O's win evokes charm of '79

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June 22, 2008|By Doug Kapustin | Doug Kapustin,Sun photographer

Seated in the lower reserve seats along the right field line at Memorial Stadium, I was convinced it was going to happen. Another late-inning rally to win a game - this time for a World Series championship.

In 1979, the season that gave birth to Orioles Magic, the home team was down by a run to the vaunted Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the eighth inning. The Orioles had loaded the bases, and Eddie Murray stepped to the plate. The crack of the bat caused right fielder Dave Parker to take a quick step toward the wall, and he nearly stumbled. In unison 54,000 fans, including me, stood, ready to celebrate. But Parker regained his composure and caught Murray's shot near the warning track.

Though the Orioles had one more at-bat, everyone knew that this was their best shot. For the second time in the decade, the Pirates would defeat the Birds.

That was the last time I saw the Pirates play in Baltimore before last Saturday night. With much less significance, the fifth-place Orioles played come-from-behind baseball three times against their fourth-place, National League counterparts.

That night, as deadline approached for the sports section cover, the Orioles were clinging to a 6-5 lead midway through the eighth inning. I needed to transmit images, and with only one more Pittsburgh at-bat looming, this seemed to be the time to move from the field to the press box. As I finished my edit and began captioning a batch of images, I heard the crowd groan as a Pirate batter led off the ninth with a single. A larger groan ensued from me as the next batter launched a pitch into the seats. Pittsburgh now led, 7-6.

I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that my evening's work was not complete. By the time the Pirates were retired in the ninth, I was heading back to the field to witness the "Final Rally," as our Sunday headline would proclaim.

As journalists, we're not supposed to cheer or show emotion when the home team wins. Yet, somewhere in the back of my mind, I recalled Dave Parker ending the 1979 season of Orioles Magic. Saturday's 8-7 win, capped by a Ramon Hernandez hit, helped dull the memory of Pittsburgh's last come-from-behind triumph in Charm City.

doug.kapustin@baltsun.com

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