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June 18 was a long, long time ago to this O's fan

August 11, 2005|by ANDY MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

This column might have been the furthest thing from my mind on June 18, as I sat a few rows behind the Orioles' dugout and a few inches behind a cold Miller Lite, enjoying a fine summer night at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Had this column even crossed my mind, I would have thought that, if nothing else, I could at least write about the O's battling for the American League East title and their first playoff berth since 1997.

Man, the summer has flown by. June 18 seems like a long, long time ago.

That night, Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa each homered and Sidney Ponson pitched seven strong innings for the victory as the O's coasted past the Colorado Rockies to take a three-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East.

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Little did I know then that Tejada and Sosa would each go an entire month before homering again, that the sweet-swinging first baseman with the thick mustache would get busted for steroids, that Lee Mazzilli would be unemployed before the first high school football practice and that Ponson still would be searching for his next win.

That's the only O's game I've been to this season. I thought for sure I'd at least be back in October.

Everything looked so promising on June 18. No beer or bag of peanuts seemed overpriced that night.

We O's fans have paid our dues. Apparently, more still are owed.

Baltimore begins today 11 games behind Boston in the A.L. East and is about as many games back in the Wild Card.

Where did it all go so wrong?

I spent the season's first three months agonizing over each and every O's loss, even when they were in first place, playing the what-if game over and over in my head. Like, what if Steve Kline had worked out a little bit harder in the off-season so his jiggling fat rolls wouldn't have caused the winning run to be balked in against Kansas City on May 8? The O's blowing a 6-1 lead at home vs. Detroit on May 29 and David Ortiz's walkoff homer against B.J. Ryan on June 2 at Boston were equally infuriating.

I've taken so many blows over the past few weeks, though, that I now can't keep track of where they're coming from or even who's throwing them. I've become numb.

But I still haven't thrown in the towel. There are 49 games left. And I understand that the thick mustache with the sweet swing will be back in the lineup either tonight or Friday. Maybe he has enough juice left in those old muscles of his to help turn this thing around.




Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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