OUT NUMBER ONE
How many of us can remember where we were at this time a week ago? Chances are, not many of us can remember that right away.
So here’s the question.
Where were you at this time…14 years ago?
If you’re even remotely a baseball fan – let alone an Orioles fan – you know. Here is my answer:
Today marks the 14th anniversary of Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games played. Thanks to some quick thinking by my mother when the Strike was settled at the beginning of the 1995 season, we were there in our usual bleacher seats for both the record-tying and record-breaking games against the California Angels (a name which encompasses both Los Angeles and Anaheim and seems much simpler than their current one).
It’s been said many times by much better writers than me, but it was a magical two nights at Camden Yards with the world’s spotlight on Baltimore. There were the legends who I only knew from books and old photos: Earl Weaver, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio. I remember when I went to see Paul McCartney many years later, someone on the Verizon Center escalator in front of me exclaimed with no lack of awe that he was in the same building as a Beatle. Looking back, being in the same ballpark as Joe DiMaggio brought that same surreal feeling.
There was Johnny Unitas, the only man whose ovation would ever rival Cal’s in Baltimore. There was Gary Williams, Joe Smith and David Robinson. There was Joan Jett, which made no sense to 10-year-old-me whatsoever. There were the Clintons and the Gores.
But most importantly to me, there was Cal, doing what those of us in Baltimore knew he could do, but no one else had believed possible until the days leading up to those games. I can’t imagine that any Baltimorean who grew up during the Iron Age will ever develop osteoporosis. Cal’s Milk ads made sure I was binge drinking on Nesquik years before I knew what Natty Boh was.
Over the past 14 years, I have been to raucous Maryland/Duke games in Comcast and Cameron. I saw two different Terp teams win National Championships in person. I sat courtside for the epic UConn/George Mason regional final in 2006. I have been to Orioles and Ravens playoff games in some of the most frenzied atmospheres you’ll ever see. But nothing has ever come close to matching the eruption of noise that exploded from nearly 50,000 people – including the President of the United States – when Cal hit that fourth-inning home run. I wish I could find a better clip of it now, but President Clinton was on the air to call it as it happened.
Of course, everyone remembers the victory lap Cal took around the warning track after the game went official in the fifth inning. Once Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla pushed Cal out of the dugout, I bolted down to the bottom of the aisle, hoping he would somehow scale the wall and slap me a high five. He tried to with a few guys a section over from me, and they nearly fell out of the stands trying to reach. When he passed by me, though, I could have sworn he looked directly at me and waved. I think just about everyone else in the ballpark felt the same way.
Things have changed a lot since then. Somewhere over the course of the last 14 years, the Orioles stopped winning. I think that occurred not long after Peter Angelos wrapped up his post-game speech from 2,131. Give him a mic and maybe the Orioles will be back in the ALCS next October. Outside of Baltimore, baseball stopped developing those legendary figures like Joe DiMaggio and started producing asterisks and steroid freaks.
As it stands now, Cal may be one of the last true heroes of baseball, a guy who played his whole career in one town and bonded with the fans while quietly going to work every day and putting up Hall of Fame numbers. For that alone, baseball fans everywhere will never forget where they were on this day in 1995.
OUT NUMBER TWO
I watched a Maryland team this weekend that went up against a blue-and-yellow football powerhouse in a blowout game that really could have been an even wider margin than it turned out to be. No, not the game you’re thinking of. Maryland won this game. The defending National Champion Maryland field hockey team opened its home schedule with a resounding 4-1 victory over #19 Michigan.
Full disclosure, first off. I worked with the Maryland field hockey team last season as they plowed through the regular season and postseason, winning the ACC and National titles in championship games over Wake Forest. I got to know the players and the coaches, so I do have some interest in seeing the program continue to do well.
But seriously, folks. Just take that to mean that I know what I’m talking about here (for once). This team is gooooood. And the games are exciting stuff. In her 22nd year at the helm, Missy Meharg is looking for her sixth national title, and the seventh for the program overall. After graduating four seniors last year, including the National Player of the Year Susie Rowe, the Terps have reloaded with one of the best freshman classes in the nation to go along with fifth-year senior Alicia Grater in goal, junior Katie O’Donnell with two ACC Offensive Player of the Year awards already to her name, and a defense led by All-American Bri Davies. O’Donnell, Davies and senior Alexis Pappas all have played for the U.S. National Team over the past year.
On Sunday, Maryland dominated the first half, outshooting the Wolverines 11-2, but could not solve a determined Michigan defense. Moments after Michigan narrowly missed taking a 1-0 lead early in the second half, though, senior Nicole Muracco – an All-American candidate in her own right and one of Maryland’s most consistent scorers for their last two national championships – found the back of the cage. That just opened the floodgates, as senior Ameliet Rischen added a tally soon after and O’Donnell capped the game off with two physics-defying, sweeping goals from both sides of the cage. On her second score of the game, she deked Michigan goalie Paige Pickett to the ground with a crossover move that would have left Allen Iverson doing a double-take. Meanwhile, the defense let Michigan take just seven shots, with Grater making six impressive saves.
The football Terps are going to be back in action next Saturday evening at 6 p.m. when they take on James Madison at Capital One (formerly Chevy Chase Bank) Field at Byrd Stadium, which suddenly has more names than the California Angels. Before that, the field hockey team will be taking on Penn State at 11 a.m. at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex next to Comcast Center, just steps away from tailgate central in Lots 11 and 9. The games typically are done in less than two hours, which gives you more than five hours to adequately prepare yourself to heckle the third-string left offensive guard for the Dukes (DOOK!?!? WHO SAID DOOK?!? DOOK SUXXXXX). In the meantime, come take in some free Terp action and see a team that looks ready for yet another national championship run.
OUT NUMBER THREE
Last year, the Ravens were arguably one big play away from the Super Bowl. Two years ago, David Tyree made one ridiculously big play that would forever have a place on highlight reels and left him never needing to pay a bartab in the biggest city in America. A grateful nation thanks him for his services that night (maybe not Tommy from Quinzee, but the rest of us). Since then, though, he has done next-to-nothing that would remind us that he is, in fact, an NFL wide receiver. Normally the saying around here is “In Ozzie We Trust.” But if Tyree comes to Baltimore, it may be “In Ed-O We Trust,” as equipment manager Ed Carroll outfits Tyree’s helmet with sticky tape in preparation for that one play that puts the Ravens over the top in 2009.
Today is apparently a big day in Baltimore. Not only is it the anniversary of Cal’s 2,131 (and Eddie Murray’s 500th home run the next season), but it’s also the birthday of our man Glenn Clark, future Hall of Famer and morning show producer extraordinaire. And as if that weren’t enough, it’s the birthday of Stringer Bell himself, Idris Elba. Here’s one of my all-time favorite Stringer scenes from The Wire:
Adjourn your asses.