Tradition suggests 60th anniversary gifts come in the form of diamonds, so it's fitting the Baltimore Orioles' milestone moment begins Monday on a diamond.
The Orioles host Boston in their season opener, a game that starts a year-long celebration honoring six decades of Baltimore baseball. Camden Yards will no doubt be filled to capacity as fans ring in a new year and jeer the reigning world champion Red Sox. Promotional giveaways will follow throughout the season, and the players are honoring the anniversary with a commemorative patch to be worn on their jerseys.
But before another season begins, let's take a look at how the Orioles got to this point.
It's a mixture of memories and misery, historical moments and legendary names Baltimore sports fans will never forget. And it began in 1954, after the Browns moved from St. Louis and into Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street.
The Orioles were 100-loss bad right away, with a 54-100 mark to start out, but in less than a decade they became contenders. Their first winning season came in 1960 (89-65), and one year later they posted 95 wins led by a 24-year-old third baseman named Brooks Robinson. The early Birds also featured Hall of Fame pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm, who led the AL in 1959 with a 2.19 ERA.
BIRD BITS: Memorial Stadium hosted the All-Star Game in 1958. ... Robinson began his run of 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards in 1960. ... Steve Barber, Milt Pappas, and Bob Turley all became pitching stars as young Orioles. ... Jim Gentile hit .302 with 46 home runs and 141 RBIs in 1961 and established himself as Baltimore's first true slugger.
Baltimore's most successful stretch in franchise history took place during this 10-year run, when the Orioles averaged 95 wins and made four World Series trips. Their won their first title by sweeping the Dodgers in 1966, then went to three straight Series from 1969-71, adding a second title by beating Cincinnati in 1970.
Baltimore went 109-53 in 1969, the best record in club history.
BIRD BITS: Frank Robinson won the Triple Crown in 1966 (.316, 49 HRs, 122 RBIs). ... Boog Powell won AL MVP honors in 1970 (.297, 35, 114). ... The Orioles had four 20-game winners in 1971 with Dave McNally (21), Mike Cuellar (20), Pat Dobson (20), and Jim Palmer (20), a feat that has not been matched since.
The Orioles' impressive run was coming to an end, with Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, and Frank Robinson's careers winding down. But Baltimore ended this span with its third and most recent World Series crown, beating Philadelphia in five games with All-Stars Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken leading the way.
"Orioles Magic" was born June 22, 1979, when Doug DeCinces hit a walk-off home run to beat Detroit and spark the Orioles to a 102-57 record that season.
BIRD BITS: The Orioles led Pittsburgh 3-1 in the 1979 World Series but lost the final three games and the championship. ... Ripken won Rookie of the Year in 1982 and MVP in 1983 (.318, 27, 102), and began his streak of consecutive games played. ... Murray smashed 33 homers and batted .306 with 111 RBIs in 1983. ... Baltimore lost Game 1 to the Phillies in '83 before reeling off four in a row, led by MVP Rick Dempsey.
It's not the most dismal stretch in franchise history, but there wasn't much for Orioles fan to cheer about save for the 1989 "Why Not?" season. One year prior, Baltimore set a record by starting 0-21 and becoming a national joke. The era ended with a farewell to Memorial Stadium and the unveiling of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
BIRD BITS: The Orioles went from worst to almost first in 1989, losing the AL East title to Toronto during the season's final weekend. ... Cal Ripken won his second MVP title in 1991 (.323, 34, 114) despite Baltimore's 67-95 record. ... Baltimore played its last game on 33rd Street on Oct. 6, 1991, and the first game at Camden Yards on April 6, 1992. ... The ballpark hosted the All-Star Game the following season.
Baltimore's connection with helping baseball come back from its labor strike starts with Ripken, who passed Lou Gehrig for consecutive games played Sept. 6, 1995. Nationwide attention for "The Streak" grew with each game, and the Orioles honored every step by unfurling numbers on the B&O Warehouse wall. Success came in 1996 and 1997 with back-to-back playoff berths, the second of which featured a division title.
BIRD BITS: Orioles fans likely still haven't forgotten the 1996 ALCS against New York, when Yankees fan Jeffrey Maier thrust himself into the spotlight. ... The Orioles had five managers over that stretch (Johnny Oates, Phil Regan, Davey Johnson, Ray Miller, and Mike Hargrove). ... Ripken retired after the 2001 season and finished with 2,632 consecutive games played.
Dark times at Camden Yards indeed from the outset. The Orioles were mired in 14 straight losing seasons from 1998-2012. They said hello to manager Lee Mazzilli in 2004, only to wave goodbye in the middle of 2005. And they did it again and again, parting ways with Sam Perlozzo, Dave Trembley, and Juan Samuel before Buck Showalter took over for good at the end of the 2010 campaign.
Baltimore made it back to the playoffs in 2012, won the wild-card game against Texas, and took the Yankees to five games before bowing out in the ALDS.
BIRD BITS: Baltimore's biggest embarrassment may have come Aug. 22, 2007, when Texas beat the Orioles 30-3 to become the first team in 110 years to score that many runs. ... The Orioles went 29-9 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra innings during their 2012 playoff season. ... Chris Davis set a franchise record with 53 home runs in 2013, but Baltimore missed the postseason with an 85-77 record.