SEASON COMING. And we’re NEVER getting an NFL team. Can I sell you some advertising in April? In May? In June?”
Nice sell, huh?
Do you know how many concerned friends and loved ones came up to me in January? February? March? And they said: “What in the WORLD are you going to talk about if they don’t play?”
But even when they finally came back — and I remember being in a crappy hotel room in Sarasota during the April mini-spring training of 1995 and welcoming the very millionaires who almost put me on the street and ended my livelihood — they were welcomed with a big hug and a “welcome back.”
Hell, I wasn’t ANGRY. I WAS HAPPY! They were back, baseball was back, the Orioles had a chance and I got to keep eating and talking about sports for a living.
I loved baseball too much to let a silly strike get in the way. And what choice did I have in the summer of 1995?
The NFL was so far on the backburner — outside of John Moag’s office at the Maryland Stadium Authority — that it was unmentionable, unthinkable that the league was returning here.
Baseball was our only choice, our only outlet for true civic pride. And we didn’t mind sharing the team with Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.
The city of Baltimore had them first and if sharing them meant we could have a better team and a better ballpark and a better tax base, then we were all for it.
Especially for fans like me, who had seen the bloodletting this franchise went through and STILL prospered from in the late 1970′s when Don Baylor, Bobby Grich, Reggie Jackson, Wayne Garland, Doug DeCinces rolled out because they got more money from a richer team, usually in New York or California.
We WERE the richer team, and that felt DAMN good!
OUR CITY had the Orioles, we had our traditions, we had Cal Ripken’s streak run coming in September, we had a new fabulously wealthy Greek immigrant owner with nothing but local roots and love for his hometown. We had the money to buy whatever player we wanted and EVERYONE wanted to play in that charming little city of Baltimore.
And, more than ANYTHING, we had Oriole Park at Camden Yards — the pride and showpiece not only of the BALTIMORE Orioles, but of Major League Baseball in general.
Not even a vicious strike that killed baseball in one city and has never been the same in a dozen more, could daze the baseball monster that Baltimore had become by 1995.