulling for it, whether it’s Rick Dempsey or Mike Bordick or Brady Anderson. Jim Palmer came by today. And you could see the excitement in their faces. And obviously Cal. We get to see all these great guys walk through here. Boog Powell, who constantly reminds me that he was the original 26. And rightfully so, because he was.
“I think so many times you confuse change with a lack of respect for tradition, and that’s something that’s never going to happen here. The Angelos family and those statues and all the things that go on, that’s quite a commitment by them to honor these guys. And I can see with each passing ceremony how touched they are by it and how much it means to them.”
A group of players that included Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis attended yesterday’s ceremony for Ripken that included the unveiling of his statue. More of them wanted to be there, but seating was limited and some guys had to stay back and get ready for the game.
“I love when our players go out there because they really get a feel for what this place was like, could be like,” Showalter said. “All those guys, they embrace our guys. You can tell they’re fans of not only the game, but of the Orioles organization, and they would like to see us get back to that.”
Of all the stirring moments from last night’s game, what happened in the dugout in the eighth inning, out of the public eye, was the ideal way to cap it off.
Jones is constantly asking how loud it can get at Camden Yards. The low attendance eats at him more than anyone else. He often poses the question to head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, who’s been in the organization for 36 years. If anyone should know, it’s Bancells.
After Jones hit the tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning and the decibel level spiked and the stadium shook, Bancells walked up to him in the dugout, smiled and said, “That’s how loud this place can get.”