When the Baltimore Orioles won the World Series in 1983, their last World Series, my parents had tickets to Game Six, if needed, back in Baltimore.
"If needed" are the key words there. The Orioles won in five games, in Philadelphia, so Game Six wasn't needed. I was only 11, but I remember being horribly disappointed I wasn't going to get to go to that game. Sure, I was ecstatic the Orioles were the baseball champions, but I remember thinking they still had two more games to win the title.
I think that's how long I've been a baseball fan. I remember going to games at Memorial Stadium and watching Wild Bill Hagy with his crazy cheers. I'm pretty sure we only sat near his section once – my parents thought my brother and I were a little young to witness some of his behavior.
When Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened, my parents had part of a season ticket. I got to quite a few games. Then I started working at The Aegis, and over the years I became the "Cal Ripken" reporter. I went to 2,131, to Minnesota for his 3,000th hit, to Boston for what we thought might be his last game, to Baltimore for his real last game and to Cooperstown when he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
It interviewed Ripken a number of times over the years, sometimes better than others (during a post-game interview after 2,131 I said "umm" on national television – not my finest moment). And I came to admire and respect the way he played the game.
He kept me interested in baseball for a long time. Even during the Orioles down years, all 14 of them, and after Ripken stopped playing, I paid attention to the Orioles. Can I cite statistics? No. Can I name every player? No. But I'd like to think I've remained a fairly loyal fan through the bad times. And that makes this season so much better.
At the start of the year, I had no expectations. Or rather, my expectations were of more of the same. So as the season progressed, I was pleasantly surprised when the Orioles kept winning. But I still kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, as I'm sure many did. It never did and the Orioles kept winning. Winning their way into the Wild Card game, then winning that over the Texas Rangers to get to the American League Division Series. I got so excited, I even made "Orioles Magic" my ringtone.
I was sad Friday when the Orioles lost Game Five to the Yankees. I would have loved to see then advance to the American League Championship Series and even the World Series. But for a baseball fan who's watched her favorite team lose for 14 straight years, this was a heck of a year, and nothing to be disappointed about.
Which is why, on Friday night, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to welcome the Orioles as they arrived at Oriole Park at Camden Yards after their game in New York.
I ran the Baltimore half-marathon Saturday and was staying downtown Friday night with fellow runners Laura Finney and Josh Dunham. Laura is a bigger Orioles fan than I am – she has (at least had, I'm not sure if it's gone yet) a giant "O" painted in her front yard. So as we watched the news and saw the O's would be coming home, we hoofed it over there to greet the players, coaches – everyone.
I'm so glad we did it. I didn't care that we were running 13.1 miles in the morning – it's been 14 years since we've been able to do that and who knows when it will happen again. Soon, hopefully, but there's no guarantee.
It was about 12:45 a.m. when the buses finally pulled up to a crowd of several hundred. Some of the players were more excited than others, but they were all gracious and high-fived everyone along their path. I think they were truly overwhelmed that even though they lost, there was a big crowd to welcome them home. When Darren O'Day got off the bus, the crowd burst into the chant of "O'Daaaay, O'Day, O'Day, O'Day, Oooo'Daaaay, Ooooo Day," which really got him pumped up.
Say what you will about how the Orioles played against New York, but I'm just glad their season didn't end at 162 games. Heck, I'm happy they had a winning record. It's just a few days after the season and already I'm looking forward to next season. So thanks, Orioles, for giving us something to cheer about again.