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[This post originally appeared on the booktrib.com website. I was asked to write on
any theme concerning baseball and since the Orioles are my deepest and longest-running passion I composed this on the evening of Tuesday Apr 19th.]
People ask me, “What’s with you and the Orioles?” Well, here I am on a chilly Tuesday night watching the Orioles on MLB’s Extra Innings Package on cable TV ignoring that the Knicks are trying to even the series with the Celtics.

“You’re a New Yorker – what’s with you and the Orioles?” the question is often asked by bewildered friends and acquaintances. I understand the disbelief because the Orioles have been so bad in recent years that even I have often called them the Woerioles owned by Angelose-lose-lose - big shot Baltimore lawyer Peter and his two sons who at times consulted Rotisserie League-stats to urge transactions instead of listening to veteran scouts.

Well, dear readers, it all began in the late 1960s. I am starting my transient college History/American Studies teaching career at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland a Baltimore suburb. I am ready to like the Orioles because they are a team that is beginning to beat the Yankees with regularity and boy I like that! (You’d be surprised at how many New Yorkers don’t like the Yankees and their outrageous sense of entitlement.)

Now I must admit I pulled for the Miracle Mets in the 1969 World Series as they surprised the heavily favored Orioles in the World Series. After all, the Mets were taking over New York from the suddenly downtrodden Yankees and I liked that a lot. But from 1970 onward when the Birds of Baltimore won the World Series over the Cincinnati Reds I have been all for Orioles all the time. Their box score is the first I look at in the morning (if I haven’t stayed up to watch them at night). I also follow closely the fortunes of their minor league affiliates.

Though I returned to my native New York City in 1976 I have remained an avid even addicted Bird watcher. They didn’t always win in the first two decades of my love affair but they were consistent contenders - from their first World Series win of 1966, a sweep over the L.A. Dodgers (take that Walter O’Malley for moving out of NYC!), through another World Series win over the Phillies in 1983.

During these glory years it even got to the point where I dreamt about the Orioles.
In one dream, feisty manager Earl Weaver and his pitching coach George Bamberger – a New York native who taught several of his charges “The Staten Island Sinker” (euphemism for spitball) - were playing honky piano duets on the old upright in my living room.

In another dream, slugger Lee May was swinging a bat back and forth in the center of my Unconscious but upon closer examination it wasn’t a bat but a censer in a Russian Orthodox church. I was seeing a Jungian therapist at the time and she saw my dream as a clear sign for me to start taking my baseball writing seriously. “It is obviously your religion,” she said sagely.

When my first book came out in 1980, The Imperfect Diamond, a pro-players history of the struggle against the unfair old reserve system, I presented a copy of the book to the Orioles press secretary Phil Itzoe to give to Earl Weaver who had taken a rare public stance in behalf of the players against the owners. The cover of my book pictured an infield torn in half. When I asked Weaver the next day if he had received my book, he asked, “You mean “Broken Diamond”?” And he proceeded to tell his longtime coach Cal Ripken Sr. about how Connie Mack and Clark Griffith, arch defenders of the old baseball order, had once been rebels supporting a players league before the turn of the 20th century. “You looked like you had just been to Heaven,” my ex-wife told me after I left the field.

It hasn’t been easy being an Oriole fan since that last world championship in 1983. The “less is more” philosophy of The Oriole Way– “we’ll let Reggie Jackson go to the Yankees as a free agent and replace him with two guys John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke who together will produce even more and make for a happier clubhouse” - was replaced by free agent fixes that didn’t work out. As the losing continued and the farm system turned barren, the Orioles fell deeper and deeper out of contention. Now most premium free agents don’t even want to come to Baltimore.. The greatest indignity in recent years has been to watch Yankee and Red Sox fans take over Camden Yards, the first and best “retro” stadium, turning their road games into home games in Baltimore.

Yet I remain loyal. I spent 10 days in Sarasota last month watching the Orioles in spring training at their new renovated ballpark Ed Smith Stadium. Reconditioned Camden Yards seats are just one of many attractive features at the Birds’s new Florida home. I don’t think they are ready to contend yet in the very tough American League East division but under former Yankee manager Buck Showalter pride in their grand past is being restored.

And you know what? As I was watching them tonight and spurning the Knicks (who predictably lost another playoff heartbreaker to the Celtics) they convincingly broke a eight-game losing streak with a 11-0 rout of the Minnesota Twins using Earl Weaver’s magic formula: good pitching, defense, timely hitting plus a three-run homer from newcomer Vladimir Guerrero to cap the scoring. With 146 games yet to play, hope springs eternal in this ever-faithful follower of the Oriole black and orange.
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