Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sports In Baltimore

I am a lucky guy.

I have a baseball that was autographed by Brooks Robinson. There was no greater third baseman that ever played the game. Surely, there has been no other player as kind to the fans as he has been. I was fortunate enough to have watched him play ball. Back in the days when the Orioles played at Memorial Stadium here in Baltimore, I had two entries in a "Banner Day" contest. I think it was around 1973. It was exciting because both of my banners won. On one banner I had the words: "The Secret Word is Bird....It's A Common Word That Flies To First Place". I also had a nice graphic picture of Groucho Marx on the banner. This banner won 7th place in the contest. I was thrilled. My other banner was even better and took 2nd place, losing to something which looked like 20 bedsheets sewn together. Its huge size was probably what beat my banner. My 2nd place banner had a graphic of a liquor bottle with a number 5 on it. The words on the banner read "Brooks Robinson Is Like Good Whiskey.....He Improves With Age!" I won something like an entire row of seats to every game for the remainder of the season. Brooks Robinson was like magic......even his name on a banner was magic. Brooks was never one of those egotistical ballplayers. His "aw shucks" demeanor was something to cherish. The picture above, by Norman Rockwell, kind of reflects the very image of Brooks Robinson that I remember. On the field, he was like a human vacuum cleaner. He miraculously came up with balls that nobody would ever have thought could be caught. I remember that often when Brooks would hear such a comment, he would just say "I was just lucky". Sorry Brooks, that wasn't luck at all. YOU were the greatest and it was "me" that was "lucky" enough to have been there to see it. Oriole magic at its best. Thanks Brooks.

After you have the likes of Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer and others that played here back in the day......every player that ever takes the field after them has a huge challenge to fill their shoes knowing full well they will be held in comparison. Each of these players were great in their own right, yet played as a team. Here in Baltimore, we long for the return of such a team. Maybe one day it will happen again and I hope I am around to see it. Today, it just doesn't seem fair to be too hard on the current Orioles that take the field at Camden Yards. We expect a bit too much magic perhaps. I cannot blame the ownership of the team for being cautious of extreme payrolls. Consider the Yankees this year.........all of that money spent for what? They were swept by the Tigers and their season is now over. I have yet to see any player on the Yankees in the past 20 or 30 years or so that could even come close to a Brooks Robinson. You can't buy everything. Sometimes it just has to happen.........

......which brings me to the Baltimore Ravens.

I was lucky enough to have actually seen the greatest quarterback that ever played the game. I even met him once during a lunch break from a job several years ago. The man was very polite. I thanked him for the memories and he thanked me for remembering. That man was Johnny Unitas and he was the greatest. He nor Brooks ever made the big bucks that today's athletes get paid. Most likely their largest source of income came in later years, cashing in on the memories. I didn't have to pay for a handshake with Unitas and I didn't need any cash in hand for Brooks Robinson's autograph either. Oh yeah......about the Ravens........the team is 4-0 heading into a Monday night game against the Broncos. This is a very exciting time for football fans in Baltimore. The team has never gotten any respect by the sports media or, for that matter, the NFL itself. Everyone knows the story of how the Colts left Baltimore in the middle of the night during a snowstorm. All of that is moot now and we have moved forward, although nobody can ever take away our Baltimore Colts. They remain here in our memories and record books. Johnny never played in Indianapolis. We have the Ravens now and we are liking what we have. It looks like we are a team to be reckoned with this year. One day in the future, maybe the media and the NFL will come to respect a Baltimore football team again. While we are waiting.....go ahead.....ignore us........again!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:55 PM

    i am still bitter and love it when the announcers - after alll these years - call the indian-no-place team - the baltimore colts.

    don't think that happens even with the dodgers.