Hundreds of Baltimore Orioles fans rallied in front of City Hall on Wednesday, hoping their joyful noise would reach the team preparing to take on the Yankees in New York City in the third game of the American League Division Series.
"We're sending a message up [Interstate] 95 to let our players know we are behind them all the way," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who co-hosted the midmorning gathering with the Oriole Bird mascot. "We have your back."
The crowd, awash in a sea of orange shirts and black caps, paid tribute to Orioles past and present. Many uttered World Series and Baltimore in the same breath and most agreed it was worth the long wait. The last time the Orioles saw the playoffs was in 1997.
"It has been a long time coming, but this is really their time," said Carolyn Jenkins, 54, of Cherry Hill. "As soon as I heard about this rally, I had to come and wish the team success."
Justin LaRue, 37, dug out his lucky Eddie Murray jersey. Fred Asch III arrived in a postseason shirt, along with three generations of his family.
"I bought the shirt weeks ago," he said. "I am always confident in the Orioles."
A petite Amy McKenna seemed a bit overwhelmed in her brother's extra large Cal Ripken Jr. jersey, but said fashion fell victim to her "love for all the Orioles."
"We do lots of rallies for the Ravens," she said. "Today we are doing something for the Orioles."
The city passed out Oriole caps and "Buckle Up!" stickers, which Arjun Hamal, 45, a city construction worker, immediately attached to his hard hat.
"The Orioles are bringing so much excitement to the city," he said.
City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke worked the crowd, urging everyone to don their caps and cheer. Her husband's vintage faded orange T-shirt with the signature O has seen better days, but no other attire would do, she said.
"This shirt has survived many disastrous seasons and deserves this day," she said.
Brian Tetreault, 47, biked to the rally from South Baltimore. He had attended Monday night's game at Camden Yards, when the team bested the Yankees.
"There are no words to describe the energy at that game," he said. "I am glad to see it here again today."
Jeff Young, 54, a city worker and a Camden Yards usher for 11 years, reflected on a season filled with thrills.
"Most nights the stadium has been rocking," he said. "It's so incredible after going through so many seasons when August at the ballpark was just nothing."
City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young said the energy and enthusiasm at the rally reminded him of 1966, when "we swept those Dodgers. I am looking forward to the World Series right here."
Cranes with buckets lifted Rawlings-Blake and the Oriole Bird to the balcony of City Hall, where they unfurled a banner that read "Good Luck, Orioles." To the strains of John Fogerty's "Centerfield" ("Put me in, Coach — I'm ready to play today/Look at me, I can be centerfield'), Rawlings-Blake and the mascot danced in the buckets, while orange and white streamers descended on the ebullient crowd. The mayor said she hopes the enthusiasm builds and spreads.
"The Orioles are breathing new life into a new generation of baseball fans all over the city," Rawlings-Blake said.
Dave Kowalewski, 37, has made a bet with a friend in New York. The loser must wear the jersey of the winning team at an annual reunion of friends.
"If I win, he will have to wear an Orioles shirt," Kowalewski said. "But I am not giving him my good Cal Ripken shirt. I don't want that one stained with New York food."