Sunday morning found the city abuzz, as church services routinely included references to the divine events occurring daily on 33rd Street. That afternoon, Chuck Estrada took a shutout and a 3-0 lead into the eighth inning. Two Yankee singles put runners on the corners with no outs. A sacrifice fly brought home the Yankees' first run, followed by a strikeout, which left a runner on first and two outs for Mickey Mantle. Pitching cautiously to baseball's most recognized slugger, Mr. Estrada issued a walk. Yogi Berra followed with an RBI single that sent Mantle to third. With the soon-to-be American League Most Valuable Player Roger Maris due up, Manager Richards summoned Hoyt Wilhelm from the bullpen. The stadium convulsed with tense unease, but the knuckleballer induced a groundout to Jim Gentile at first to end the inning with the one-run lead intact. The Orioles responded with a three-run bottom of the eighth to seal a remarkable series sweep and a two-game lead in the standings. It had all been entirely improbable, yet somehow completely in keeping with the ever-surprising times.
That lead lasted less than a week, and a mid-September four-game sweep by the Yankees in New York ended Baltimore's first pennant hopes in more than 60 years. But that 1960 team represented a turning point for the franchise and the city. Their second-place finish that year would begin a remarkable run of 24 winning seasons out of 26, during which they finished first or second an astonishing 16 times, finished lower than third only four times, and won six American League titles and three World Series.
And our town would come to embrace the regimen of the Oriole Way — stellar pitching and defense, timely hitting, professional excellence on the field, self-effacing humility off it. Their workmanlike performance on the stage of national sports gave life to our time-honored values and represented the community in a way that inspired pride and hope.
This September, the Orioles, again without a winning season for 15 years, but inexplicably just one game behind the Yankees, welcomed the New Yorkers to town for another improbable showdown. The two teams fought to a draw, splitting the four games, but it was abundantly clear that the spark and vitality of a packed Camden Yards had returned from a long absence. No matter what the remainder of the season holds, these resurgent Orioles have rekindled a flame that burns for those with dreams of what can be accomplished through dedication to hard work, painstaking preparation, and teamwork. Let us hope that, like their 1960 forebears, their performance will be a turning point through which we reclaim something that was once part of our birthright — to be inspired by the excellence of our baseball team, and to know the buoyancy of believing in possibility.
Raymond Daniel Burke, a Baltimore native, is a principal in a downtown law firm. His email is email@example.com.