Game 20: Baltimore Orioles
With Sam and his family gone, it is now just Kitty and I for the time being. She has another Kiwi friend coming over to join us at the end of this week. We made a very detailed route to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Initially we were going to drive as close as we could to the ballpark and walk from there. After driving into Baltimore city itself, we realised that a walk of any length would be a bit iffy late at night (it was to be a 7:05 pm kick off). So instead we sussed out that there was a light rail station right at Campden Yards. We drove the ten or so miles back to Linthicum Station, parked the car and hopped on the MARC (Maryland Transit Authority – don’t ask me how they made MARC out of that) train back into the ballpark. We still got there in plenty of time as we purchased the cheapest tickets available – ten dollars each. We thought that it would be rude not to take a look at the Sports Legends Museum which was also located in Camden. They had an outstanding array of exhibits on all sports, especially focussing on baseball – the Orioles and football – the Baltimore Ravens. With the same ticket we were also able to go to Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.
It is a little known fact that Ruth was born in Baltimore and began his professional career there. He was born and grew up just around the corner from the current ballpark. Legend has it that his father’s tavern was located in what is now the outfield. While the stadium was being built there was talk of naming the new facility Babe Ruth Stadium. Once people realised of course that he played most of his career for the Yankees the idea was dropped. The Orioles owner at the time, Eli Jacobs, wanted to name the stadium Oriole Park, while Maryland’s Governor, William Donald Shaefer, insisted it be called Camden Yards. These two battled it out until the cumbersome compromise was reached to call it Oriole Park at Camden Yards – though locals refer to it simply as Camden Yards.
This year the Orioles are celebrating being at this venue for twenty years. It is a great stadium and was the first of the new retro stadiums to be built and has been copied by others. It seems to me to combine the nostalgia and intimacy of the old ball parks with an array of modern facilities. Set in the heart of the city’s Inner Harbour area, Oriole Park has a brick exterior façade that blends in with the, to me intimidating, downtown neighbourhood. The B & O Warehouse building beyond the right field fence is the longest building on the East Coast and was renovated to house the teams offices as well as several shops and bars, one of which we just had to sample. Between the ballpark and the warehouse, Eutaw Street is a pedestrian walkway filled with food and souvenir stands. One other feature which I liked is that the bullpens are elevated so you can clearly see which pitchers are warming up.
On this night there was a give-away replica playing shirt, with catcher Matt Wieters name and number 32 on it for the first 15,000 people into the ground. We ensured that we got ours and sat at the bar in the warehouse and blended right in with the crowd all dressed in gold Orioles number 32 jerseys. A distinct thing here is that during the singing of the National Anthem the crowd all joins in with the O in the second last line:
“….Gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there,
O! say does that start spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
This was a tradition that began in 1972 and has recently bought derision from some Washington reporters. Apparently this is part of an age old feud between Washington and Baltimore, two very close neighbours, going way back. Seems like baby stuff to me.
So as the second half of the season begins both Detroit and Baltimore are in contention. The Tigers actually won their last five games, while the Orioles are second in their tough division. This should be a good match up.
Detroit Tigers………………….200 140 000 - 7
Baltimore Orioles……….….001 000 001 – 2
The Orioles had very little fire power on the night and were further hampered by an injury to starting pitcher Jason Hammel. He delivered 65 pitches before hobbling off with some kind of knee injury in the fourth innings. His relievers were hammered in the fifth innings to seal the deal.
Leadoff batter Austin Jackson got the ball rolling for the visitors in the very first innings. He singled and was bought around by hits from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. After a couple of outs, Brennan Boesch singled on a line drive that scored both Jackson and Cabrera to give the Tigers a handy two run lead that they would never vanquish. Wilson Betemit replied for the Orioles with a double in the bottom of the third and was bought home by a ground rule double from Nick Makakis. At 2-1 the 35,566 strong home crowd were optimistic, but the next two innings put paid to any thoughts of a home team victory. Once Hammel was replaced by Luis Ayala, Alex Avilla took advantage with a double on a long fly ball to centre field. Next batter Ryan Raburn consolidated things with a line drive through the left field gap that bought Raburn home. The next innings though was when the damage was really done. With one out Miguel Cabrera hammered Ayala over the centre field wall for a solo home run. This was a mammoth blast which went over the centre field wall and was estimated at 454 feet, the fifth longest homer in Camden Yards history. Ayala was immediately replaced on the mound by Dana Eveland, who got Fielder out softly but next allowed singles to both Delmon Young and Boesch. Jhonny Peralta iced the cake with a homer on a long fly ball to right field. While Adam Jones scored on a double to the crowds hero of the day, Matt Wieters in the bottom of the ninth it was, as they say, too little and too late. The Tigers stretched their winning streak to six and the Orioles have still got work to do to stay in the play-off race.
I have discussed how important the decisions made by coaches and managers can be in a game and usually I back their judgement. There were a couple of examples of absolute brainless decision making by Detroit today, both concerning fat man, Prince Fielder. First of all, during their high scoring fifth innings, Fielder was instructed to bunt. Why would you not allow the home run hitting champion of three nights ago to swing away? Then, even more absurdly, in the seventh innings Fielder got a hit and made it to first. Who was the rocket scientist who instructed him to try to steal second? Fielder stands five feet eleven inches tall or 1.8 meters. He weighs in at 275 pounds or 125 kilo. If he were playing rugby you would immediately ask him if he were a loose head or tight head. Surely it was a kamikaze mission sending him on that 90 foot sprint to second?
Another thing that caught my eye today was a little incident involving relief pitcher Troy Patton. The ball was hit back hard at hit along the ground. He attempted to field it, but instead the ball ricocheted off his ankle and straight out to first base for the out. This had to hurt. I heard someone from the crowd shout out “don’t rub it”. This is exactly what we say in cricket if somebody is hit by the ball – you have to show that you are staunch and give the appearance that it did not hurt. A classic example of this occurred in a game that I was involved in at Kelburn Park in Wellington. I played for Wellington Collegians and we were up against a University team who were spear headed by the very fast, but equally erratic bowler Heath Davis. Heath opened the bowling for New Zealand on a few occasions, but around Wellington he had justly acquired the nickname of Rave, as in stark raving mad. He really had no idea where the ball was going. Our opening batter was the ever reliable Graham Burnett, or Mudd to his mates. Rave hit Mudd with an explosive missile in the very first over of the game in an area of the anatomy which every male cherishes. Form the side-lines we shouted “don’t rub it”. While Mudd tried to remain staunch after a couple of moments he fell in a crumbled heap. The ambulance duly came and Mudd was taken to hospital, his left testicle grotesquely swollen. University eventually scored two runs off the final delivery of the fiftieth over to defeat us. When I went up to hospital to visit my team mate there were a couple of humorous moments. Mudd had asked the nurse about the outcome of the game and she had explained quite correctly that “ironically enough, Collegians had lost off the last ball of the game”. Another nurse insisted that she would be interested in going out with Mudd, but only if everything was built to proportion.
Back to baseball and Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Kitty and I easily made our way back to the Ramada Inn courtesy of the MARC system. An interesting night out with some nice memories of home friends far away.