Going To Bat For O's

Despite a decade of losing seasons, these diehard fans keep the faith

April 09, 2007|By Tom Dunkel and Rob Hiaasen | Tom Dunkel and Rob Hiaasen,SUN REPORTERS

Going, going, gone ... on 10 years of losing-season frustration, a city of disappointed souls wandering the baseball desert: tired, bloodied, sick of looking at the Yankees', Red Sox's, and Blue Jays' behinds in the standings, fearful the spineless Tampa Bay Devil Rays will rise up and haunt our dreams.

Seems the winning "Oriole Way" went thattaway. Outta here, like a hanging curve smacked over the right field wall. Yes, In Cal We Still Trust. But he's busy doing Comcast commercials these days.

Albert Belle, "Moose" Mussina, Sammy Sosa and too many others let us down. Hard. Maybe the real heroes aren't on the field. Maybe they're sitting in the bleachers or glued to a TV or poring over last night's box score in the paper. Real fans, whether dyed-in-the-wool or dreaming-in-Dundalk.

To those unbowed believers who have no doubts another American League pennant will someday fly over Oriole Park, we say ... well, we don't quite know what to say. But we wouldn't trade ya for a fistful of All-Stars.

Sisters Bernarde and Mary Rosalia Auth

There's no crying in baseball. Prayer, however, is permissible.

"We say our rosary for 'em every time they play," declares Sister Bernarde Auth, among the most faithful of the Orioles faithful.

She's a package deal. Sister Bernarde roots in tandem with her younger sibling, Sister Mary Rosalia.

Loyalty's in their blood. Both devoted their lives to the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and both reside at Villa Assumpta on North Charles Street, home to dozens of retired nuns.

Sometimes they listen to the O's on the radio, but usually ("Come hell or high water," is how Sister Bernarde puts it) the Auths are in front of the TV in the lounge.

Players aren't the only ones who must make adjustments with age. Their eyesight is failing, so the sisters need help reading the Orioles schedule.

They occasionally take a pass on watching West Coast games. "They start at 10 o'clock!" explains Sister Mary Rosalia.

The Auths got Orioles religion about 15 years ago. Blame it on Cal Ripken Jr. "He was so relaxed when he played," notes Sister Bernarde.

"And he was always fair," adds Sister Mary Rosalia.

She's the quieter one. Sister Bernarde talks to the TV, telling manager Sam Perlozzo to make a pitching change, exhorting Nick Markakis, who she thinks is the real deal, to hit a home run.

In dire situations, they recite their special Orioles prayer: "Infant Jesus lost and found, please bring this game around."

Like Cal, the Auths always play fair. They refuse to go negative and pray for the opposing team to lose, not even the wicked Yankees.

Says Sister Bernarde, "We don't wish any evil on them." Players: Sisters Bernarde and Mary Rosalia Auth

Ages: 94, 93

Hometown: Towson

Favorite Orioles Moments: Sister Bernarde once shook hands with Frank Robinson. For Sister Mary Rosalia, it was Cal Ripken Jr.'s victory lap after breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive-game streak.

Favorite Oriole: Brian Roberts. "He's not a showoff. He works quietly," Sister Mary Rosalia says.

Least Favorite Oriole: Peter Angelos. "Why doesn't he loosen up a little bit?" Sister Bernarde says.

Season Prediction: They would "appreciate" a second- or third-place finish

Little-Known Facts: Sister Bernarde stopped driving at age 91, and her rooting ability remains unaffected by two artificial hips. In June, Sister Mary Rosalia will celebrate the 70th anniversary of taking her final vows as a nun.

Player: Scott Foster

Age: 18

Hometown: Fallston

Favorite Orioles Moment: Attending the first game played at Camden Yards.

Favorite Oriole: Cal Ripken Jr. Case closed.

Least Favorite Oriole: Tony Batista

Season Prediction: Third place

Little-Known Fact: When Foster played Pony League, his bases-loaded triple helped Overlea beat Harford Park, 12-7. "I just got a hold of one." (He missed an inside-the-park homer after slipping as he rounded second.)

Player: Robert Vallonga

Age: 76

Hometown: Hampden

Favorite Orioles Moment: On Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131 consecutive game and broke Lou Gehrig's record. "I would have loved to have been there."

Favorite Oriole: Brooks Robinson. Steady, spectacular.

Least Favorite Oriole: Mike "Judas" Mussina

Season Prediction: Fourth place - again

Little-Known Fact: Years ago, he organized neighborhood games in Hampden. As he slowly drove everyone to the games, overflow kids rode in the trunk of his Ford LTD.

Player: Donald Franklin

Age: 52

Hometown: Baltimore

Favorite Orioles Moment: 1966 World Series

Favorite Oriole: Frank Robinson. Power and grace personified.

Least Favorite Oriole: Glenn Davis. Major flop.

Season Prediction: Fourth place

Little-Known Fact: "To this day, I can still field a pretty good ball."

Player: Manuel Paragios

Age: 39

Hometown: Highlandtown

Career Highlight: Was a catcher in high school; fondly recalls a particular runner he "gunned" down stealing

Favorite Orioles Moment: "Would have to be the World Series of '83." The O's beat the Phillies in five games.

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