it all up in Game 6.
I’m embarrassed to say it, but I never did break out that bubble P, Richie Ashburn hat that week, even though I found it going through some old junk to write this crazy story!
For the first weekend, I drove to Toronto with three friends: Bill “Swish” Morrison (a walking encyclopedia of sports trivia…think Stump The Schwab!), lifer Dundalk pal John Rafalides, whose dad Pete, hooked me up for Game 2 of the ALCS in 1983 and that magical Mike Boddicker night and my stock broker, Dave Miller. We almost hit a deer on the road on I-83 near York but we drove all night, stayed in one hotel room and saw Games 1 and 2.
You cannot imagine the feeling in my nervous system as I stood on the field at the Skydome in Toronto. There was Dave Winfield, Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter to my left, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk and Darren Daulton ready to take BP to my right. All the lights were on, the place was packed, the energy was incredible and I was at the World Series.
It was, in a word, surreal for a 25-year overgrown kid from Dundalk who was fighting to get a ticket in 1983 and sneaking down to the dugout well at Memorial Stadium to take pictures of the same Phillies team that “Dutch” Daulton played two games with 10 years earlier. (Even though he was a September call-up in ’83, he did dress next to Schmidt, Morgan, Carlton and Rose, right?)
I went on to the three games in Philadelphia and even slipped out of the rain delay of that crazy Game 4 that Toronto won 15-14, to see Madonna perform across the street at the Spectrum.
And when Curt Schilling pitched a five-hit shutout in Game 5 to send the series back to Toronto, I got BACK in the car with a friend and headed back to Canada for two potential games.
We drove all day and arrived in time for the game, and Joe Carter’s jumping, leaping home run ball landed about 50 feet below me in the bullpen. The crowd went crazy, we ran for the exits and that town went plum crazy.
We walked out of the Skydome and across the lake fireworks were going off everywhere. Horns were honking, alarms were going off, fireworks were shooting throughout the city and here I was, was pulling my Phillies jersey off so I could avoid trouble. But I got to see firsthand — for the first time in my life — what a victory celebration looks like in a big city.
And I got to see what having a major sports franchise can do to a community when the stars align just right.
It was inspiring, and I HATED the Blue Jays and had since the “Why Not?”1989 Gregg Olson meltdown on that very Skydome turf.
I hated Cito Gaston for what he did (or didn’t do?) to Mike Mussina in the All Star Game three months earlier. I had actually printed and sold a few “CITO SUCKS” shirts in my time around the ballpark that summer.
So, the Blue Jays I had no use for. But they were a class organization to deal with. Nice employees, nice people, nice fans around the stadium. Just civil, decent Canadian folk, you know “kinder and gentler” so to speak.
And that party on Yonge Street that night swept my friend and I up into a whirlwind of excitement.
Bars blaring music, people taking to the streets, beer, revelry, excitement, hugs, high fives — the stuff people here in Baltimore have had eight chances to experience. The Colts won three titles, the Orioles have won three titles, the Bullets won once and the Ravens did their magic five years ago.
No disrespect to the Blast or the Terps, but trust me the streets didn’t shut down and everything doesn’t stop when they’ve won their recent titles. It just doesn’t, and I need only remind you of Jan. 28, 2001 and the madness on the open streets of this city to approximate what I’m talking about here.
It was Christmas, New Year’s, the millennium, the end of a war, a graduation and wedding and a birthday party all rolled into one.
Right? Don’t you think?
And that’s what’s missing from the BALTIMORE Orioles right now and has been for a long time.
The chance to soak in that feeling that I saw everyone have on Yonge Street in Toronto that night.