As we approach the start of the 20th season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, I take a look back at the top 20 moments in the history of the ballpark. Selected moments had to relate directly to the action on the field at the time. No orchestrated events such as World Series anniversary celebrations or Orioles Hall of Fame inductions were eligible.
16. Baltimore Buck – Aug. 3, 2010
It was a four-month long nightmare that extended far beyond the misery experienced over the course of 13 consecutive losing seasons.
The 2010 season crashed with a 2-16 start and claimed manager Dave Trembley’s job in early June with the Orioles holding an embarrassing 15-39 mark. Fortunes didn’t improve much under interim manager Juan Samuel over the next two months as the Orioles appeared destined to top the 1988 club’s record for futility (54-107). Meanwhile, president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail dragged out the search for a permanent field general, leaving players and fans to ponder a plethora of candidates.
As the calendar turned to August and the season’s final two months, former Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers manager Buck Showalter was chosen to stop the bleeding and oversee a sinking ship over the season’s final 57 games. The Orioles stood at 32-73 on Aug. 2 when Showalter was introduced to the Baltimore media prior to a seven-game homestand, but he failed to accept the black cloud hovering over Camden Yards.
“Because a club has struggled for so long, everyone thinks everything there is bad,” he said. “That’s not the case here. There are a lot of good things, and I’ve done my homework.”
Making his Baltimore debut against the Los Angeles Angels, Showalter’s every move — from walking out the lineup card to home plate to mildly questioning a call in the middle of the game — earned enthusiastic applause from the announced 16,723 fans at Camden Yards.
The victory-challenged Orioles won 6-3 thanks to a long two-run homer by Luke Scott. When Alfredo Simon struck out Howie Kendrick to end the ballgame, the 54-year-old skipper clapped from the top step of the dugout when the game ended, allowing his new players to enjoy the spotlight of a result that had come so rarely that season.
It was a fresh start, and what many fans currently hope was the turning point of a 13-year stretch of incompetence in Baltimore.
“Everybody, including me, is thirsting for good things to happen,” Showalter said after his first win as Orioles manager. “It’s one day, one game, but it was fun.”
The fun would continue over the final two months as the Orioles closed a once-forgettable season with a 34-23 mark, the best record in the American League East over that stretch. Showalter earned two more victories than Trembley and Samuel combined after each man managed roughly a third of the season.
Whether it was Showalter’s fresh, experienced perspective (the Orioles’ previous four managers had been first-timers), Brian Roberts’ return, the vastly improved starting pitching, or simply the effect of a group of players sick of losing, the Orioles looked like a different team compared to the lifeless group that moped in the clubhouse and seemingly did everything it took to lose over the first four months of the season.
“When he came, everybody knew his past and then nobody wanted to get on his bad side,” center fielder Adam Jones said following the season. “I think everybody not necessarily played harder, [but] they just played smarter.”
Much like Matt Wieters’ debut (No. 20 on the list), we won’t know the full impact of Showalter for a few years. He won’t be the one swinging a bat or delivering a pitch, but his leadership and attention to detail command respectability for an organization viewed as a laughingstock for the better part of 15 years.
Will Buck lead the Orioles back to glory? It’s hard to say.
But his debut — and the two months that followed — sure beat any baseball seen in this city in a long time.