The Baltimore Orioles are in the kind of late-season slump that makes you go …
Yup, there goes your post-season.
When you were little, did you ever have someone hand you an ice cream cone and you greedily pushed your tongue into it and, just like that, the scoop of the best chocolate ice cream in the whole world, pure frozen perfection, the best thing you ever, ever tasted, just fell over off the edge of the cone and landed at your feet?
And, there’s a moment of stunned silence, when you think, like any five year old would, “What the f***?”
And, then you cried.
Not tears-rolling-out-of-your-eyes cried, but the shrieking, gulping, wailing kind of cry that only children can get away with, and that pretty much sums up how it feels to have your ice cream fall to the ground … the result of some lazy, careless adult who couldn’t take the two seconds to tamp the scoop firmly into the cone before giving it to you – a child – and who has now ruined everything because this has to be one of the worst things that could ever happen to anybody …
Until, years later, the Orioles fall over, just like that lousy ice cream and you realize …
Suckity, suck, suck, suck.
Not a single Oriole, not a single one of the 19 position players who have had at least one at-bat is batting better than .295 over the past 30 days. Nine of the 20 – that’s 45 percent of them – are batting .208 or worse.
Compare that to the Toronto Blue Jays, who have six players batting .300 or better during the past 30 days.
That, along with porous, unreliable, hapless pitching, is why the Orioles have won just three of their last 16 games. They are 3-13 and 6.5 nearly impossible games away from that second Wild Card.
It makes you want to change the subject …
On this date, September 3, 1897, Baltimore Oriole right fielder Wee Willie Keeler went 6-for-6 in a game against the St. Louis Browns. (“Wee” because the outfielder stood just shy of 5’5”.)
His teammate, first baseman “Dirty” Jack Doyle, went 6-for-6, too. (“Dirty” because he was an aggressive baserunner, prone to brawls on and off the field, and was once arrested in the middle of a game.)
Left fielder Joe Kelley went 5-for-6.
The 1896 Orioles. Keeler is in the front row, third from the left (with his elbow on his manager’s leg). Doyle is in the front row, far left, holding a bat. Kelley is in the second row, third from the left.
The Orioles defeated the Browns that day 22-1. Twenty-eight hits.
(Over their past four games, the 2015 Orioles have scraped together 26 hits and 12 runs. Total.)
Keeler and Doyle are two of only 98 major league players to get six hits in a regular nine-inning game. They are the only teammates to do it in the same game.
Baltimore Orioles game program, 1897
The Orioles would finish the 1897 season second to Boston. Keeler would lead the league with a .424 average.
Those 1897 Orioles did not evolve into the present-day Orioles. They share only the name. (The 1897 St. Louis Browns were renamed the Cardinals a few seasons later. Yes, those Cardinals.)
(Those Orioles are also not the 1902 Baltimore Orioles that, through a cruel twist of fate, became the New York Yankees.)
They were one of baseball’s greatest teams.
And, Keeler was one of the greatest batters. His secret? “I have already written a treatise and it reads like this: ‘Keep your eye clear and hit ‘em where they ain’t; that’s all.’ ”
And, hang on to your ice cream …
UPDATE: Maybe Wee Willie Keeler wasn’t 6-for-6 after all. Here’s where I revisit the “facts” and change my mind about things: “The Official Table of the Slaughter”