Dear Nationals Fan

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Dear Nationals Fan,

I come to you today, not as a rival, but as a friend.

A friend who knows the insurmountable pain and suffering you have endured this week … this week when there has been no loss worse than the one you suffered at the hands of the Cubs, ending your season.

Ouch.

(Sorry, Team USA Soccer, any Nats fan will tell you that your humiliating loss to Trinidad and Tobago this week, eliminating you from next year’s World Cup, isn’t even close.)

I come to you today, dear sweet Nat-atoodies, not as a rival, but, as I think this through, maybe not as a very good friend, either.  Think of me instead as a companion, as you snuggle up with us in the off-season … Diamondbacks, Indians, Red Sox, Rockies, Twins fans … we’re all here.

Even we lowly Orioles fans who got the off-season tidied up for you by finishing last in our division.

Welcome aboard.

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“The Sandwiches Were Said To Be Delicious.”

The Baltimore Sun, 9/26/1954

“The ghosts of Wee Willie Keeler and all the other old-time Oriole greats, who love so much to win, will have to await some other year before they can frolic again in triumph.” ~ The Baltimore Sun, September 26, 1954

On September 25, 1954, on the last day of the regular season, the Baltimore Orioles lost their 100th game.

Losing 100 games is that limbo bar that separates the terrible teams that lose 99 from the truly awful ones who lose 100.

Like the 1954 Orioles.

1954 Orioles

It is possible that the Tigers, the Phillies, and the Giants could cross under that 100-loss bar this season. But, with just a week to play, it’s not likely.

The 2017 Orioles were eliminated from the post-season last night with their 9-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

If the O’s lose their remaining six games – and I strongly urge them not to do this – they will have lost 88.

At least it’s not 100.

The 1954 Orioles, formerly the St. Louis Browns, were finishing up their first season in Baltimore on September 25. They were the first major league team in the city since 1901.

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“I’m The One”

“The irrepressible backstop [Welington Castillo] homered again to give the hosts a 7-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 45,416 at Camden Yards. This time, it was a three-run home run in the seventh inning that erased the possibility of another bullpen-generated loss.” ~ The Baltimore Sun

May 20, 2017    |    Orioles – 7   Blue Jays – 5

The irrepressible backstop …

Embed from Getty Images

Welington Castillo

I’m not sure when the past becomes history. Yesterday? A week ago? How much time has to pass before we call it history?

Do you remember Saturday, May 20?

I do.

I mean, I didn’t at the time think I’d need to remember it. But, I remember it now.

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The Thing About Sign Stealing

“I don’t suppose that it is strictly sportsmanlike, but baseball is a strenuous game, and there are times when a man may feel sorely tempted.” – Detroit Tigers Manager Bill Armour, 1906

“Dishonest signal stealing might be defined as obtaining information by artificial aids. The honest methods are those requiring cleverness of eye, mind, and hand, without outside assistance.” – Hall of Fame Pitcher Christy Mathewson, 1912

Steal a base and you’re a star, steal a sign and you’re a cheater.

Explain that to me.

In August, the New York Yankees snitched on the Boston Red Sox who were stealing signs, using Apple watches to signal the Yankees catcher’s signs to the Red Sox dugout.

Spitball!

Here’s what I don’t get.

A Red Sox staffer, watching the game on video in the clubhouse, decodes a sign from the Yankees catcher, texts it to the Apple watch of a trainer in the dugout, who gives the message to a nearby player, who signals to the Red Sox runner on second, who relays the pitch by some signal or other to the batter.

Like this?

They had time to do all that? Maybe the game really is that slow.

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Artie!

Look, I’m not one to tell you what to do with your Labor Day Monday. You worked hard for this day off. You should enjoy every single minute of it.

If you think napping in a hammock is the best way to celebrate, then, hey, I’m not going to tell you to do anything different.

Really? Hammock napping? That’s the best you can do?

What if it rains?

Here.

Here’s what you should do with your Labor Day Monday.

Watch Artie Lewicki make his big league debut with the Detroit Tigers.

Embed from Getty Images

Artie Lewicki pitching for Virginia in 2014

Last week, the Tigers traded Cy-Young-pitcher-with-the-hot-model-girlfriend Justin Verlander and a boatload of cash to the Houston Astros for a handful of prospects (none of whom was rookie outfielder Derek Fisher, so I immediately lost interest in whatever prospects the Astros gave up).

Into Verlander’s spot in the Tiger’s rotation? University of Virginia alum Artie Lewicki, who will make his big league debut, getting his call up from the AAA Toledo Mud Hens.

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The Dangers Of Poetry

On July 17, I wrote you a poem.

I hadn’t written poetry since, oh, since Junior High. It wasn’t very good poetry, but the words rhymed, so I’m not sure why you expected anything better out of me. The words rhymed. It was a poem.

On July 17, I wrote you a poem and six hours later I was sick.

Sick, for real, with a 101 fever and chills and visions of this finally being the end and well, I had a good run. (I occasionally overreact in cases of high fever. High fever panic commences for me at about 98.9.)

The New York Times, 4/6/1925

On April 5, 1925, Babe Ruth collapsed with a fever, infection, and an abscess in his gut. But, not before hitting two home runs in a spring training game. He’d been running a temp through spring training and didn’t rejoin the Yankees for eight weeks.

I am here today, recovered after 16 days with an obnoxious summer virus, to tell you five truths about illness.

One. Babe Ruth clearly was much tougher than me.

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Welcome To The Club

The Baltimore Orioles were “Sweep … Swept … Swupt” by the Cubs this weekend. They were clobbered. Drubbed. Smooshed. Crushed. Laid to waste.

This morning, the O’s are nine games back in the AL East and tied for last (Good morning, last-mate Blue Jays!). They are seven games under .500.

The Orioles’ starting rotation’s ERA is 6.02 which is nearly the worst in baseball (thank you, Reds starters, whose 6.04 ERA has kept the O’s pitchers out of last place. At least for now).

How will I know it’s over? I’ll know it’s over when the beat writers headline their morning wrap-up “Available Orioles” … when fans hashtag their O’s tweets with #DumpsterFire and #Sell … and when in-the-knowsters like Ken Rosenthal name the teams that, like hungry dogs, are circling the Orioles looking for players.

(Uh-oh.)

I wrote a poem for you.

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“Ain’t Baseball Great?”

The Baltimore Orioles have used the same insipid tagline on their television commercials for years now. (I want to say 60 years, but, well, at least the last couple seasons.)

“Ain’t Baseball Great?”

Today, with the Orioles five games under .500 and in last place in the AL East, every time that stupid, tired, old commercial, with its obnoxiously cheery, “Ain’t Baseball Great?” comes on … even if I’m not paying attention, even if I’m in the other room, even if I’m half asleep, I answer. Because only a shmoo doesn’t answer when someone asks them a question.

“Ain’t Baseball Great?”

“Ain’t it?”

For God’s sake, stop torturing me.

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Happy Birthday, George

George Mullin was born on the 4th of July, 1880, in Toledo, Ohio.

He was a pitcher. A righty. Mostly for the Detroit Tigers (1902-1913), with a few other seasons with a few other teams scattered in after that, and ending in 1915.

He was six feet tall and his weight hovered around 200 pounds, so people called him Big George. He struggled with his weight and was often reprimanded for being out of shape.

He was 32 when he took the mound for Detroit – the second game of a double-header with the St. Louis Browns – on his birthday, July 4, 1912.

This was no marquee matchup. The Tigers were a game under .500 (36-37), while the poor, poor Browns (who today are the poor, poor Orioles) had won only 19 games, losing 49, and were well-mired in last place.

1912 Detroit Tigers. (George Mullin is in the back row, far right. Directly in front of him sits Ty Cobb.)

Things hadn’t been going well for Mullin in 1912 either. Age and weight had taken their toll and he was not in great shape.

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“Gateway To The Majors”

“Within the ball park, time moves differently, marked by no clock except the events of the game. This is the unique, unchangeable feature of baseball and perhaps explains why this sport, for all the enormous changes it has undergone … remains somehow rustic, unviolent, and introspective. …

“Baseball’s time is seamless and invisible, a bubble within which players move at exactly the same pace and rhythms as all their predecessors.” 

~ Roger Angell

Baseball keeps me close.

It keeps me close to my dad who didn’t even really like baseball, but it keeps me there nevertheless whenever I hear Vin Scully’s voice (less often now) or see a Dodger’s logo. Even though my dad’s been gone for years.

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