Orioles baseball is ...

Well, it is almost here, another season of Orioles baseball. There is always excitement for opening day and the rebirth we feel with a new season.

I think one of the neat things about last year’s Orioles playoff appearance was hearing many writers and broadcasters around the country say it was great to see the O’s winning again.

“Baseball is better when the Orioles are contending,” some said, or words to that effect.

They don’t have to convince most of us. I have over 40 years following this team, starting as a kid growing up in Baltimore during the O’s glory years to being a reporter covering the club for many years as a writer and broadcaster. I’ve spent many a night in the stands at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards and many a night in the press boxes of both.

Yes, it is great to cover my hometown team. I never lose sight of that and appreciate it always.

With that said, the Orioles mean a lot to me. To me, Orioles baseball is ...

MelewskiandEarl.jpg* World Champs: 1966, 1970 and 1983.

* Unlikely heroes of Birdland through the years like Tito Landrum, Benny Ayala, Todd Cruz, Kiko Garcia, Lenn Sakata, Mickey Tettleton, Dave Johnson and, just last year, Lew Ford and Steve Tolleson to name just two.

* Warm feelings for a place I’ve never been to - Little Rock, Ark.

* The tradition of Gold Glove winners from Brooks Robinson, Paul Blair and Mark Belanger to Bobby Grich and Jim Palmer to Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.

* Legends Park and the Hall of Famers’ statues at the Yard.

* John Denver and the seventh-inning stretch.

* Taking the No. 15 bus from Overlea and transferring to the No. 22 at Erdman Ave. then over to 33rd Street for another game. Arriving very early for batting practice and trying to catch a home run ball in the left-field bleachers. Never getting one, but never being disappointed by that.

* Remembering Rex Barney saying, “Thank you!”

* Elrod Hendricks sharing a smile with everyone he met.

* Watching Camden Yards fill up again and come to life late last year. The magic was back.

* The curse of the Andino.

* Manny Machado’s amazing defensive play against Tampa Bay.

* Scott McGregor striking out Reggie Jackson. Again.

* Being a Junior Oriole.

* Remembering Mike Flanagan. No one ever loved being an Oriole more than Flanny.

* Chris Davis and his splitter.

* Memories of Memorial Stadium, which, for a kid from Baltimore in the 1970s, seemed like the greatest place on earth. It was.

* Mark Belanger owning Nolan Ryan. Jeff Reboulet owning Randy Johnson.

* Brooks owning the Big Red Machine.

* Six home runs, including three to break a 6-6 tie in the eighth inning last year on the night the club presented Cal Ripken with his Legends Statue. Bombing the Bombers.

* Wire to wire in 1997.

* Three Ripkens together in the orange and black.

* Roenicke and Lowenstein.

* Bumbry and Coggins.

* The legends of Birdland and we only need one name to speak of Brooks, Cal, Frank, Earl, Eddie and Jim.

* Going to Cooperstown as a fan to see Earl Weaver inducted. Arriving on Thursday and quickly heading for the Otsega Hotel where the big shots stay. Walking into the hotel bar with two friends and, five minutes later, watching Earl and Marianna Weaver walk in. Got a picture to prove we were there.

It is the one you see above where the boys from Towson University took a road trip. That is Jeff Dugan on the far left and Spiro Morekas on the right and Earl and I in the middle. What a great weekend we had then.

* The voice of Chuck Thompson, the best ever.

* Cal’s lap around Camden Yards.

* The look on Buck Showalter’s face as he watched his players celebrate the wild-card win in Texas last October.

* Eutaw Street.

* 33rd Street.

* “We’re Glad You Came.”

* Four 20-game winners.

* Wild Bill Hagy.

* The brilliance of men like Frank Cashen, Hank Peters, Paul Richards, Harry Dalton and Lee MacPhail.

* Rick Dempsey on the phone with President Ronald Reagan after the ‘83 Series.

* Battling the Yankees every inning in a five-game playoff series to let all of Major League Baseball know baseball is back in Baltimore.

So what does Orioles baseball mean to you?

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