I read a pretty interesting statistic the other day on — believe it or not — a meme on Facebook.
It said, “If you’re ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as Jerry Garcia.”
Anybody that knows me knows the impact the music of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead has played in my life so this is a pretty amazing stat when you think about it. To be able to have spent 70 of the best nights of my 20,000-plus days so far on this earth with Jerry and the boys is something my father’s generation couldn’t do nor my kids’ generation or any other for that matter.
In some ways, I kind of feel the same way about the Baltimore Orioles.
Growing up as an army brat when we moved from place to place every few years my connection to professional sports was grounded in my worshipping of my grandfather who lived in Davidsonville.
“G-Da” was the one who led me to my first loves, the Baltimore Colts and the Baltimore Orioles.
Although alive, I’m not familiar with the great 1966 team that swept the Los Angeles Dodgers but the roster that won the first championship in franchise history formed the foundation of the teams that I would grow to love. Names like Robinson — Brooks and Frank — Blair, Powell, Johnson, McNally, and Palmer were the players who I imagined playing with in the sandlot fields of my grandparents’ country home.
I was living in a far-off land developing the other love that would take over the rest of my life, but the one connection I had to my homeland was following the box scores of the Orioles (maybe a couple days late).
Those same names listed above were joined by Buford, Belanger, and Cuellar as they had their incredible three-year stretch winning three consecutive American League pennants and a World Series championship.
I suffered through the painful loss to the 1969 Miracle Mets, and the back-and-forth battle with the Pittsburgh Pirates that ended in a seven-game series win for the bad guys.
But I also reveled in the 1970 World Series championship, when the Orioles took the series in five games against “The Big Red Machine” of Cincinnati, who themselves became a powerhouse team in the early and mid-1970s with names like Bench, Rose, and Perez.
At the end of the decade and the beginning of the “Ripken Era,” new names came to Baltimore that would bring some pride and respect back to 33rd Street. In addition to immortal Oriole greats Cal Ripken, Jr., and Eddie Murray, Lowenstein, Dempsey, DeCinces, Dauer, Roenicke, Singleton, and Bumbry were joined by Martinez and Martinez, Flanagan, and McGregor that would culminate with the last World Series for the Orioles in 1983.
Ripken won the American League Most Valuable Player award that year, with Murray finishing a close second. The Orioles finished first in the AL in home runs (168) and on-base percentage (.340), and second in runs, doubles, and walks.
Even after a miserable 0-21 start in 1988 that cost Cal Ripken, Sr., his managerial job and a record of 54-107, the 1989 Orioles bounced back with an 87-75 record in 1989, losing two of the final three games at the end of the season to Toronto
But it held the interest of Orioles fans everywhere down to the final eliminating out.
My kids grew up on the 1989 “Why Not?” video even though they didn’t really know those players, but it also helped them develop their own love of good music with Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream” as the soundtrack of the Why Not? season.
Instead of Why Not, this season has become more of a What the Heck?
With a record of 47-115, tied for fourth worst in Major League Baseball history, what the 2018 Orioles have accomplished equals the decaying of the city whose name they wear across the front of their away jerseys, complete with poor management, questionable financial decisions, and fan (or citizen) malaise.
The Orioles posted seven more losses than the Boston Red Sox, the best team in baseball this year, produced wins (108). They finished in last place in the AL East, sixth in errors, and sixth from the bottom in in average attendance — ATTENDANCE at the best ballpark in America — and traded away any real quality players and are now chasing away the only remaining true All-Star on the roster.
Living during this time also has put me on earth at the same time as Peter Angelos, the man that has taken a storied franchise and turned it in to a joke.
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.”
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Mr. Angelos, Why Not?