I said I wished we could go in the same way a little kid wishes water fountains could spew chocolate milk.

"I submitted a request for tickets today," my father said.

Well, that was probably one of the five greatest moments in my life to that point. When the tickets showed up, I thought they were the prettiest things imaginable, all glossy, with the team colors pulsing off the surface. I keep one in my wallet to this day.

I went to school the morning of Game 1 of the AL Championship Series, but my dad arrived during lunchtime to drive me off to the afternoon contest. I luxuriated in the jealous stares of my classmates as I exited the cafeteria, O's cap in hand.

We discovered that our playoff seats were semi-obscured by a concrete pylon (score one for Camden Yards), but I didn't mind. My father nobly took the worst seat and allowed me to lean out to get a good look.

White Sox sluggers Ron Kittle and Greg Luzinski seemed terribly imposing during batting practice. They didn't exactly rough up McGregor. But the Orioles got even less going against Cy Young Award favorite LaMarr Hoyt and his mystifying beard, losing, 2-1.

I realized as we left the park that two more losses could end the whole joyous ride. You don't think too much about dark portents as a 7-year-old, but that game left me deflated.

Little did I know I was about to have the best baseball experience of my life.

I had fallen in love with Boddicker that season. He looked so young, but every time he pitched, he seemed a step ahead of the older, stronger men who wanted to pound his looping tosses. He was set to face Kittle, Luzinski and the burly Sox in Game 2.

I've since watched greater pitchers throwing at their best. But I'm not sure I've ever witnessed a better performance. Everything Boddicker threw, the White Sox seemed to miss. It was like he kept upping the ante and you knew he would crash disastrously, but he never did. The crowd's bellowing mushroomed a little more with every errant swing.

When Roenicke sent a ball soaring into the left-field stands, we danced, knowing Boddicker would need nothing more in a 4-0 win.

After nine shutout innings and 14 strikeouts from my favorite Iowan, the series was tied, and any doubt that the season would end happily left my head.

I was elated but not shocked when little-used Tito Landrum sent the O's to the World Series with an upper-deck blast at old Comiskey Park in Game 4. Things like that were supposed to happen, I had learned from this team.

I didn't fret when the Philadelphia Phillies won a poorly played World Series opener, 2-1, on a chilly, drizzly night in Baltimore. It seemed like manifest destiny to me that Boddicker, Flanagan, bright-faced Storm Davis and wily McGregor would lock down Mike Schmidt and his teammates the rest of the way.

Of course, Murray emerged from a mini-slump to blast two mammoth homers in Game 5. Of course, Ripken caught the last out. Of course, I got to march in the parade that united more than 100,000 Baltimoreans.

The only thing I didn't realize is that such moments would come few and far between in the years that followed. My love for the game expanded and deepened, but I often had to look to other players in other cities for the most magical moments. Still, I could not have asked for a better team to spark my devotion.