It's fun having a good baseball team! Here are our favorite memories from the 2014 season. Give them a read, and then add in your favorites in the comments section below. Hopefully soon we'll be able to add a number of postseason moments to this list.
My favorite memory from this season wasn't anything specific the Orioles did on the field this year. Even though I went to a bunch of games, I don't think any of them were especially memorable. One of the special things about baseball for me is passing it down through generations. My grandfather (even though he was a Yankees fan from New York) was the person who first got me interested in baseball when I was a kid. He used to tell these amazing stories about watching Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play and about how he once caught a home run ball from Gehrig. Since he's no longer around, it's my turn to pass the game to the next generation. This season, I was able to take my son to his first few games. He's only a year and a half and probably didn't understand much of what was going on on the field, but just to see him have a good time at a baseball game was special. Every once in a while I'd see him look at the field with wonder in his eyes and I think I even caught him cheering a couple times. For now, he may have enjoyed the ice cream more than the baseball but that'll change in time (I hope). I'll always remember this season because I was able to take my son to his first game; the fact that the Orioles made the playoffs this year just makes it that much sweeter.
The Orioles had banged out four runs against White Sox starter Hector Noesi. Naturally, all four runs were on home runs. And even more naturally, the perpetrators were Steve Pearce, Nelson Cruz, and Adam Jones. Wei-Yin Chen was pitching well (7 K, BB, HR) but he ran into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the 8th. Leury Garcia lined out to start the inning, but Alexei Ramirez and soon-to-be-Oriole Alejandro de Aza singled to put the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Due up was slugger Jose Abreu, who even by that point was the favorite for the Rookie of the Year award. Behind him was Avisail Garcia, who'd knocked in all three Sox runs on a homer and a sacrifice fly. With the tension mounting, Buck Showalter brought in Darren O'Day, who promptly struck out Abreu on three pitches. With the tension now only a hair lighter, O'Day worked Garcia to 2-2 before striking him out flailing as well. Game set match, as far as this one was concerned, Zach Britton came on to get the 1-2-3 save and lock down the win for the Orioles.
To me, this game resembled the Orioles season as a whole. Unexpectedly good starting pitching, a lot of power from the offense, and a shutdown bullpen.
I only made it to one O's game this year (thirty Baysox games was plenty of live baseball), but it was a fun one. On Monday, July 7, the O's and Nationals were battling in D.C., and a bunch of folks from my church group decided to attend. The game was a pitchers' duel, but tense, as Chris Tillman and Stephen Strasburg each gave up two runs over seven innings. Darren O'Day held the line in the eighth and ninth, and when the game went into extras, Buck Showalter turned to T.J. McFarland. I seem to be more confident in T.J. than a lot of O's fans, but it was still a move that induced some nail-biting. He kept the Nats from scoring in the tenth, though, and then the O's batted in the eleventh. Nelson Cruz singled, Chris Davis homered, J.J. Hardy homered, Nick Hundley singled, Nick Markakis doubled, and Manny Machado homered. There was no more nail-biting; what was probably the most stressful O's game I'd attended was suddenly a laugher.
Hard to pick only one, but since the O's are going to play the Tigers, I'll go with this one:
Chris Tillman's early season duel with Justin Verlander. 8+ innings of 1 run ball and he outmatched one baseball's better pitchers over the last few years. You didn't quite know what kind of season he was going to have at the time, since it was just his second start of the season, but it was a great early vibe for the team. Tillman was expected to be the ace of the staff and keep the O's in the game every 5 days. He did just that over the full season and it really kicked off with that Detroit start (on the road, no less!) I remember being so hard on him when he was first called up to the majors, but it's incredible to believe he's just 26 and continues to prove the naysayers wrong. Simple memory, but it really foreshadowed the success the Orioles would eventually have 150ish games later, especially without key players for huge chunks of the season.
It has to be the AL East-clinching celebration after the win against Toronto. I was too young to remember them winning it in '97, so this was big. I was responsible for the recap that night and I was completely unable to focus on what I was writing at all. My eyes were glued to the television and I had a smile stuck on my face. If I had to pick an exact moment in that celebration, it's the glance Nick Markakis gave when it was announced the Orioles had won the division, because every Oriole fan had to feel the exact same way. I know it's going to give me goosebumps the rest of my life and I wasn't even at the game.
I had two unused tickets from my season plan that I had tried to unload the tickets via Stubhub without success. With the season is drawing to a close, I still had these tickets and there was just one series remaining during which I can exchange them for new tickets, the last home series against the Blue Jays.
A win in the first game of the series brought the O's magic number to 1. Their first opportunity to clinch has arrived! I look at the matchups: 2014 Oriole Killer Drew Hutchison vs. the recently exiled to the bullpen Ubaldo Jimenez. But for some reason I am not filled with dread at this prospect. Instead a sense of serene confidence washes over me. 'They got this.' I tell myself.
I call my buddy up. 'Wanna head down to the O's game to watch them clinch? I've got two tickets to use up.' He's game.
We get there only to watch Ubaldo yield a run in the 1st. Things are not off to a promising start. We decide to take advantage of the $5 fills until the bottom of the 1st inning at the Natty Boh Bar. As we wait in line we watch a lead off single by Markakis seemingly squandered via a bunt pop out by De Aza, followed by a lineout by Jones. Just two people in front of us in line...If Nelson can extend this at bat we've got a shot at discounted beer!
He does, by singling up the middle on a 1-2 pitch. Alright! Just one person in front of us now. No first pitch swinging, Steve Pearce! I don't recall if he did or didn't swing on that first pitch, but I do know he swung at the 0-1 pitch. And he swatted it into the right-centerfield stands for an Earl Weaver Special! Goodbye, Home Run! The inning suitably extended, we got our $5 Bohs and celebrated another instance of #TeamSteve Magic.
Ubaldo tied to make the game interesting in the 2nd as we migrated back to our seats, allowing the Blue Jays to get 1 run back. But the game in general was never in doubt. The Birds would hang another 3 runs on Hutchison, breaking whatever spell he had cast over them previously. The reverse-lock worked. An 8-2 Division clinching win, gone to on a lark. Ain't the beer cold!
Attending the game on September 17th, the day after the Orioles clinched the division, was a surreal experience. The vibe was incredibly relaxed and happy, in a combined way that I just haven't really witnessed in my adult baseball-loving years. The fans booed at the Blue Jays' continued headhunting, cheered when the Orioles scored en route to a 6-1 win, but they definitely knew that the outcome didn't matter anymore. But it wasn't sad like it usually is on the last homestand. It was great.
I did not watch as much O's baseball as I'd like this summer, so the games I remember most clearly belong to the early part of the season. My favorite game was a game against the Blue Jays on 23 April. I was responsible for the game recap that day, but my internet failed me till at least the fifth inning. By that point, the Blue Jays have scored 6 in the second, and the O's have recaptured the lead with their own six-run fifth inning featuring a grand slam by Nelson Cruz. All this time, I was following the action on twitter on my phone. I almost gave up on the game after the six-run second by the Blue Jays. Thankfully, the game provided plenty of drama in the late innings. Tommy Hunter, still the closer at the time, loaded the bases on three singles with one out in the ninth with the O's up by two. However, this game would not be my favorite memory had the Blue Jays come back from the deficit. Hunter induced a double play from Jonathan Diaz to the sure-handed J.J. Hardy to end the roller coaster ride of the game.
There is no cheering in the press box, but sometimes, if the moment is right, you are allowed to smile.
On the night that the Orioles celebrated their 60th anniversary with a drubbing of the Cardinals and a big projected movie on the Warehouse wall to go along with a laser and fireworks show, even that stoic bunch displayed some emotion. As the game ended, they rushed down into the clubhouse to get their work done quickly so that they could get back up to the press level to watch the show.
The O's reporters, most of whom grew up in this area rooting for the Orioles, might not be allowed to root for the O's in the present day, but it's hard to ignore history. As the field filled up with the great Orioles of their childhood - or for some, the ones they heard about from their parents - it got a little dusty in there. No one spoke. When it was all over and the lights came back on as today's Orioles took the field with the greats, more than a few sleeves dabbed at eyes.
It was a special night and a great time to be anywhere in Camden Yards. For this occasional visitor to the press level, it was fun to get to see the normal business atmosphere break down a little bit.
If the Orioles go on to great success in this postseason, I'll always look back on that August night as the time where it started to feel like anything could be possible. The O's greats - many of whom were World Series winners - on the field with this year's guys. How could that end any other way?
I was lucky enough to attend the Wednesday night baseball game between the Orioles and Yankees on August 13th. It was nationally televised on ESPN and the Orioles were looking for the sweep. The Yankees were far enough back in the standings that a loss wouldn't make much of a difference, but that didn't make the win any less sweet. The Yard was packed with mostly Orioles fans but enough Yankees fans to make some noise. The Orioles looked like they were on their way to a loss as they failed at the plate first against Michael Pineda, then against Dellin Betances. But, as they often did this year, the Orioles came back.
In the eighth inning, Jonathan Schoop hit a bomb off of Betances that tied the game and got the O's fans up on their feet, cheering and screaming, knowing that their team wasn't going to roll over like in years past. Later in the same inning, Chris Davis worked the count full and then took ball four to bring Adam Jones to the plate. Everyone knew what was going to happen. It was just one of those moments. The crowd roared as Jones crushed a ball towards the bullpen. It sailed over the fence and Adam threw his arm into the air in victory. As he rounded the bases I was struck by how far this team has come. They had gone from laughingstock to serious competitor, with Adam Jones leading the way.
After the game the fans stuck around to watch the postgame interviews on the field, just waiting for the pie. First Schoop got one for his game-tying homer, and then while Adam interviewed on ESPN (telling them that chicks dig the long ball), Nelson Cruz pied the pie man himself, with Adam throwing his arms wide to take his medicine. It was a fantastic moment for the Orioles and the fans, and for me as I soaked in this new culture surrounding the Orioles.