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Bird At Play: Believing in O's Magic

I cut my teeth as an Orioles fan when I was fairly young.

My grandfather was a fan that watched every televised game and then listened to every other game on his transistor radio while working away in his vegetable garden. When we would visit him or for the short period that we lived with my grandparents, if I wanted to spend time with him I had to learn to love the Orioles as he did.

It was pretty easy with four American League pennants and two World Series wins in my first 10 years of life. My favorite was Brooks Robinson, but I loved to follow their daily lineup with names like Powell, Belanger, Johnson, and that other Robinson. Pitchers like Palmer, Cuellar and McNally walked to the mound every four days and pitched complete games, win or lose, with little relief from the bullpen.

My love affair with the O's deepened when I could make the decision on my own on whether to follow them and arrange my own transportation down to 33rd Street or eventually Eutaw Street. The names didn't carry the same aura as the ones in the late 1960's and early 1970's, but the results were still pretty good. Names like Singleton, Roenicke, Dempsey and Lowenstein drew us to the ballpark on a regular basis and although Palmer was still in the rotation, McGregor, Martinez and Flanagan took command of the mound to bring Baltimore a couple more pennants and a World Series championship. And of course, those two guys Ripken and Murray did a pretty good job themselves.

It wasn't the names that drew the crowds any more, it was something that developed during that time called "Orioles Magic." No matter what the situation was, no matter how late in the innings or how large the deficit, everyone in the ballpark knew the Orioles still had a chance. The O's players knew they were still in the game. Their opponents knew the game was far from over. And the fans, we NEVER expected anything but a "W" for the O's game in and game out.

There was electricity in the air like nowhere else I've ever experienced. A love affair between the hometown team and their hometown fans developed and they expected us to stay involved in the game and we expected them to play the full nine innings, nothing more, nothing less.

That electricity and love affair has been missing since Davey Johnson last lead this team on the brink of the World Series in 1997. I knew a lot of fans my sons' ages were heading down to the game last Friday night, but I had no idea until seeing the crowd in the background of the game coverage that it would be near a sellout.

The fans are doing what they are supposed to do by filling the seats. This team is different than recent ones because it gives itself a chance to win every game, which is what they are supposed to do.

German playwright Johann Wolfgang van Goethe wrote "Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen."

I'm afraid to say it, but "Orioles Magic" may be back.

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