Dear Baltimore Orioles,
I did not post here on the Fourth of July.
I took the day off. Just like you.
No need to apologize if you didn’t notice my absence. I know you were busy. Not playing, of course. But, busy. Eating. Napping. Whatever it is you do when you’re not playing baseball on the Fourth of July.
Not playing yesterday, on the Fourth of July, was a quirk in the Orioles schedule.
It was also cruel return to that empty first half of the 20th century when Baltimore had no major league team. Those were the years – decades – of emptiness, after New York stole those early Baltimore Orioles for themselves. There were no Fourth of July Orioles games … or third of July … or fifth of July … or sixth … hey, you get the picture.
So, while you Orioles were idle for 51 seasons, Babe Ruth … and Joe DiMaggio … and a rookie Mickey Mantle … got to play on Independence Day, but not you, dear Orioles. Not you.
Babe Ruth. He got to play.
The Babe and Joe and the Mick played for the New York Yankees, the team that had briefly been the Highlanders, and who were – rightly, firstly – the Baltimore Orioles. It was the legendary 19th-century Baltimore Orioles who became the legendary New York Yankees.
They were you. (I hope you find this inspiring.)
And, they got to play on all those Independence Days when there was no Orioles “Birdland.”
There was a tradition that every team played on the Fourth of July. All of them. Not just the very good ones. But, also the very bad ones.
“To Be Played in all Cities on the Glorious Fourth”
You caught that, too, right? “All.”
In 1892, the Orioles and Pittsburg (not yet Pittsburgh) Pirates were set to play a double-header on July 4 and the teams squabbled over who would be the home team on Independence Day. They wanted the biggest tally at the gate, which is very American if you stop and think about it.
Like you, dear 2019 Orioles, the 1892 Orioles weren’t very good either. They lost the squabble with Pittsburg, lost home field, and lost both games of the double-header.
“Walloped with Neatness and Dispatch”
They played a double header in Pittsburg the next year, too. And, they lost both games. Again.
You weren’t the only team that had Independence Day 2019 off, my little Oriole Birdlings.
Look at the off-day teams and their bona fides …
Baltimore Orioles … Baltimore, the home of the National Anthem (you know, that song with the ramparts … and the airports).
San Francisco Giants … a sea-to-shining-sea team, once a New Yorker, now a Californian.
Colorado Rockies … The Rockies, the majestic Rockies – the longest mountain range in the United States and second-longest in the world. Three thousand miles of the home of the free, the land of the brave, and a big chunk of Canada.
Arizona Diamondbacks … The last of the lower 48. Home of John McCain. Barry Goldwater. Mo Udall. Sandra Day O’Connor. Linda Rondstadt. You’re going to leave that state out?
And, J.J. Hardy, too.
Beloved former Orioles shortstop. Tucson born.
Houston Astros … Astronauts. Man on the Moon. 1969. 50 years. It’s a milestone.
New York Mets … Not the Yankees.
(Dear New York Mets, It’s probably just as well that you had the night off, since your minor league St. Lucie Mets did play on the Fourth of July, ending with a fireworks show that started a major brush fire outside the stadium.)
This year’s season was padded with a handful of “rest” days, and Independence Day became just another day on baseball’s more relaxing calendar. And, for six teams it was a day without baseball.
And, so there you were, my dear Orioles, holed up in a Toronto hotel, spending your holiday in another land while the Blue Jays and Red Sox squared off downtown.
You didn’t even get to wear the special stars-and-stripes’y caps that baseball spiffied up just for you. Now, they are Fifth of July caps.
That B stands for Baltimore, people, not Boston.
But, don’t be sad, little Bird’lettes.
The Fifth of July was important, too.
While the Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776, it wasn’t until July 5 that the actual Declaration of Independence was printed in final.
Not final, ’til it’s final.
Your record on the Fourth of July isn’t horrible, but it isn’t the greatest either – 37-31 since 1954 (which includes a few double-headers and one tie in 1964 that was replayed, and won, in September. There was no Fourth of July game during the Players’ Strike of 1981).
But, that’s better than the Fifth of July, where your record is a sorrowful 27-35.
Can we go back to 1964 for just a sec?
On July 4, 1964, the Kansas City A’s and the Orioles agreed to a curfew that no inning would begin after 8:15 p.m. This would allow the children at the game to stay up to see a Civil War re-enactment, a band concert, and fireworks.
The ninth inning began at exactly 8:15 p.m. and ended in a 6-6 tie. Since all nine innings were played, it was ruled a complete game that was replayed in September.
“It would have been more desirable to have seen the game through to its completion, but, after all, the fans did see three hours of good baseball, an outstanding holiday show, and everybody got home at a decent hour,” Orioles General Manager Lee McPhail told reporters.
Everybody got home at a decent hour.
It was a different time.
And, it’s a different time right now. It’s the Fifth of July. I hope you had a nice day off. Now don your fancy caps, my darling Birds, and go give it your best shot.
Sincerely, Your Friend Who Is Fully Aware That You Are 31.5 Games Back But Still Appreciates Your Effort, The Baseball Bloggess