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Showalter gives Orioles fans something to sing about

August 21, 2010|By TONY MULIERI

It's nice to hear people talking baseball again now that the Baltimore Orioles have turned their fortunes around, at least for now, with the hiring of manager Buck Showalter.

The Orioles have gone 12-7 since Showalter took over. What do you think he could have said to those boys to get them to play better?

It had gotten so bad this season that I was turning the channel to watch the Washington Nationals play, especially when rookie pitching sensation Stephen Strasburg was on the mound.

The season is lost. The Orioles probably will end with one of the worst records in the majors, but it is nice to see them play well, even if it's only for a short time. Who knows, they could become a spoiler down the stretch as they play the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox a number of times.

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But the turnaround in play has awakened a starved baseball crowd that will have withstood 13 consecutive losing seasons once this season ends. Ghosts of seasons past have been on the lips of many as they reminisce about the good old days.

Someone the other day asked me if I remember the time the Orioles had four 20-game winners on the same starting pitching staff in the same season.

Do I remember?

Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and who was that fourth one?

Pat Dobson. I always have trouble remembering Dobson. That was 1971.

The Orioles won the World Series in 1966, 1970 and 1983. They lost the series in 1969, 1971 and 1979. It seemed like we were always there.

In '66, the Orioles beat the Los Angeles Dodgers with the help of Frank Robinson, who the Orioles got in a trade with Cincinnati for pitcher Milt Pappas and two others. At the time, someone said Robinson was "an old 30." Yeah, he was so old, he managed to win the MVP award. He's the only player in major league history to win the MVP award in both the National and American leagues.

And that might just be the last good deal the Orioles made.

Remember Glenn Davis?

In 1991, the Orioles traded outfielder Steve Finley and pitchers Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling for Davis, who proved to be a bust at first base.

Schilling might one day be considered for the Hall of Fame. Finley was named to the All-Star team twice and won five Gold Gloves. Harnisch had two 16-win seasons after leaving Baltimore. There have been other questionable baseball moves, as well, as the Orioles made the transition from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards.

But the Orioles were a proud franchise at one time.

They played baseball "The Oriole Way" by grooming players in the minors and teaching them the basics as they worked their way to the majors. Cal Ripken Jr. probably was the best example of that and might have saved baseball. He broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak the season after a player strike threatened to turn the fans away.

And who can forget manager Earl Weaver, who would rather have a three-run homer than sacrifice a runner over any day of the week. His skirmishes with Palmer in the dugout were legendary.

The Orioles had superstars such as Brooks Robinson, who acted like your next-door neighbor. They had sluggers such as Eddie Murray and Boog Powell to clean the bases. They had glove guys such as Luis Aparicio, Paul Blair, Mark Belanger, Jerry Adair and Ron Hansen.

The two-headed left field play of John Lowenstein (Let it be Lowenstein) and Gary Roenicke in 1983 proved to be a successful platoon system.

When Cal caught the last out of the 1983 World Series win, he, like a lot of Orioles fans, probably thought it was the beginning of a long run of championship seasons. It turned out to be the last one.

The Orioles made the playoffs in 1996 and 1997 when they had such players as Cal, Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, Brady Anderson and B.J. Surhoff, but it has been a long spiral downward since then.

Perhaps things are looking up.

Tony Mulieri is community editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7647 or by e-mail at tonym@herald-mail.com">tonym@herald-mail.com.

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