It wasn't all bad: Good news in Baltimore in 2018

The UMBC men's basketball team celebrates its historic upset of No. 1 seed Virginia in the NCAA tournament. It was the first time in men's tournament history that a No. 16 seed had beaten a No. 1 seed. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

Is it just us, or does the news often feel like a relentless slog into the apocalypse?

Still, 2018 brought a few happy headlines to Baltimore Sun readers. Cal Ripken, Jr. found love, Baltimore’s Amy Sherald painted Michelle Obama, the bay got better and “Mr. Oriole” came back.

The Chesapeake Bay got better

Most diets fail (keep this in mind as you make your New Year’s resolutions). But the Chesapeake Bay’s so-called “pollution diet” appears to have worked. In March, researchers said the health of the Chesapeake Bay had improved, with a surge in underwater grasses. Scientists attributed it to coordinated cleanup efforts like a so-called pollution diet that was imposed on the Chesapeake watershed in 2010.

“The diet is working,” said researcher Bill Dennison.

Months later, scientists reported the estuary is on a "significant" upswing. (Though the record rains that came later in the year might have set some of that progress back.)

Former first lady Michelle Obama and Baltimore artist Amy Sherald stand next to Mrs. Obama's official portrait. Matt McClain / Matt McClain

Baltimoreans hit the big time

In February, Baltimore artist Amy Sherald received national attention and critical acclaim for her gray-scale portrait of first lady Michelle Obama.

Among the portrait’s many fans was toddler Parker Curry, who became a viral sensation after a portrait of her staring in awe at the painting circulated. Parker later got to meet the first lady — the two danced to Taylor Swift.

Baltimore student Mekhi Johnson was eating dinner at Red Lobster this spring when his own childhood dream came true. He checked his iPhone and discovered that he had been accepted by all eight Ivy League schools he applied to.

“As soon as I saw I got into Harvard, my mom started screaming,” he told The Sun. “She started yelling, ‘My son just got into Harvard,’ and everyone in the restaurant started clapping.”

The Retrievers made history

Local sports fans blinked at their TV screens in a confused and delighted daze when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s basketball team triumphed over the University of Virginia, 74-54, in the NCAA tournament this March. It was the first time that a No. 16 seed had toppled a No. 1 seed.

Celebrations, memes and viral fame for the athletic department Twitter account ensued.

“No one gave UMBC a chance,” student Patrick Ogoh told The Sun hours after the win. “We’re known as the brainiacs of Maryland.” He shook his head. “We don’t even have a football team. Now we won? This is incredible.”

We don’t even have a football team. Now we won? This is incredible.

Patrick Ogoh, UMBC student

Pasadena couple Dean Lally and Rosie Duchelle's friend and family came to their rescue, planning a last-minute wedding after Hurricane Florence ruined their plans for an Outer Banks wedding.

Wedding bells rang for local couples

Pasadena couple Dean Lally and Rosie Duchelle had planned to marry in the the Outer Banks in September, renting two mansions on the beach. But when Hurricane Florence hit, those plans came to a crashing halt. Their friends and family came to their last-minute rescue, re-creating a year and a half of planning in less than 48 hours with a new wedding in the Baltimore area.

Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. married Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Laura Kiessling in October, two years after his divorce from Kelly Ripken. Kiessling has taken her new husband’s name.

As The Capital wrote, “Judge Ripken. It has a nice ring to it.”

City residents found more reason to love the library

In June, Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library became the first major urban library system on the East Coast to eliminate fines on overdue books and other materials. The move brought back thousands of borrowers whose accounts had been blocked. No wonder Pratt was named one of Reader’s Digest’s “10 Nicest Places in America.”


A wounded veteran got a new penis

In March, Johns Hopkins surgeons performed the most complex penis transplant ever on a soldier who lost his genitals during a bomb blast in Afghanistan. Over a 14-hour surgery, specialists transplanted a penis, scrotum and part of the abdominal wall onto the soldier.

“It’s a real mind-boggling injury to suffer, it is not an easy one to accept,” the patient said, according to a statement from Johns Hopkins. “When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal … [with] a level of confidence as well. Confidence … like finally I’m OK now.”

Hometown sports heroes helped younger players out.

Two local sports teams got some help from Baltimore sports stars. Longtime Oriole Adam Jones gave $8,500 to help send a majority black baseball team to a Connecticut tournament over the summer. Jones, his wife, Audie, and the Orioles charitable foundation later gave $150,000 to several local nonprofits — including Living Classrooms and the Baltimore Boys & Girls Clubs.

In November, former Raven Ray Lewis gave $6,000 to the Reisterstown Mustangs after a Carroll County league banned them from the playoffs. The funds were to help players attend an out-of-state tournament.

Brooks Robinson waves to the Camden Yards crowd on Saturday, July 14, 2018, the same day the club named him a special adviser. Courtesy of the Orioles

“Mr. Oriole” came home

The Orioles didn’t have much to celebrate this year, but fans were pleased by one development in July. Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, who joined the organization in 1955 and became one of the most beloved players in the history of Major League Baseball, rejoined the team in an advisory role.

Robinson said the season’s struggles had been hard to watch. “It looks like we’re just going to have a rebuild, and looking at a couple of teams that did that over the last couple of years, they got better,” he told The Sun.

Baltimore Sun reporters Scott Dance, Peter Schmuck, Kevin Rector, Talia Richman, Yvonne Wenger, Andrea McDaniels, Tim Prudente and Catherine Rentz contributed to this article.