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.