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First Summer Edition of the YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever) Journal

I hadn’t decided to go to the opener of the June 20-22 Oriole-Yankee series at Yankee Stadium until Friday morning. Got myself through StubHub an upper deck seat on the aisle giving me plenty of room for my aching right knee to stretch out.

Didn’t realize that the seat would also provide me plenty of exercise because there was constant traffic of fans in my row coming back and forth back and forth from concession stands. Watching the game for them was obviously of secondary importance. They didn't even get involved in the wave that kept many of the crowd involved on this pleasant evening.

The late Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner had the best line about what the wave is good for:
"straightening your shorts."

Though Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda no-hit the O’s for five innings, I didn’t think that streak could last because his pitch count was elevated. And sure enough the Orioles rallied with two runs in the 6th. But they couldn’t add more runs - a persistent problem in 2014.

Once again Lowenfish’s Law – no four run lead is ever safe until the game is over – proved correct. Usuallly reliable O’s closer Zach Britton couldn’t get the third out in the bottom of the 9th though he had two strikes on Mark Teixeira with two out and a man on first.

Teixeira walked, was pinch-run for, the latest Big Buck Yankee free agent addition Brian McCann singled in a run, and on a 3-1 count another free agent Carlos Beltran blasted a long home run to left center to win the game.

The Orioles showed their resiliency by winning the next two games convincingly,
6-1 and 8-0. In the Sunday afternoon shutout they beat another big ticket Yankee signing Japanese phenom Masanori Tanaka. And to add to the O's recent surge the following night they limited White Sox star southpaw Chris Sale to six innings. And they came from behind to win on their own walkoff homer by Chris Davis.

Walkoff homers – a term likely coined by Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley – are quite rare. And the ones that turn defeat into victory in one swing of the bat are unforgettable.

I still remember nearly 40 years ago when Orioles second baseman Bobby Grich won a game in Baltimore by beating the Red Sox reliever Jim Willoughby. And while the memory won’t be as warm, I think I’ll always remember how Beltran spoiled my Friday night. But fortunately not the entire weekend.

Lots of baseball still to be played, of course. Question marks on the mound and in the lineup continue to perplex followers of the Orioles. Even though this seems like a year of parity or mediocrity, my LD (Lively Dinosaur) roots incline me not to get too enthusiastic until my team is at least 10 games above .500.

But I am certainly keeping the faith and if the starting pitcher-winners this weekend Bud Norris and Chris Tillman and bullpen arms T. J. McFarland and Tommy Hunter continue to pitch well, 2014 might be another fun summer in Baltimore.

I will be in attendance this weekend in Baltimore when on my 72nd birthday the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays tangle in a June 27th day-night doubleheader. Impressions of that experience and more next time we meet.

In the meantime always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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Another YIBF Journal, Father's Day Edition

Happy Father's Day to Dads and their loved ones! 50 years ago - on June 21, 1964 to be exact - Jim Bunning threw a perfect game against the Mets at New York's brand-new Shea Stadium. I went with my father and it wasn't an exciting game because the Mets trailed early. But the drama built up, of course, and Bunning struck out John Stephenson to end the game. He then headed to be introduced on Ed Sulivan's CBS-TV Sunday night "really big shew".

And now let's turn to Quotations from Orioles manager Buck Showalter. The Baltimore skipper worked as an ESPN commentator in between his Texas Rangers and Orioles jobs. He has a gift for the terse insight that this sound bite-happy world of ours requires. As the O’s try to assert themselves in the AL East, here’s a sampling of the baseball-savvy bon mots of Baltimore’s baseball boss:

**“This game has a way of embracing you or spitting you out.”
Said by Buck after the Orioles nail-biting Flag Day June 14th 3-2 victory over the Jays.
Opportunistic base-running by Delmon Young and brilliant shortstop play by JJ Hardy prompted this comment. (Hardy mysteriously has lost his power at the plate, perhaps because of lingering back issues, but his defense is exquisite – I highly recommend turning one's eyes away from computer screens to watch it.)

**”If you have one good pitch, you can compete in the big leagues.
If you have two good pitches, you can win in the big leagues.
If you have three good pitches, you can dominate.”
--Buck quoting ace pitcher-turned-broadcaster Orel Hershiser.

“There are four ways you can leave the major leagues.
You can TALK your way out of it.
You can PARTY your way out of it.
You can EAT your way out of it.
You can PLAY your way out of it.”
Showalter wisely recommends the last.

AN HOMAGE TO BB&T STADIUM in Charlotte, North Carolina.
A week ago I paid a visit to the new home of the Charlotte Knights the White Sox affiliate in the International League. It’s located across the street from the Carolina Panthers’ NFL home.

I was quite amazed that despite torrential rains the game was played with only a 75 minute rain delay. The drainage system at BB&T Stadium is excellent, and I was impressed by the swift manner in which Knights’ personnel used modern suction equipment to remove wet spots and puddles from the outfield.

The game turned out to be a slugfest won by the division-leading Columbus Clippers, an Indians affiliate, over the tailend Knights. Charlotte starter Tommy Hanson, once a promising Braves righty, was lit up early by a home run by Indians prospect Jesus Aguilar. Neither Hanson nor his first reliever former Cardinal Mitchell Boggs gave evidence that they might be heading back soon to The Show.

The Knights fell behind early but they had some moments with a rally that knocked out Clippers starter Gabriel Arias before he could qualify for a win. Jared Mitchell, former star LSU football and baseball player, blasted a homer but his BA remained under the .200 mark so I think his development is still lagging.

But I was really glad I got to see BB&T Stadium with its spectacular view of downtown Charlotte. It was Bark in the Park day and many fans brought their pooches to parade around the rapidly drying grounds. Retired wrestling star George “The Animal” Steele also was on hand to throw out a first ball from nowhere near the pitching mound. And the concessions were quite good.

The eight-team double elimination competition began in Omaha yesterday with Cinderella UC-Irvine staging a late rally to beat Texas, 3-1. It was a matchup of septuagenarian coaches Mike Gillespie of Irvine versus Augie Garrido of Texas. Both have won the CWS with other schools – Gillespie with his alma mater USC and Garrido at Cal-Fullerton before his last title at Texas in 2005.

In the evening game Vanderbilt held on to beat Louisville, 5-3. The deadened bats have reduced the offense in the college game so games are usually low-scoring. So a premium is placed on pitching and defense and the sacrifice bunt and the bunt for a hit take on more importance.

I’m enough of a purist to miss the thwack of the bat - I still cringe at the ping from the metal bat. But the intensity of the games and the usually close competition have won me over.

Father’s Day matchups are another surprise team Texas Tech versus Big 12 rival TCU and Virginia versus Mississippi. All aired on ESPN2 with the final best-of-three series starting on Mon June 23.

More on the CWS next time as well as word on the upcoming inductions into the College Baseball Hall of Fame near the Texas Tech Lubbock campus.

In the meantime the YIBF (Yours In Baseball Forever) always advises:
Take it easy but take it!
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