The story remained the same in 1961, when the Orioles won 95 games, and 1964, when they won 97. They were good, but there was no wild card in those days, so they could only stare up at the Yankees, who were better.
The worm turned in 1965, when the Orioles began an 11-season streak of finishing ahead of New York. Suddenly, they were the game's model franchise, and the Yankees were a faded mess.
In the late 1970s, the Yankees came roaring back with a star-laden team, bought with owner George Steinbrenner's war chest and whipped along by tempestuous manager Billy Martin. Those teams waged great divisional battles, with the Orioles and their understated efficiency offering a stylistic counterpoint.
The rivalry flickered in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with both teams enduring humiliating seasons and neither able to crack the postseason. But that all changed in 1996 and 1997, when the Orioles — backed by sellout crowds in an acclaimed new ballpark and stocked deep by free-spending owner Peter Angelos — joined the Yankees in the playoffs each season.
The Maier game — when the 12-year-old reached over the fence to block Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco from catching a fly ball by Derek Jeter, which was ruled a home run — gave the Yankees an advantage they'd never relinquish in the 1996 American League Championship Series.
The Orioles seized the edge in 1997, when they became the only team to break up an 11-year run of Yankees division titles. It was hard to imagine at the time that Baltimore wouldn't see another playoff game for 15 years.
"They were fierce. We had some crazy games here," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi of the 1996 and 1997 series he played against the Orioles as a Yankees catcher. "They were great, and you think about the caliber of players they had here, you know. You obviously had Cal Ripken [Jr.], and they had [Rafael] Palmeiro, and they had [Roberto Alomar], and they had a number of great players here. They've played extremely well again, and I think it's good for baseball."
End of the arms race
Angelos seemed to take seriously the idea of going toe-to-toe with Steinbrenner. For a time, in the late 1990s, the Orioles had the highest payroll in the history of the game. They went after big-name stars such as Albert Belle in part to keep them away from New York.
But this arms race turned out to be folly. The Orioles collapsed on a foundation of wasted draft picks and ill-advised signings. The Yankees, meanwhile, combined financial muscle with sound player development, home-growing a generation of stars that included Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.
Sure, they also kicked Baltimore in the teeth by dropping tens of millions of dollars to buy the Orioles' best pitcher, Mussina, and later, a cherished free agent from Severna Park, Mark Teixeira. But money was only part of it. Orioles fans knew deep down that the Yankees were simply better at every aspect of running a baseball franchise.
To make matters worse, every time the Yankees came to town in those grim years, the stands at Camden Yards filled with dudes in pinstripes, shouting for "Jeetah" in their trademark New York accents.
There were fleeting moments for the Orioles, like Opening Day 2002, when they smacked Roger Clemens around in a 10-3 win. But it never seemed a real fight — at least not until this year.
Perhaps Showalter foreshadowed the change last season with his feisty comments in "Men's Journal," saying that Jeter ticked him off by manipulating umpires.
Whatever it was, the Orioles have won every series in Yankee Stadium this year. They wiped out the Yankees' 10-game lead and allowed them little separation throughout the final month. On Sept. 6, they authored one of the season's signature moments, pounding the New Yorkers for six home runs as a raucous home crowd celebrated the win and the unveiling of Cal Ripken Jr.'s sculpture at Camden Yards.
"The fact they played the Yankees even up this year, you better believe there's a mutual respect now," Powell said. "They do not take the Orioles lightly."