Be proud of your Orioles allegiance today. Wear your favorite former or current players jersey. Put on your cartoon bird hat (preferably the one with the white panel). Think about all the reasons why you came to love baseball and the Baltimore Orioles. Remember all the great names who brought glory and honor to the franchise. Go ahead. It’s O.K.
Because today we celebrate all that was good and decent about OUR team. When you see Cal inducted this afternoon, with Eddie, Brooks, Frank, Cakes and Earl sharing that same stage, you will definitely be overcome with pride and emotion for all that the Baltimore Orioles meant in this city.
This is not a day to rant against the Angelos Regime and all the problems associated with the past ten years. This is a day to cheer your memories, to bring happiness to us as fans for the simple fact that we loved baseball and still do. Whether or not we ever see another Baltimore Oriole play long enough and well enough to gain entry into those hallowed halls, the fact is we’ve been exceptionally fortunate to have all those previously mentioned people as our own. And they’re forever immortalized that way. As BALTIMORE ORIOLES.
It makes me alternately happy and melancholy. It makes me think of all my years as a fan, from seeing Brooks as a kid to idolizing Eddie from the moment I first saw him take his memorable stance in the batter’s box. It makes me think of Opening Day and watching Palmer and his magnificent delivery, shutting down the Red Sox or Royals on three hits. It makes me think of Earl getting in some poor umpires face and unleashing all the fury that one little man had inside. It makes me think of seeing Cal as a rookie shortstop, making plays defensively and crushing the ball into the gap. It makes me think of seeing the grass at Memorial Stadium, impossibly bright green, and wanting nothing more as a child than to someday play centerfield as an Oriole.
Baseball is the game of our dreams, of our long summers and too-short autumns, of our fathers and grandfathers taking us to a ballgame, of our neighborhood buddies, long since gone from our lives, playing in somebody’s back yard or a close by field, of our youths too quickly passed, of our dreams never realized and our hopes fulfilled only once in a great while, like 1983. Baseball is the quintessential American game, made great by the heroic names and significant numbers that take two decades to compile.
So this afternoon, as you watch a graying, bald Cal Ripken Jr. take his rightful place alongside the immortals of the game, remember him in any way you choose. As the young, athletic shortstop who made you reconsider your notions of the position; as the goodwill ambassador who stayed past midnight signing each and every last autograph, saving the game from its own embarrasment and shame; as the icon who surpassed a supposedly unbreakable record for longevity. Whatever it is, you’ll think of it today as you watch his speech.
So be proud today, Baltimore. Cal belongs to each of us in our own intimate way, as only baseball can provide.
And now, he belongs to the ages.