In the annals of Baltimore sports, there will never be a more infamous departure than the Mayflower vans pulling out of town, taking with them every part of the old Baltimore Colts franchise except for the marching band uniforms. The video of the event is surreal, one of those things that would be too crazy to believe if you didn't already know it was true.
However, here in the present day, the Orioles are doing their best to get themselves onto the list for infamy, because they have, by all appearances, quietly removed any and all traces of National Bohemian beer from Oriole Park at Camden Yards during the recent road trip.
You might remember that, back in February, a Baltimore beer enthusiast on social media bearing the appropriate name of Beer in Baltimore, broke a provocative piece of news: Natty Boh would no longer be sold at Camden Yards in the 2016 season.
Even as they were busy absorbing the first full squad workout, the O's beat corps rallied to this story, or at least arrived at it later, fully armed with what someone with the Orioles told them to say. MASN's Roch Kubatko, for instance, tacked this note to the bottom of an unrelated post about the health of Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey:
A rumor surfaced last night that Camden Yards would stop serving Natty Boh this season. It's false, according to a team official.
In The Baltimore Sun on February 19, beat writer Eduardo Encina posted an article that first said that Natty Boh would be served at a designated location at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this season - just no longer the Natty Boh bar or anything else. This article received a correction, and now the relevant part states:
But according to an Orioles club official, Natty Boh will be sold at the ballpark at multiple locations.
The correction to the article noted that those multiple locations were merely "under consideration."
The Ministry of Beer Truth
How are we to square these assertions with the reality that Camden Yards now seems to be Natty Boh-less, with the local favorite (and yes, I know it hasn't been brewed in Maryland since 1996) having been disappeared down the memory hole as thoroughly as any evidence that Oceania was ever at war with Eurasia?
Maybe the same person who told the media that Dexter Fowler to the Orioles was a done deal also was passing along this information about the status of Natty Boh at Camden Yards.
I don't know. Perhaps the person, whoever they are, would choose to split hairs and say that technically, they were providing accurate information: that Natty Boh was sold at Camden Yards this season ... for all of six games, the duration of the first homestand. If a person in my life so knowingly misled me, I would not be inclined to trust them in the future.
Whatever was the case before, here is how things stand now. Tuesday night, some time after Beer in Baltimore took note of the fact that the Boh stand from the opening homestand was gone prior to the game against the Blue Jays, the Sun revisited the story. Now, writes Encina, Boh is gone, and "a return to Camden Yards this season appears unlikely."
If one were inclined to give the benefit of the doubt here, there is the possibility that the ground has shifted since the team official was sounding off back in February. These things happen. I don't claim any knowledge of the inner workings of negotiations between the Orioles and the beer conglomerates that are supposedly responsible for pushing out Boh, nor between the Orioles and whatever Boh distributor set them up for the first homestand. Something could have changed.
What I do know is this: Unless the Budweiser/Miller/Coors fairies came into Camden Yards on Monday night and stole away every can, keg, and vendor stand that had been selling Natty Boh beer, the Orioles have known for some length of time that Boh would be disappearing from Camden Yards.
The Orioles chose not to share that knowledge with the public, instead letting fans come in to Tuesday's game and discover on their own that there was no Boh.
If the reason for all of it is that, as Beer in Baltimore claimed in February and still maintains, the big beer conglomerates used their leverage in signing a new sponsorship deal to muscle Boh - the previous best-selling beer - out of their territory, that is something I would find disappointing but not bothersome in and of itself.
Money talks. That's the way things go. This would hardly be among the worst of naked injustices perpetuated by capitalism. Just don't insult the intelligence of O's fans who've enjoyed drinking Boh at Camden Yards in recent seasons by behaving in such a squirrely fashion.
What the Orioles might have done instead of hide
All they had to do was get in front of the situation. You don't even have to tell me the whole truth. If it is indeed the case that Miller/Coors has muscled out Boh, I'm quite sure that same big beer conglomerate would not appreciate being put on blast by the Orioles for being the reason behind this change. I don't expect that admission in an open press release. I'm not that naive.
If only they had provided some explanation with truthiness ahead of time. What if, instead of this story having to be broken by Beer in Baltimore, either in February or now, the Orioles themselves had said, "Although we will no longer be carrying Natty Boh at Camden Yards this season, the Orioles remain committed to quality beers that are still brewed locally, including (list of beer companies)"?
Something like that explanation wouldn't even have to be the truth as long as it was true that the O's continued to offer things like Flying Dog or Heavy Seas, two Maryland-brewed beers, and maybe even expand them to locations that aren't in the far corners of the stadium.
The statement I suggested even gives the O's some shred of local beer hipster cred by subtly reminding people that Boh isn't brewed here any more! And also that those other beers are better, a sentiment with which even the most dedicated Boh fan, if honest with himself or herself, would probably agree. A polished version of that statement could have been a win-win in so many ways.
I don't imagine that Miller/Coors or whoever is going to be very threatened by Dead Rise or Loose Cannon any time soon. You can't even buy that stuff in cans at the stadium, to the best of my knowledge. It's not what someone is getting from Fancy Clancy when he comes by your seat.
And perhaps, it must be said, the Orioles now recognize this, as Encina's article from last night divulging the unlikelihood of Boh's return this year also includes the following:
... the Orioles are focused on growing their selection of brands that are brewed locally, including Flying Dog, Heavy Seas and Dogfish Head, according to a club source.
We can only hope this is not the same source who was proclaiming back in February that it is OK, Natty Boh will be coming back. That's just the problem with the way they have done things. Their track record on this matter is not great. It sure looks like whoever was sounding off earlier either didn't know what was going on, or knew but intentionally obfuscated.
Even if the above quote is true, can you believe it? I am having a hard time doing so. Maybe it's clueless, if they were clueless in February, or maybe it's trying to pull some wool over our eyes.
After all of the back and forth, it seems that from here on, unless something changes, if you want to get your Natty Boh on in proximity to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, you'll have to do so at one of the bars right near the stadium. Maybe that's for the best. The beer is cheaper across the street.