On Friday’s edition of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST, Thyrl Nelson and I celebrated Sunday’s Cooperstown Hall of Fame inductions of Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick with a four hour tribute to the 1996 & 1997 Baltimore Orioles.
During the show, I named my Top 10 moments during that special run in O’s history. As I explained last week, these Birds represented “The Only Magic I’ve Ever Known.”
(I didn’t include Jeffrey Maier or the season ending games in either season on this list. These were the memories we WANT to remember.)
10. Ripken passes Kinugasa (June 15, 1996)
When Cal Ripken played in his 2,216th consecutive game in Kansas City, he already owned the record for consecutive games played.
If he had stopped at 2,210 consecutive games, there would have been no argument that he didn’t hold the record.
With no offense to Sachio Kinugasa, but nothing that happens in Japan can be fairly compared to anything in Major League Baseball. When Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig in 1995, the record was his.
That being said, the fact that Kinugasa was able to attend the game at Kauffman Stadium made the warm June night pretty special. The evident connection between the two men made the night even more fun for baseball fans.
If you ever get the chance to chat with CSNBaltimore.com writer (and longtime Baltimore Sun columnist) John Eisenberg about this night, please do. The stories are a LOT of fun. I’d tell you myself, but they aren’t my stories.
9. Mussina NEARLY perfect (May 30, 1997)
I have never been more captivated by watching a baseball game than I was that Friday night.
At the time, Home Team Sports (HTS) was still a premium channel on Comcast in Baltimore County. Friday night games however were regularly available over the air (most on WNUV 54), allowing 8th graders like myself to sit at home and watch the games instead of hanging out with our friends.
I’ll never forgive Sandy Alomar for the hit that he managed off Mike Mussina in the 9th inning that night. His brother is my baseball idol, but his name is evil in my mind.
There’s been only one Orioles no-hitter in my lifetime (a combined effort from Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson in 1991), never a solo no-hitter. I’ve seen the Orioles no-hit themselves a couple of times, but I’ve never seen an Orioles pitcher throw a no-no.
I really thought I was going to that night.
8. Wire to wire (September 25, 1997)
With their 9-3 defeat of the Blue Jays at the building formerly known as SkyDome, the O’s clinched their first AL East title since 1983.
More significantly, they became only the sixth team in MLB history to win the division title going “wire to wire”, in first place from Opening Day to Game 162.
It was a remarkable run for the Birds, although 14 year old Glenn Clark may not have fully realized how significant it was because he was too worried about playoff matchups and hoping to avoid the Yankees in the ALCS.
He got his way. Unfortunately it didn’t end up making much of a difference.
7. Brady gets 50 (September 29, 1996)
The legacy of Brady Anderson’s 50 home run season in 1996 can certainly be labeled as “clouded” at best.
That being said, whether the 50 home run campaign (which concluded with a dinger on the season’s final day in Toronto) was aided by substance or simply a result of a former leadoff hitter “reaching his athletic opus”, it still stands as the only time in Orioles history a player has reached the mark.
(Frank Robinson previously held the team record with 49.)
Despite the rumors, following Brady’s home run exploits in 1996 was fun for Orioles fans-especially the stretch were he lead off four straight games by going yard.
And no matter how we felt about it, there’s little chance the Orioles make a run to the ALCS in 1996 without those 50 home runs.
6. A walk off slam (May 17, 1996)
Anderson’s “moment” was a season in the making. The Ripken “moment” was nearly 14 years in the making.
Hoiles’ “moment”? Roughly one swing in the making.
The Orioles trailed the Seattle Mariners 13-10 in the 9th inning. What happened next was something I had practiced in my back yard roughly 160,000,000,000 times.
With two outs, the bases loaded and a 3-2 count (of COURSE it was a 3-2 count), Chris Hoiles hit what can only be described as the MOST ultimate of “ultimate grand slams.”
Thank God I hadn’t stopped watching that night.