Good morning, Camden Chatters.
No, “good” morning doesn’t cover it. Let’s try great morning. Incredible morning. Orioles fans, we just witnessed one of the most exciting nights of O’s baseball in decades. The Orioles — in case you hadn’t heard — are officially the champions of the AL East. They won their 100th game of the year, defeating the Red Sox in front of an raucous Camden Yards crowd to clinch the division crown.
One hundred wins. AL East champions. It’s almost impossible to believe. Yet here we are.
Think of everything that the Orioles and their fans have had to endure to get here. Year after year of horrific, unsightly baseball as the club embarked on a lengthy rebuild. The lineups full of overmatched, underqualified hitters; a noncompetitive pitching staff getting bombed day after day. A 19-game losing streak (which was only two years ago!). Three straight full seasons of 108 or more losses, as a despondent fan base wondered if the payoff would ever be worth the nightly agony.
I think it’s fair to say that it absolutely was.
The Orioles are now the class of the American League, securing home-field advantage throughout the AL portion of the playoffs. They’re a force to be reckoned with, a well-oiled machine full of young superstars in the making, crucial veteran role players, and versatile athletes from every corner of the roster. They’ve drafted stupendously, they’ve made canny trades, they’ve molded other teams’ castoffs into essential contributors. We’re seeing what can happen when an organization puts a firm, strategic vision into place and when players buy into it, getting the most out of their natural talent through dedication, hard work, and a team-oriented attitude. The results are glorious. (If you’re anything like me, you can’t stop watching all eight minutes of this video.)
For many O’s fans, this is the best team of their lifetime. They’re just the sixth 100-win Orioles club in franchise history and the first since 1980. With one more win in their final three games, they’ll match the 1971 Orioles. With two wins, they’ll equal the ’79 club. And if the O’s win out against the Red Sox this weekend, they’ll finish with the third-best record in Orioles history. It’s mind-boggling to consider.
Oh yeah, and the O’s went through the entire 2023 season — all 52 series — without ever being swept. Dating back to last May, they’ve gone 91 straight sweepless series, including the entirety of Adley Rutschman’s major league career.
The clincher capped an already exciting night in which the Orioles finally reached agreement on a 30-year lease to remain at Camden Yards through at least the 2053 season. Thank goodness that’s done. Nobody seriously thought the Birds were ever going to move out of Baltimore, but now you can reassure the worrywarts in your life that the team is here to stay. The signing of the lease opens up $600 million in state funding for improvements to Camden Yards, so the best team in the AL should be getting some key upgrades at their home ballpark in the coming years.
Oh, and on top of all that, the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, got to do some celebrating of their own by winning the International League championship last night. That talent-laden club will be graduating some prized prospects to the Orioles next year, which should keep the good times rolling in Birdland.
Yeah. It was a good day. One of the best for Baltimore baseball in a long, long time.
I can’t possibly narrow down the list of feel-good Orioles stories from last night, so I’m just gonna throw a bunch of links at you. Enjoy!
Orioles birthdays and history
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Five former Orioles were born on this day: right-handers Jake Reed (31) and the Frederick-born Branden Kline (32); first baseman Calvin Pickering (47); and left-handers Craig Lefferts (66) and the late Mike McCormick (b. 1938, d. 2020).
On this date in 1996, in the Orioles’ final game of the regular season, Brady Anderson crushed his 50th home run, becoming just the 14th player at the time — and the first Oriole ever — to reach the 50-homer mark. He wasted no time, leading off the game at SkyDome with a dinger off the Blue Jays’ Pat Hentgen, his future teammate. Only one Oriole, Chris Davis in 2013, has hit 50 homers in a season since.
Random Orioles game of the day
On Sept. 29, 2010, the Orioles played spoilers by throwing a 2-0 shutout in Tampa Bay. The Rays were in the middle of a heated pennant race with the Yankees at the time, just half a game ahead in the AL East, and their loss to the bottom-feeding Orioles denied them the opportunity to extend their lead (fortunately for them, the Yanks also lost that day, and Tampa Bay ultimately won the division anyway).
Kevin Millwood’s final start as an Oriole was one of his best, as he threw seven shutout innings to finish his season with a 4-16 record. Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara each worked a scoreless inning of relief, while Felix Pie drove in both O’s runs with a two-run triple in the seventh. The win “improved” the Birds’ record to 63-95, and with just four games to play, it assured that they would not suffer a 100-loss season. That was somewhat miraculous, considering the Orioles were 32-73 before Buck Showalter took over as manager in August.