NEW YORK - The Orioles scored first last night and kept the lead. They didn’t need to rally late. A nice little change of pace.
Stress wasn’t drained from the dugout, however. They never felt comfortable until the final out. Slim margins are their norm.
The 19 comeback wins this season lead the majors. That’s a lot. But approaching the club record?
Not by a long shot.
We haven’t reached the month of June yet, so there’s plenty of time. However, the Orioles will need to keep rallying and raising manager Brandon Hyde’s blood pressure.
They seem to be good at doing both.
“I think we like to make our games exciting,” first baseman Ryan Mountcastle said with a grin. “It’s almost like, we like to be down a little bit, maybe lull them to sleep and then just pounce on them. I don’t know what it is. But it just seems like we always find a way toward the end of the game to manufacture runs and get wins.”
Players can feel it coming, like tremors from an earthquake. They watch from the dugout, the bullpen or the trainers’ room as a batter or two reaches base. Here we go. It’s happening again.
The first two reached in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s game, Adam Frazier hit the foul pole and the Orioles erupted for eight runs.
“You just sort of know,” Mountcastle said.
“It’s like, if it’s within four or five runs, we know that no matter what, we’re going to make this close, whether we win or lose. It’s fun. Just never seems like we’re out of anything.”
The franchise record for comeback wins, according to STATS, is 48 by the 1979 and 1985 teams. The 1945 St. Louis Browns were the first before moving to Baltimore in ’54.
The ’79 team is remembered fondly – and it’s my favorite as a fan back when I could be one – for the birth of “Orioles Magic” and the nightly dramatics. The 48 includes Doug DeCinces’ walk-off home run on June 22 at Memorial Stadium, a game that wasn’t televised. A game that is on another level when ranking iconic moments.
If you haven’t heard the call from the radio booth, I urge you to find it on YouTube. Seriously, go. I’ll wait.
The Orioles winning a game and broadcasters Bill O’Donnell, Chuck Thompson and Charlie Eckman losing their minds. Gave me goosebumps for many years after recording it and playing it back 1,000 times, without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.
There’s a statute of limitations on this stuff, right?
Ken Singleton began the rally with a home run that gets forgotten because of DeCinces’ two-out swing off Tigers reliever Dave Tobik.
Chuck Thompson wasn’t making the call, until he did, yelling “gone” as O’Donnell tracked the ball.
“The Orioles have won the ballgame in 19 … 79 … style,” O’Donnell said, the pauses working to perfection. “Do you believe it?”
Eckman said something like, “This ballclub does everything it has to do,” before O’Donnell chimed in with, “Every Oriole is at the plate, every Oriole is at the plate.”
I believe that listening to it on radio, rather than watching a television broadcast, made it seem more special. But I seriously digress here …
OK, wait. Eddie Murray hit a walk-off home run the following day in Game 1 of a doubleheader, and Terry Crowley drove in the go-ahead run in the nightcap with an eighth-inning single. The season ended in painful fashion, with the Orioles blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Pirates in the Fall Classic, but man, it was a magical ride.
The 1985 team finished in fourth place in the seven-team division despite being five games over .500, going 1-12 versus the Yankees. Not the same warm and fuzzy memories.
The 1996 Orioles registered 47 comeback wins and the ’82 team had 46, unable to get that last one on the season’s final day against the Brewers.
The 1969 and 1977 clubs registered 45 comeback wins. The 1966 championship Orioles had 43.
What about the major league record? Of course, the research was done on that, as well. Got to earn my salary.
The 2004 Yankees posted 61 comeback victories, followed by the 1977 Phillies with 58.
Bad news: It doesn’t ensure a title. It doesn’t automatically put you in the World Series. Otherwise, everyone would be doing it.
The Yankees won the first three games against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series and made history in a way they didn’t intend. The Dodgers beat the Phillies in the NLCS.
The Orioles happily will take their chances. Perhaps the magic in 2023 won’t run out.