5. Emotional heroics from Eric Davis (October 14, 1997)
After the debacles in Games 3 & 4 of the 1997 American League Championship Series, I don’t think I would have been surprised had the Orioles left Jacobs Field 4-1 losers and out of the playoffs.
Instead, the Orioles got solid pitching from Scott Kamienicki and Jimmy Key and a clutch solo HR from Davis in the 9th (which turned out to be the winning run) to pick up a 4-2 victory over the Tribe and send the series back to Camden Yards.
The home run had an additional emotional value as Davis had fought his way back from a battle with colon cancer to rejoin the team that season.
While the O’s would sadly go on to fall in Game 6 of the series, the emotional value of the game winner left some Orioles fans feeling as though their was a cosmic alignment for the Orioles to win.
4. Playoffs again FINALLY (September 28, 1996)
It couldn’t have been a stranger scenario that took the Orioles back to the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.
One night earlier, Roberto Alomar had spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck and had been suspended for five games-although he played while the suspension was appealed.
Before the game, Hirschbeck attempted to confront Alomar in the clubhouse and had to be restrained. Because of his outburst he sat out the game.
After the controversy, Alomar came through (he always did) with a 10th inning home run to clinch the organization’s only ever Wild Card berth.
The Orioles are now mired in a playoff drought (14 seasons) even longer than the one that ended that September. If only this team had a Roberto Alomar to provide heroics…
3. Jeff Reboulet? Jeff Reboulet? (October 5, 1997)
Even with a dominant lefty like Randy Johnson on the mound, it still felt strange to see career utilityman Jeff Reboulet in the lineup instead of Alomar, who was limited to left handed hitting due to a shoulder injury.
Thankfully manager Davey Johnson knew more than Perry Hall High School freshman Glenn Clark about how to put together a lineup.
Reboulet (who hit just 20 home runs in a MLB career that spanned more than a decade) crushed a home run and Mike Mussina was brilliant as the Birds topped the Mariners in Game 4 to win their second straight American League Division Series (ALDS).
I still can’t believe it ever happened.
2. Mr. 500 (September 6, 1996)
On my 12th birthday, Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record with his 2,131st consecutive game played.
On my 13th birthday, Eddie Murray hit his 500th career home run.
It was a pretty good run for me.
It’s a shame Eddie’s 3,000th hit came while he was wearing a Cleveland Indians jersey, but it was really special to see him return to Baltimore in time to crush his 500th homer. It was even more special that it came while he was playing in games
1. Robby plays hero (October 5, 1996)
It might not be everyone’s most significant memory of these teams, but it was certainly mine.
I’ve always said that what made Roberto Alomar such a great player was that whenever the team needed anything, he was the man to provide the answer.
Roberto Alomar provided the most significant answer of the 1996 season when he crushed a 12th inning home run off of Jose Mesa to lift the Orioles to the ALCS.
If the Orioles don’t beat the Indians in Game 4, it’s hard to imagine they would have been able to stop a losing streak in a Game 5 situation at Jacobs Field.
They didn’t have to worry about it. Robby was the hero.
For those teams, he always was.
Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…