Exactly twenty nine years ago a Baltimore sports fanatic was brought into this world and today as I reflect on all of the amazing Baltimore sports moments that have defined my life I thought I would make a list. I have live and died with all of our local teams for as long as I knew what sports were and as I stare down thirty I began to run through all of the great memories I have from my first twenty nine years.
1. January. 28, 2001 The Ravens crush the Giants 34-17 to win Super Bowl XXXV
This is a no-brainer; no moment has been more emotional or exhilarating as watching a team that nobody else in America was rooting for bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Baltimore. Up until this point I had never experienced the sheer magnitude of what a major championship can mean to a city. I remember standing out on Bel Air Road waving a huge Ravens flag and having people stop in the middle of the street to give me high fives and hugs. I remember the sounds of honking horns on Bel Air Road late into the night and how I couldn’t sleep at all that night. For one night Baltimore wasn’t filled with blacks and whites, rich and poor but Ravens fans.
The most memorable moment of the game for me (besides my buddy Sweet Lexx passing out under a beer pong table before halftime) was when “J-Lew” returned the kickoff after Giants kick returner Ron Dixon had just returned the previous kickoff to cut the Ravens lead to ten. That play ended any hopes of a Giants comeback and I knew the Ravens were going to be Super Bowl champions.
I still get goose bumps to this day anytime I see Ray Lewis’ face as he wore his Super Bowl Champion hat and had streamers falling all around him. I have never seen a man appreciate an accomplishment more or more fully understand the obstacles he had overcome to reach his dream.
2. April. 1, 2001 Juan Dixon leads the Terps to a 64-52 win over Indiana to win the National Championship
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for that Maryland team because I went to Calvert Hall with Juan Dixon. It was such an amazing feeling to watch Juan go from an unheralded local recruit to leading the Terps to their first National Championship. Juan was the embodiment of a person attaining their dreams through hard work and determination. I can still vividly remember walking into CHC in the mornings before school and seeing Juan shooting jumpers in the gym as I was on my way to the café to stuff my face with pancakes.
3. September. 6, 1995 2131
No number immediately brings to mind so many great memories and stories than 2131. I remember being huddled around my television set with a bunch of my friends, all of us with tears in our eyes as a 1 dropped down to replace the 0 on the banner on the warehouse revealing 2131.
That September night had it all; Cal’s home run in the fourth, a 22 minute standing ovation, Bobby Bonilla and Rafael Palmeiro pushing Cal out of the dugout, and of course the unforgettable victory lap around the field. Never have I felt more pride in my city than that night watching the kid from Aberdeen become baseball’s true Ironman.
4. September. 1, 1996 Mr. Modell come to Baltimore
I was three years old when the Colts were taken from Baltimore so I never had any idea the passion a city has for an NFL team. Well on the first day of September Baltimore became an official NFL city again after having the NFL spit in our faces for well over a decade. At the time it seemed like such a weird idea for Baltimore to have an NFL team again; little did I know all of the joy and excitement I would be in store for from that day forward.
For what it is worth I would like to thank the entire Modell family for allowing me to experience all of the happiness their team has brought me; and I would also like to apologize for all of the humiliation and anguish Mr. Modell has gone through by bringing Baltimore such an amazing gift.
5. August. 6, 1998 Elrod extends his hand to a local kid
Juan Guzman was one of my favorite players in baseball in the mid to late nineties, so when the Orioles traded Shannon Carter and Nerio Rodriguez to the Blue Jays for the hurler I was over the moon. I remember going down to Camden Yards early that day just so I could get a glimpse of Guzman warming up in the bullpen. For reasons that are still unknown to me to this day Elrod Hendricks noticed me and asked if I wanted to come down to the bullpen and watch Guzman continue to warm-up.
I will never forget the kindness or the attention Elrod showed me that day; in between talking to Guzman, Elrod would walk over to me and give me pointers and simply talk baseball with me. I will never forget that day for the rest of my life and every time from that day forward when I would walk down to the railing before the game Elrod would always say hi and remember my name…a simple act that Elrod would never know meant so much to me.
I still maintain the fact that it is a crime that Elrod’s number is not retired and there is no permanent commemoration of the 37 years he dedicated to the Orioles and the city of Baltimore. Elrod is the greatest one on one ambassador in the history of the Orioles and left more than his fair share of kids with stories like these.
As for Guzman he was traded a year to the day later for a player who would become my favorite Oriole for years to come, B.J. Ryan.
This city and its sports teams have given me so many great memories that I love to talk about whenever possible and look forward to sharing with my children. Baltimore, it’s been one hell of a first twenty nine years and I can’t wait to see what we have in store for us in the next twenty nine.