I have been following Camden Chat for the last year or so, commenting sporadically, but reading pretty much every article and comment. This is my first attempt at writing my own article for this blog, so I apologize if this is not FanPost worthy.
The last seven days or so has given me reason to hope again. Not that the Orioles will miraculously transform from a .300 ball club to a World Series contender in 2011, but instead that we are going in the right direction as a franchise, and that pieces are falling into place that will allow us to compete in 3-5 years. That's a reasonable goal, and you know what, "There is always 2013," is a nice sounding mantra (just don't tell John Cusack).
Still, there is the irrational side of my brain that has already anointed the Orioles as World Champions as soon as next year. Six wins in seven games, and here come the delusions of grandeur. I was two the last time the Orioles won the World Series, so I don't have any recollection of that team, or the feeling of the Orioles winning it all. I do, however, have a Polaroid of a smiling toddler, blond hair tucked neatly under the old school Orioles hat. I see that picture and think three things: 1) Remember Polaroids! 2) Boy do I miss that hairline! and 3) kid, get ready for a bumpy 27 years in birdland! Now, when I think of the Orioles winning a World Series in the future, I know that I will be just as happy as that little boy in the picture. I will be a kid again at heart, and the sheer joy will be something that only baseball can bring. That is why I get delusional so quickly, because whether it's next year when I am 30, or in 50 years when I'm 80, I know I'll be that kid again. The kid who knew all the teams in all the divisions before he knew the alphabet.
That got me thinking, "If I can't remember '83, what is my favorite baseball memory?" I guess it's appropriate with the year that the Orioles are having, but my favorite baseball memory was actually an Orioles loss (please don't banish me until you read the story!).
I grew up in Richmond, which is just far enough away from Baltimore to make it difficult for a young father to take his son to the ballpark. So when I got to go to a major league baseball game, it really meant something to me. When I was 7, we went up for a weekend, just me and my dad and watched the birds lose two games to the Twins. That was the first time I had ever seen Memorial Stadium. It was 1988, and the Orioles were awful. Kirby Puckett hit a mammoth shot. The games weren't even close. I remember bits and pieces of that weekend, and the excitement of going to the games, but my best memory was the next time that we were in town.
The third Orioles game I ever went to was August 11, 1991. I was old enough that I remember everything about that day very clearly. My dad bought me a program, and I got to keep score. It was about as beautiful an August day as you could imagine. The kid pitching for the White Sox was making his second career start. Someone in our section engaged my dad in conversation about this young hurler. "The Orioles should have a field day against this guy. It's been two years since he's been in the show, and he's got a career ERA of infinity." My dad was a little more concerned. "He's got an electric arm, though."
Wilson Alvarez sure had an electric arm that day. He went to work on the Orioles hitters. The zeros started to pile up on my scorecard. I noticed around the fifth that there weren't any hits. Around the seventh, the fans in the park started to get behind him, even though he was the away pitcher. I remember the ninth. The crowd was "ooh"ing and "aah"ing with every pitch. He walked Cal. Some people gave him a hard time about that, but he pushed through and finished the deal. While everyone else was clapping, I was finishing up my scorecard, making sure every play was accurately recorded (perhaps a foreshadowing of my future economics degree). The excitement of seeing baseball history was not lost on me, even at that young age. In my third game, I got to see a no-hitter! Even though my team lost, I got to see something that doesn't happen very often.
After the game, while the other fans were filtering out of the park, my dad had other ideas. To this day, I don't know how he did it, but he talked his way, with me and my siblings in toe, into the hallway where the visiting players had to leave to get to the team bus. I was scared of getting in trouble, but my dad just said, "Act like you're supposed to be here and don't say anything." We were there for twenty minutes or so, and security tried unsuccessfully to get us to leave a couple of times, but my dad charmed them into letting us stay just a little longer to see the players leave.
The first player I remember seeing leave the locker room was Carlton Fisk... can you imagine being 10 years old and having Carlton Fisk walk by you? Somehow while we were waiting there, hoping to see Alvarez leave the locker room, we were able to find his wife. My dad's new goal: convince her to take the program, with the scorecard I had taken of the game into the locker room, and get Wilson to sign it!
This was not an easy task, since she didn't speak a word of English, nor us a word of Spanish. At first, she thought we were giving the program to her as a gift, then through a series of hand gestures and facial expressions, she finally understood what we wanted. And dutifully she brought it in the locker room, Wilson signed it, and she brought it back out. I am willing to bet it was the first autograph that he gave after throwing that gem, right there in the middle of the scorecard that I kept!
That experience was something that I will remember for the rest of my life, and that memento is one of my most cherished possessions. I hope one day to be able to share that kind of day with my kids (actually if I am hoping for something, the Orioles' pitcher will be the one to throw the no-hitter). Because that's what baseball is, more so than your team winning or losing. It's about generations coming together and sharing moments at the ballpark. Some of those moments are transcendent, but most of them are simply tranquil. When you are at the ballpark with your dad, all is right in the world.
Sorry to get all Terence Mann on you guys there at the end... Anyway, I was wondering what makes all of you guys tick. Why are you baseball fans? Why are you Orioles fans? What is your favorite baseball memory? And thanks for listening, writing this has been very therapeutic