What Free The Birds Means to Me

May 13, 2010 | Erich Hawbaker

               I originally wrote this a couple years ago, and I thought now was a good time to republish it. Hope to see you all on Monday night!

 

If there’s one thing an Orioles fan knows, it’s how to cope with heartaches. We still remember how we started 0-21 and went on to lose 107 games in 1988, and then a year later spent most of the season in first place and missed the playoffs by a single game in 1989. We still remember how a 12-year-old kid from the Bronx leaned over the wall and turned an out into a homerun, stealing our trip to the World Series in 1996 (and, as though to rub salt in an open wound, was proclaimed a hero by the New York media). We still remember how we spent the first half of 2005 in first place, only to see everything fall apart when Rafael Palmiero was accused of using steroids the week after he got his 3000th hit.

And for the last twelve consecutive years, we’ve watched our team perpetually sit at the bottom of the AL East under the inept ownership of Peter Angelos. We’ve watched this regime fire Jon Miller and Davey Johnson, lose Mike Mussina, sign jerks like Albert Belle and Sammy Sosa, and nonchalantly trade away talented prospects like John Maine for far less than their worth. We’ve seen our team go from one of the most respected organizations in baseball to one of the most laughed at; and through it all, we’ve seen our owner not seem to care that we’re in a tailspin. Many once-loyal fans have longsince abandoned the Birds, fed up with the chronic losing by the team and the total lack of desire to do anything about it by the ownership.

Those who remain are longing for the return of a day when being an Orioles fan is once again a thing to be proud of rather than pitied for. And we know that that will never happen as long as Peter Angelos is the owner of the club. Therefore, out of desperation, we found it necessary to stand up and walk out on the team on September 5, 2006. It was not an easy thing to do, but none of us regret it. Baseball fans everywhere saw what we did and sympathized with us. Sports journalists across the country acknowledged our plight and the legitimacy of our cause. And Peter Angelos himself finally had to acknowledge our unrest. Out of sheer embarrassment, he attempted to improve the team, but this has only been a further testament to his ineptitude. The lackluster at best efforts that were made in the last offseason only proved something that many of us already knew- that our reputation within baseball has been so damaged by the current administration that many quality players will not come here no matter how much we offer them. Therefore, we can have no hope of reclaiming our former glory until Peter Angelos is gone.

What the Orioles need is a renaissance; a complete transformation where the dark age and all its mistakes are swept away. That’s what Free The Birds is all about- making right again that which has gone so terribly wrong. Those among us with the perseverance to stand by our team through thirteen years of sheer calamity have the resolve to keep fighting until this battle is won. We are not losers, and we expect nothing less from our team and their owner. And until the Orioles start winning, we’re not going away.

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