BALTIMORE — Seeing the Orioles with a five-game lead in the American League East has some of Baltimore's Hall of Famers caught up pennant fever.
At least that's how it felt Friday afternoon inside the B&O Warehouse, where 20 former players gathered to help celebrate the ballclub's 60th anniversary in Baltimore. Perhaps the most famous three of them sat together and shared similar thoughts on how happy they are to be associated with a winning team once more.
"No reason why we can't win this division," said Brooks Robinson, the former Orioles third baseman who won consecutive 16 Gold Gloves and earned a spot in Cooperstown after spending his entire 23-year career in Baltimore. "The number of orange shirts you see in all the other towns and cities that they play, it has been exciting. I'll tell you what, it's hard to win. To win a world championship, it is tough. You never know what's going to happen. But this is the first step. And we'll see what happens."
Baltimore hosted St. Louis on Friday in the first of a three-game series, so the celebration was timely. The Orioles came to town in 1954 as the St. Louis Browns, and 12 years later they won their first of three World Series titles. Robinson showed up in 1955 as an 18-year-old from Arkansas, then teamed with Frank Robinson — brought in before the 1966 season via trade with Cincinnati — to become the Orioles' most recognizable duos.
They sat alongside each other Friday, with Eddie Murray completing the trio. That's 1,358 home runs and 5,086 RBIs, and three plaques inside the Hall of Fame.
And they're all Orioles fans, particularly with the team enjoying success — their division lead as of Friday was the biggest since 1997, when the club went wire-to-wire and won the AL East crown.
"That's the warmth of this organization," said Frank Robinson, who spent six years in Baltimore and won Most Valuable Player and Triple Crown awards in 1966. "A long time there for a while, with [14 consecutive losing seasons] and the team not winning, it wasn't there. But I'll tell you one thing ... Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter deserve a lot of credit for bringing that feeling back. With this organization now, you're welcome. And the players are happy to see you and talk to you. The feeling is back here. It's a great fan base here. The fans really see outside the ballpark, and they treat you like family."
Murray became the team's next big star following the Robinsons, and even when a rift occurred following his trade out of town Murray got a second chance in Baltimore. He returned midway through the 1996 season, as part of another trade, clubbed his 500th career homer, and helped the club earn a wild-card berth. And now he's watching the 2014 edition from his California home with rooting interest.
"I don't think these guys are hitting the way they're capable of," Murray said. "Let's put it this way: I think they can be a lot better than what they're doing at this particular time. From the little I see of the Orioles ... I think they're pitching quite well. It's just a matter of trying to do it all at once. They seem to be winning the close games, and that's what it really takes. Up and down the lineup, they should be the best when you look at whatever one else is throwing out there."
The organization's close-knit feel was evident through the room no matter which Orioles great spoke about their time in Baltimore. From older players, such as Billy Hunter and Milt Pappas, to the 1970s and 80s stars like Al Bumbry, Dennis Martinez, and Ken Singleton, to the sluggers of the mid 1990s in Brady Anderson and B.J. Surhoff, the Orioles' winning seems to have everyone associated with the club feeling good.
"I love it. I've been waiting for it," said Surhoff, who made Baltimore his home after retiring in 2005. "Rightfully so, the Ravens kind of dominate everything. All I saw was purple. But every time you turn on the game, I'm amazed at how much orange and black ... when I drive down the street or go to a store or whatever, and you hear people talking about it. The excitement is back. And to me, I find great joy in that."