We’re rapidly running out of January. Assuming we’re still on the Gregorian calendar - I, for one, take nothing for granted - that means we’ll soon be in February, which means spring training! That, of course, assumes that pandemic-induced protocols don’t postpone it.
Like I said, take nothing for granted.
So while we wait out these last few weeks (or more) before things start hopping at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, Fla., what’s a shivering O’s fan to do? Watch “Orioles Classics,” of course.
The chronological range of the games you’ll see in the space of a week will make your brain hurt. But it’s worth it. You’ll see Orioles wins from last season all the way back to their first World Series.
So get into your space suit (that’s what time travelers wear, right?) and buckle up for “Orioles Classics.”
Saturday, Jan. 30 - 2 p.m. - In the all-too-short 2020 season, the Orioles showed clear signs that their rebuilding process is beginning to pay dividends. On Sept. 14, a couple of veteran leaders and a lot of youngsters on the rise put a hurt on the playoff-bound Braves. Most of the damage came in a nine-run third inning as DJ Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle and José Iglesias each homered. Pat Valaika added a solo shot in the seventh for good measure, and the O’s went on to a 14-1 victory.
Saturday, Jan. 30 - 11 p.m. - The “Why Not?” Birds of 1989 erased the humiliation of the previous year’s dismal season and contended for the American League East crown until the very end. July 15, 1989 offers a fine example of the kind of fight the team showed that year. In a back-and-forth scrap at Memorial Stadium, the O’s found themselves down by two going into the bottom of the ninth. Halos closer Bryan Harvey (whose son, Hunter, is today in the Orioles bullpen) got Cal Ripken Jr. on a foul pop, but then walked Mickey Tettleton and Randy Milligan. After Harvey threw a wild pitch, Larry Sheets brought both runners home on a single to tie the score at 9-9. With Harvey yanked and lefty Bob McClure on the mound, Mike Devereaux homered to end the game in an Orioles win.
Sunday, Jan. 31 - 2:30 p.m. - We’ve dialed the wayback machine as far as it’ll go, and the resulting retrospective might just be the most enjoyable 90 minutes an Orioles fan could ever want, offering highlights from the club’s first-ever World Series. Twelve years after the franchise’s arrival in Baltimore, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer and the rest of the Birds represented the AL against the legendary Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers. The series looked to be a mismatch, and as it turns out it was - in favor of the underdog Orioles, who pulled off a four-game sweep of the senior circuit’s champs.
Monday, Feb. 1 - 1 p.m. - Another milestone in Orioles history came on April 6, 1992, when the team played its first real game in a new ballpark that was an instant classic. The honor of the first real pitch - President George H.W. Bush tossed the ceremonial one - went to veteran right-hander Rick Sutcliffe, who had signed with the Birds in the offseason after eight years with the Cubs. The honor of being the O’s first opponent in their new digs went to the Indians, and their starter, Charles Nagy, dueled with Sutcliffe for nine innings. Well, Nagy only got to throw eight, as the Orioles had scored the game’s only runs in the fifth inning - on an RBI double by Chris Hoiles and Bill Ripken’s squeeze bunt - so there was no home ninth.
Monday, Feb. 1 - midnight - The night owls among Orioles fans will enjoy this June 24, 2012 tilt with the boys from down the parkway. In the rubber match of a three-game set with the Nationals, catcher Matt Wieters took the Orioles from one down to one ahead with an eighth-inning home run with Adam Jones aboard. Jim Johnson faced the minimum in the ninth to record the save.
Tuesday, Feb. 2 - 3 p.m. - The Orioles traded in 2011 to get Chris Davis for his bat and his soft hands at first base. But on May 6, 2012 at Boston’s Fenway Park, it was his arm that stood out. With both bullpens spent over the course of a 17-inning marathon, Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine had to tap position players as emergency pitchers. Boston outfielder Darnell McDonald pitched, well, like an outfielder, giving up two walks, a double and a three-run homer to Jones in the top of the 17th. Davis, after allowing a leadoff single and a base on balls, struck out Adrián González (career: .287 average, 317 home runs) and induced a double play grounder from - who else? - McDonald to snag a big league win.
Wednesday, Feb. 3 - 11 a.m. - Later in the 2012 season, the Orioles got a monkey off their collective backs, beating the Rays on Sept. 13 to assure themselves of at least a .500 season to break a string of 14 straight losing years. Catcher Taylor Teagarden hit a seventh-inning double to score two and Manny Machado singled in the 14th to plate Jones with the game-winner. The Orioles, by the by, finished the regular season at 93-69 and won the wild card game over the Rangers in October.