Remembering `We Are Family,' O's aim to hum different tune vs. Pirates

June 06, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

I'LL BE HUMMING a little Sister Sledge as I head down I-70 today to attend the first meaningful encounter between the Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates since they met in the World Series in 1979.

I don't expect anybody in Baltimore to sing along. "We Are Family" was the theme song of the Pirates, and it had become a pretty irritating anthem by the time they completed that awful comeback to steal the world title that year.

Didn't bother me at the time, because I was a little miffed at the Orioles for spanking my "Yes We Can" California Angels in their first postseason appearance, but I can see why you don't often hear Sister Sledge between innings at Camden Yards.

The Orioles won three of the first four games, only to watch Willie Stargell and Co. boogie till they scored a 4-1 victory in Game 7. It was a great Fall Classic in the same way that David Ortiz's dramatic home run on Thursday was a great ending. Depends on whom you ask.

No doubt, Pirates fans will be plenty nostalgic this week, because that was the last time their team got to hold the big trophy. The Orioles would come back in 1983 to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies and wrest bragging rights away from the Keystone State, but it's been a while since either team has been on the big stage.

The Orioles and Pirates have traveled similar roads since then, both rising back to prominence only to miss the World Series by the narrowest of margins. The Pirates, featuring a young Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, can blame Braves bench guy Francisco Cabrera, whose two-run single knocked them out of the World Series in 1992. The Orioles have former Cleveland Indian Tony Fernandez, whose 11th-inning home run knocked them out of the 1997 American League Championship Series.

That, however, is where the similarity ends. The Pirates fell victim to baseball's uneven economics -- forced to let go of their big stars in the early 1990s because of inadequate revenue. They have been struggling to get off the floor ever since.

The Orioles didn't suffer a small-market meltdown. Quite the contrary. They spent heavily to create the team that went wire-to-wire in 1997, only to fall off the competitive map when they started to turn over their roster a year or so later.

Seven losing seasons later, the Orioles are in first place and appear to be built for a decent multi-year run. The Pirates continue to scuffle in the National League Central, their revenue situation still an issue four years after moving into sparkling PNC Park -- one of the classiest ballparks in the majors.

(Or so they tell me. I'm actually going there for the first time tonight. It will be my 47th major league ballpark, which is what happens when you hang around the game way past your prime. The only one left on the list is San Diego's Petco Park.)

Thank God for interleague play, or these two teams might never play each other again.

If I had a life raft or a hollowed-out log, I'd be out on the Chesapeake Bay trying to catch that million-dollar fish everybody's talking about, but I'd like the state's new fishing derby a lot better if they were actually giving away a $1 million grand prize.

The multi-tiered contest gives fishermen who catch specially tagged fish a chance to win $1 million, but there is no guarantee a grand prize will actually be awarded, and if it is, it's one of those lottery-style annuities that pay $25,000 per year for 40 years -- before taxes.

That's pretty good cake for catching one fish, but if you're looking for tell-the-boss-off money, I'd stick to MegaMillions. You've still got no chance, but at least you won't come home smelling like striped bass.

Love all this LPGA angst about "The Wie Rule." If they altered the format for this year's LPGA Championship to allow selected amateurs to play -- particularly 15-year-old phenom Michelle Wie -- that's just one more reason to turn on the TV.

I remember how the men worried about the impact that Tiger Woods would have on the sport. Now they're all too rich to worry about it.

Final thought: Leigh Steinberg is one of the greatest player agents in history, but if I hear him say one more time that Ricky Williams is "excited" about playing again for the Miami Dolphins, I'm going to stick my finger down my throat.

Ricky still owes the Dolphins $8.6 million for jumping his contract, so he's down to about two options: Get "excited" about playing football again or get a sign that says "Will Work For Grass."

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