After all these years, they shared another bus ride the other night.
To get to the Thursday night event that began the 40th anniversary celebration of their 1966 World Series title, the former Orioles in town this weekend met in the lobby of their hotel and rode a bus to the Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State.
"That took you back," smiled Russ Snyder, the fleet Nebraskan who roamed the Orioles' outfield years ago. "We took a lot of bus rides together back then."
Snyder and Brooks and Cakes and Wally Bunker and Tom Phoebus and Eddie Watt and so many more, distant names that still resonate here.
What happens when you put them back on a bus after all these years?
"The stories get a little bigger, that's for sure," Snyder, 72, said after disembarking. "But nothing has changed."
The camaraderie that united them as teammates and champions instantly renewed itself, as if it had only been in mothballs for a few weeks instead of 40 years.
"When you're on that bus, you can say anything you want and do anything you want," Boog Powell said. "We're all friends on that bus. We're all good friends, as a matter of fact. And if we could suit up and play, we'd probably kick your butt. You would have your hands full, that's for sure."
They shared a transcendent moment in their baseball lives and in the sports history of this town, a moment that still resonates. More than 800 people paid $175 each to mingle with the players Thursday night and cheer video footage of the Orioles' four-game Series sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Eddie Fisher came from Oklahoma and Woodie Held came from Wyoming and Watt came from the small Nebraska town where, he said, he "lives like a hermit." Their generation missed the big money, of course. They worked other jobs during their playing days because they had to, and then they found other careers after baseball because they had to. Phoebus taught school in Florida. Held ran a dude ranch. Snyder was a soil conservationist.
They were unlucky to have missed the big money but so lucky to have come away from baseball with that instant camaraderie that few of today's players will take away.
"Those guys, there's no way they'll have what we had," Snyder said of today's players. "When you make the kind of money they make, it can't help but make the game more about the individual than the team. When I hear a player say, 'It's not about the money,' that's a bunch of bull. It's all about the money. In our day, it had to be about the team because no one made any money. We were all in it together."
They were back together for a private luncheon yesterday, and in a nifty touch, they'll be signing autographs for the public today at the new YMCA that has gone up where Memorial Stadium once stood.
The Babe Ruth Museum deserves kudos for stepping in and putting together the celebration after the Orioles inexplicably chose not to commemorate the finest team moment in their history. (FYI, more than a few members of the organization attended Thursday night.) It's a good thing someone had a conscience. Already, key 1966 contributors such as Moe Drabowsky and Dave McNally have passed away; it's doubtful there'll be another reunion.
The 19 players who attended Thursday were plainly moved by the cheers of the audience, and in some cases, it seemed, were happy just to be remembered at all. As if that wouldn't happen in this town.
But most of all, they were happy to see each other again and spend a little more time together.
"You have to realize, a lot of us came through the minor leagues together before we even got to Baltimore," said Phoebus, a Baltimore native who threw a no-hitter for the Orioles in 1968. "We played in Elmira and Rochester. We go back about as far as a person can go back with anyone."
As if to symbolize the hardscrabble past they share, the bus they got on Thursday night was hot and uncomfortable; it was a tricked-out modern coach, but the air-conditioning balked and the windows fogged up. They were back in the minors for a few minutes.
"Couldn't see out. That was a hot ride," Snyder said.
But no one cared. The players took their seats and picked right up where they had left off decades ago, telling jokes and talking baseball and mixing in a few tall tales.
"I don't remember half of that stuff they claim happened," Snyder said.
Remember way back, when the franchise was proud, and someone said it must be great to be young and an Oriole? They had no idea it would be great to be old and an Oriole, too.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun