You may not know me, but I bet you recognize me.
I'm that buzz-headed, 6-year old little kid who could not believe how green the grass was the first time I eyed up that outfield inside Memorial Stadium. The little patch of grass that covered the front yard of my house in Dundalk never sparkled like that.
No longer buzz-headed, but full of flocks of hair that begged for a haircut, I was paying my $2.25 and heading up to help Wild Bill turn Section 34 into the coolest place full of the coolest people a ball park has ever seen. I was there that crazy Friday night Doug Decinces really did hit it over the fences. I was there the night Rick Dempsey swam around the bases during the rain out. Dang that was fun.
When we buried my mother one morning in 1990, I was at the stadium later that evening with my wife and 10 year-old daughter. Cal was playing in around his 1,250th game in a row, and as sad as the day became, it ended much happier when Cal emptied the bases with a three-run double in the seventh inning to rally the Orioles to a win.
I was there the night Moose — Mike Mussina — took a perfect game into the eighth inning. I am still trying to push that line dive down the right field line foul.
And yes, I was there the night of The Streak. I was perched near the top of the stadium in the left field upper deck, the perfect spot to soak it all in: Cal's homer, the 2-6-3-2 scroll down from the warehouse, and the victory lap. I sat there and cried, just like everyone else. Not as much as I cried the night Cal called it quits — yep, I was there for his final game too.
I flew up last year for that memorable playoff run. The October birthday paid dividends again. The Royals ruined my hopes, but not my fun. It was more like a football game than a baseball game, where every pitch was like fourth-and-goal from the two. It was the loudest and liveliest crowd I have ever seen for an Orioles game.
Guess who was in Cooperstown when Eddie and Cal was inducted? Yep. Drove 14 straight hours to see Eddie get in and cut short a vacation to the West Coast to make sure I was there for Cal.
If I had to guess, I would have to say that in my 58 years, I have now been to around 1,000 Orioles games. Keep in mind, that I have lived in South Carolina since I left for college in 1978. But what's a few hundred miles when you are an Orioles fan? How many years in a row were we a last place team? Didn't matter, I still came. Every year of my life, since I went to my first game at age 6, I went to an Orioles game.
But not this year. For the first time in half a century, I did not find a way to catch an Orioles game. Quite honestly, I think I have had enough. It may not be as acclaimed as playing in 2,632 consecutive games, but another Orioles streak has come to an end.
Loyalty, the way I see it, is a two-way street. That is why I don't get too mad when my dog I've had for 16 years now wakes me up in the middle of the night to go out.
As for the Orioles, I feel like it is now a one-way street. I've done my part, but I am not so sure the Orioles have done theirs. I know it's not my money, but it is my team. Always will be. So don't take me for granted. Do the Orioles really think that guys like me would tolerate the team's decision to do absolutely nothing to keep the good times going? Do they think we are naive and gullible enough to fall for some of the excuses and alibis they offered to explain why no effort was made to keep Nelson Cruz, keep Andrew Miller, keep Nick Markakis? Do they really expect us to fall for the current promises they are making about the off-season moves that are going to make us a playoff contender again? Please. Save it for the next generation.
Maybe the Orioles see me as nothing more than an old bald-headed curmudgeon that they can do without. Maybe so. But like I said, loyalty is a two-way street, so if the Orioles have decided they can do without me, guess all I can do is let them know I can do without them.
See you Orioles. I'm leaving, and in case you were wondering, there's no need to keep the light on. I won't be back.
Tom O'Hare is a high school teacher-coach in South Carolina who grew up in Baltimore. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.