icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

"Playing Meaningful Games In September": An Unexpected Joy For Oriole Fans (slightly revised)

I never expected it to happen in 2022 and was skeptical about future years.  And yet

with 32 games left, 20 at home, as Labor Day weekend starts, the Orioles are 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the third and final wild card spot.  Seattle and Tampa Bay hold

down the first two spots with the Birds three lost games behind them. 


My long-held views that Every Baseball Season Is Different and There Is At Least One

Surprise Team Each Year have come true in the most pleasant and heart-warming manner. 


The Birds have 10 games left with Toronto, seven of them at home including an old-fashioned Labor Day doubleheader.  The Blue Jays were one of the pre-season favorites in AL East but they have not played very consistent baseball.  


Nor have the Yankees who just endured an August that was its worst since Stump Merrill's 1991 team. The Red Sox are in the AL East basement, following their recent pattern of boom-bust-boom-bust. 


I saw the Orioles twice last month during SABR's 50th convention held this year in downtown Baltimore a short walk to Camden Yards.  The Birds lost the makeup day

game with the Cubs, 3-2, but unheralded castoff RHP Spenser Watkins pitched well.


Before an enthusiastic crowd of over 30,000 on Friday night, including many of the SABR attendees sitting in the right field bleachers, the Orioles blasted the Red Sox, 15-10,

belting five homers.  It was a rare offensive outburst by a team whose rise to contention has been fueled by vastly improved pitching and often sensational defense. 


I had never sat in the outer reaches of Camden Yards and it brought back memories of Fenway Park's fabled section.  In both places, you feel a bond with the third base and left field fans, creating the kind of shared community that is ballpark viewing at its best.


The remarkable resurgence of the Orioles got an added boost in late August by the play of 21-year-old Gunnar Henderson, a second round draft choice who was signed after his graduation three years ago from high school in Alabama.  


All he did in his first game was hit a long home run in his second AB after being victimized in his first AB by Guardians' left fielder Steven Kwan's great catch. In his second game, Gunnar made two outstanding defensive plays at shortstop and stole his first base.


I've seen him play in the lower minors and twice earlier this season at Triple-A Norfolk.  He has that "it" quality, the art of making a difficult game look easy. And you can see his

love of the game is not an act.  


Ditto for catcher Adley Rutschman who was drafted a round ahead of Henderson.  Adley is scuffling at the plate now, but his catching and leadershp skills are not suffering.  


The Orioles suddenly look like they have a bright future. The 2023 option on the contract of   manager Brandon Hyde was quietly picked up earlier this year.  So was the same 2023 option on injured southpaw John Means' contract.  Nothing like stablility in an organization once there is light at the end of the tunnel


It will be a challenge for Hyde, Joe Maddon's bench coach when the Cubs broke their 108-year World Series-championship drought in 2016, to get playing time for all the players

arriving.  Jorge Mateo remains the incumbent shortstop, the former Yankee prospect who

has been a revelation in 2022 once given regular playing time. It is a nice problem to

have, too many good players, but I think Hyde will find a way. 


As for the SABR convention, a highlight for me was Boog Powell in conversation with local sportswriter Dan Connolly of the Athletic.  He shared warm reminiscences of playing for 

the Orioles and how after his retirement he hustled to get the Lite Beer commercial that featured him and umpire Jim Honochick. The lines for Boog's BBQ at the ballpark are deservedly long.


Before I close this return to blogging, here's a tip of the cap to the Mets Old-Timers Day that owner Steve Cohen organized last Saturday August 27.  Cohen is a genuine Mets

fan and many original Mets returned for the first Old Timers Day in almost 30 years.  One of them was Jay Hook who won the team's first game.


In a TV interview with SNY broadcaster Steve Gelbs, Jesse Orosco shared the moving story of what happened to the glove that he threw towards the Astrodome roof when the Mets

won the epic 16-inning game over Houston that propelled them into the 1986 World

Series.  He said he gifted it to Steven McDonald, the NYPD officer who was paralyzed in

the line of duty. 


The National Anthem played on Old Timers Day was a recording by Jane Jarvis, the team's only organist from its first days at Shea Stadium in 1964.  I was fortunate to get to know Jane during her career as a jazz pianist when she left the team after the 1979 season.


Jane had been a child prodigy on both piano and organ in Indiana, proficient in classical music but loving jazz and all kinds of music. She later lived in Milwaukee where, among her other gigs, she became the Braves' ballpark organist.  


That's all for now.  But here's one TCM tip - Thursdays in September will be devoted to the

many films of Humphrey Bogart, some of them real classics.  


Always remember - take it easy but take it!  





Be the first to comment

White Sox and Giants Not Ready For Prime Time and Other Pre-Memorial Day Musings

Memorial Day this year comes on May 31. It's fine with me because the original Decoration Day was May 30 - to honor African-American dead in the Civil War - and by end of 19th century all Civil War dead.  Memorial Day didn't become a national holiday until 1971. 


How well I remember MLB's practice of doubleheaders on every May 30, July 4, and Labor Day.  Twin-bills are now ancient relics or at most seven-inning games under the new pandemic rules. 


The end of May remains a good first guidepost on how baseball's pennant races are developing.  The White Sox came into Yankee Stadium riding high in a weak AL Central division and got swept by the revived Yankees.


The first and last games were tight pitchers' battles but the Yankees prevailed, not even needing to go to the bastardized extra-inning format starting with the unearned runner on second base.  


This is an innovation I will never get used to.  Ditto the allowing of a baserunner to use an oven mitt to enhance his sliding into bases.  


The Yankees have been getting extraordinary starting pitching, solid defense, and just enough offense. As the last week in May begins, the Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Red Sox all have only 19 losses, the Yanks with one less win. 


At this juncture, they don't seem to miss Masahiro Tanaka who has returned to his former team the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japanese Pacific League.  


Thanks to info provided me by our Japanese correspondent Jun Ogawa, Tanaka is 2-3 in 6 starts with a 2.84 ERA.

He has an outstanding 5:31 walk:strikeout ratio, and has given up 4 HR and 32 H in 38 IN.  HIs team is only a 1/2 game behind the first place Nankai Hawks. 


The Yankees decision to gamble on the return to form of Corey Kluber, former Cy Young award-winner with Cleveland, is paying off.   He threw a no-hitter at Texas, one of seven so far in 2021.  


That's too many this early and a sad commentary on batters' inability to adjust to good pitching. If there is a blessing in disguise in all the no-hitters, it is that pitchers are at least going nine innings.  


I often think that pitchers today have been brainwashed into thinking that they can't go through a lineup three or God forbid four times. It becomes an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy.


The Orioles' only reliable pitcher, John Means, said after his no-hitter that just getting into the eighth inning for the first time in his career was a big thrill.  Means' inability to hold on to a five-run lead against the streaking Rays - 10 in a row as I post - started the O's latest descent into oblivion, 6 losses in a row as I post. 


In the National League West, the surprising Giants were riding high until the Dodgers came to town. Three losses later, the Giants find themselves in third behind both Padres and LA.


The only possible bright spot for SF is that they have an immediate rematch with the Dodgers in LA starting on

Thursday.  The White Sox don't meet the Yankees again until Th August 12 when they play the Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa.  After a day off they finish the weekend in Chicago.


I still maintain that baseball and any sports and art event must be experienced in person.  Two weeks ago,  

I paid my first visit to CitiField since the 2019 season. 


I saw a fine pitcher's battle for six innings between the Mets' Marcus Stroman and John "No-Hit" Means.  

It was the game where Albert Almora of the Mets almost made a great catch at the left center field wall but a collision with the fence knocked the ball free.   


Almora is still on the IL as are unfortunately virtually half of the Mets.  They remain in first place in the mediocre NL East but have played fewer games than any of their rivals.  The division is still wide open for every team.


Outfielder Kevin Pillar was the unacknowledged hero of that Met game.  With the Mets trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Pillar led off with a screaming first-pitch liner close to the left field foul pole. 


It was called a home run by the third base umpire and he circled the bases only to find out that after an umpires' conference it was called foul.  I don't think I have ever seen a player trot the bases on a phantom home run.


Pillar showed me a lot by digging in for the rest of the at-bat against soft-tossing Oriole closer Cesar Valdez. He singled to start the eventual two-run game-winning rally. 


A few days later, Pillar was hit in the face by a fastball by young Braves reliever Jacob Webb.  He suffered multiple nasal fractures and won't be back for a while.


If anyone can beat the doctor's estimates, it wil be Pillar.  He was more than gracious to pitcher Webb who was

visibly distraught at his misplaced pitch.


I also saw the Liberty home opener at the Barclay's Center.  After going 2-20 last season, the Liberty are off to 4-1 start in 2021.  The return of the justly heralded Sabrina Ionescu has been a big factor. The entire roster remake is also paying off in the early going.   


ONE WORD TO THE WISE:  Make sure you carry proof of vaccination with you on the card and/or your cell phone. 


Here are two tips for Memorial Day weekend viewing on TCM:

Sat May 29 12M/repeated Su 10A:  "Act of Violence" 1949 with Robert Ryan out to avenge a POW betrayal by

Van Heflin; and Mon May 31 3:15p  "The Steel Helmet" 1951  Sam Fuller's searing view of early Korean War


Always remember:  Stay positive, test negative & take it easy but take it!





Post a comment