It has been 30 years since the Baltimore Orioles won a World Series. Since then, the Orioles have only made the playoffs three times. The first was in 1996 when I was five years old, the second a year later in 1997, and the third this past season. Even though the majority of my childhood was spent watching the Orioles lose, I remember it as a great time for Baltimore baseball because of the success of Cal Ripken Jr. But it doesn’t take a historian to realize that this was clearly not an era of great Orioles baseball.
The closest I’ve come to great baseball is through the stories my father has told me. During his childhood in Baltimore, the Orioles made four World Series appearances in six years, winning two. These stories seemed more like mythology than history.
I was born in 1992, the year the Orioles moved out of historic Memorial Stadium to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Oriole Park is one of the best places to watch baseball, but home to one of the worst teams. As the Orioles continued their newly acquired tradition of failure, the excitement created by the new stadium soon wore off. The people of Baltimore now use a trip to Camden Yards as an excuse to drink or to pick up a free shirt rather than to watch their team.
To my generation of fans, the notion of the Orioles competing for a playoff spot, let alone a World Series, is as foreign a thought as the Indianapolis Colts moving back to Baltimore. Winning baseball is something that happened in the past and seems like it will never happen again.
But does it have to be this way? There has to be some hope, right?
As part of a generation of fans deprived from a tradition of winning, I often wonder what keeps me coming back. I would like to think that by now, after years of disappointment, I would have learned my lesson. But every April I think to myself “Maybe this is the year.”
For the past 15 years April has been a month of hope and May a month of reality. At this point in my life I’m hoping to see the Orioles win not only for my generation, but also for the generation who grew up after Ripken.
The 20th anniversary of Camden Yards and last year’s unexpected playoff run has revived fan interest in the club and the Orioles’ storied past. The addition of commemorative National Bohemian beer cans and events honoring Orioles Hall of Famers have brought a refreshing sense of pride for fans of every generation. Maybe this will be our year to rally around the past in hopes for a better future and make the dreams of Oriole magic into a reality.
JR Schlachman is a contributing writer. Email him at [email protected]