Buck Showalter did it the Oriole way. Thanks for the memories. (Bruce Cunningham)
October 15, 1997 was devastating. Tony Fernandez ended the game with an eleventh inning home run to break a tie that had become a death grip. I can still see that effortless swing and remember the cold rain that night in New York City where I lived a half a block from the French hospital that cared for Babe Ruth until the end. That was our year. We started 43-17.
The 1969 Mets introduced me to the pain of losing a World Series. I cried when the crazed Mets fans poured onto the field at Shea Stadium.
“The teams that rip your heart out are the ones that you stick with you,” legendary Baltimore sportscaster Vince Bagli told me once, referring to his favorite team—the 1957 Baltimore Colts.
The 1979 collapse hurt the most, up 3-1 in the World Series against the Pirates. Their “We are Family” mantra rammed home the point that I had just moved to Chicago away from my relatives in Baltimore.
“You’ll see how cutting and quick this all can end,” said Buck Showalter after we beat the Tigers.
Well, it happened in four games.
In their cavernous park, the Royals shortened the game with a dominating bullpen and scratched runs across the plate. We had seven hits in two games. In Game 3, we didn’t record a hit after the third inning.
Last night, save for a home run by Ryan Flaherty, the bats stayed quiet. The home runs, the offensive explosions–flown south for the winter. Any sharply hit ball, including a bid for extra bases by J.J. Hardy became another installment of the 2014 Royals highlight video.
There were only a few innings that the Royals went three-up and three down. They agitated until the end. Pitching and defense will nullify anything. What’s worse, they got inside our heads. They outplayed us. It happens. We ran into a buzz-saw of momentum and destiny clad in Royal blue uniforms the likes of which can be found in an ice cream parlor.
I’ve never seen a team make a one-run deficit feel like five.
This loss doesn’t hurt as badly because Buck Showalter drained every ounce of talent out of this team. Coaches Dom Chiti and Dave Wallace somehow made four above average starting pitchers into a solid rotation. There was no shutdown starter–but Wei Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez certainly proved their mettle in KC this week. Our closer was converted into the role and it was his first year on the job.
Caleb Joseph and Jonathan Schoop were learning how to hit major league pitching. Steve Pearce gave us all he could—including some well hit balls that didn’t find grass. Ryan Flaherty filled in admirably for Machado and Davis.
With each injury and one ill-timed disqualification, Showalter helped us suspend disbelief and with it the idea that gravity would not catch up to us. Reliever Joba Chamberlain played a big role in our demolition of the Tigers–but Herrera, Davis and Holland became a three-headed Cerberus that silenced our offense.
On the way from the Bronx, after losing to the Yankees in 2012, I didn’t see the guy standing in the aisle of the Amtrak café car.
“Hey Baltimore,” he said. “At least you’re part of the conversation again.”
Two years later, we’ve still got some work to do and one or two pieces to add. But yeah, it could be a whole lot worse.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Dean Bartoli Smith is the author of NEVER EASY, NEVER PRETTY: A Fan. A City. A Championship Season (Temple University Press, 2013) and a contributor to the 2nd Edition of Ted Patterson’s FOOTBALL IN BALTIMORE (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
He attended Loyola High School and graduated from Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois. He majored in English at the University of Virginia and received an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. He is director of Project MUSE at The Johns Hopkins University, a leading provider of digital humanities and social science content for the scholarly community.
His poetry has appeared in Poetry East, Open City, Beltway, The Pearl, The Charlotte Review, Gulf Stream, and upstreet among others. His book of poems, American Boy, won the 2000 Washington Writer’s Prize and was also awarded the Maryland Prize for Literature in 2001 for the best book published by a Maryland writer over the past three years.
He writes sports for Press Box and Baltimore Brew.