Friday, March 9, 2012

Why I’m a Little Optimistic

This year is the 20th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  It is hard to believe it has been twenty years.  Think back to all the hope and excitement we had back then.  The Birds were going to soar to new heights.  And they did…for a while.

By now you might be thinking this is going to be another piece about all the losing seasons…the empty seats at Oriole Park…or the lack of this and that in the clubhouse.  It isn’t.  The arm-chair managers have all said that more than we care to listen.

Instead, I’m a little optimistic about this upcoming season and it is not because we have a new GM or new acquisitions in the clubhouse.  I’m optimistic because we have seen this before.  I want to offer a little hope about what this season could be.  Hope, that is, if you are just a little superstitious.

At the end of the 1991 season the Orioles left Memorial Stadium.  The team went 67-95, scored only 686 runs and allowed 796.  They were 6th in the A.L. East.  Fast forward twenty years.  The 2011 Orioles were 69-93, scored 708 runs and allowed 860.  The Birds were 5th in the A.L. East.  On paper, the numbers were quite the same.

But the 1991 Orioles had some big names on their roster.  Cal Ripken, Chris Hoiles, Brady Anderson, David Segui, Mike Mussina…all were part of that losing team.  But they had potential. 

The following year the Orioles went 89-73.  They finished third in the A.L East and were only 7 games back of first place at the end of the season.  And that is the beauty of baseball.  The fortunes of any team can change from season to season.  Losers one year can be playoff contenders the next.  The lineup in 1992 hadn’t changed much in an off-season but the team certainly had.

I’m not looking at 2012 as another year of the same ol’- same ol’.  Instead, I’m looking for that same magic that took a losing team in 1991 and made it a winning team in 1992.  That Oriole Magic that might make this 20th anniversary a real year to celebrate.

Shawn Herne is the Chief Curator for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


As a kid growing up in northern New York and southern Quebec in the 1970s and 1980s I was a Montreal Expos fan.  There weren’t a lot of us, but we still loved our team.  Gary Carter was my favorite.  He was “the Kid” and I thought he was amazing behind the plate.

During those years I also loved auto racing.  Formula One driver Ayrton Senna was my hero.  I couldn’t wait for my family’s annual trip to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal to see the cars race.  Senna was “the Brilliant Brazilian.”  He was incredible behind the wheel of a car…faster than anybody else.  I was probably his biggest fan.

On May 1, 1994 Senna was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix.  The steering on his car broke and he hit the wall.  A piece of the suspension pierced his helmet.  As I stared at the television as the medical crews tried to save him I knew it was over.  My hero just died before my eyes.  A piece of my childhood was over.

It is odd the deep bonds we develop with our favorite athletes.  As kids we know everything about them, we dream of being like them, we hope to follow in their footsteps.  It is hero worship in its purest form.  We are crushed when they are traded, saddened when they retire, and mournful when they pass away.

In 1986, I felt that way about Gary Carter.  I couldn’t believe he was going to the Mets!  Not the Mets!  I was angry!  I was betrayed!  But he had a stellar career there and deserved to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I was proud he went in as an Expo.

Today I’m a little sad…not just because another one of my childhood heroes is gone, but because a great man of only 57 years has left us.  His battle with cancer was probably more heroic than any of his accomplishments on the ball field. 

I never met him, personally, but he was still a part of my childhood.  He was a great player.  Thanks for the memories, Gary…and thanks for giving a kid in northern New York a hero to follow!

Shawn Herne is the Chief Curator for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc.