It thoroughly confounds the pundits that the
The summer of 1960 was a time filled with promise and possibility. The Eisenhower administration was coming to an end, and a new leader would be taking charge as America advanced into the Space Age and confronted the challenges of the Cold War and the state of its race relations. Change, with its juxtaposed uncertainty and excitement, was palpably in the air. Fear of nuclear destruction walked side-by-side with optimism for the seemingly limitless opportunities offered by the time that was upon us. The reality of Jim Crow cried out to be exorcised from the egalitarian nation that had defeated the ugliness of fascism and assumed leadership of the free world. It was no time for the timid. The hour would be seized by the confident, the determined and the visionary.
The improbable, indeed, had the potential to be possible. And, as baseball is ripe with metaphors for American life, improbable it was that the vaunted Yankees would come to Baltimore for a September series locked in a battle for first place with the upstart Orioles. These were, after all, the mighty Yankees, fully expected to occupy a place at the top of the standings and entirely accustomed to regular appearances in the post-season.
The Baltimore franchise, on the other hand, had not even had a winning season in 15 years — not since it played in St. Louis as the Browns, when the diluted talent pool caused by
They started the season losing five of their first six games, including a three-game sweep at
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
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