No sport carries more superstition than baseball. Whether it's really the mistreatment of a goat that has doomed the Chicago Cubs or the sale of Babe Ruth's contract that forced Boston into decades of World Series exile is irrelevant. Fans know it might be true, and that's enough.
Thus, we are going to acknowledge that Friday is very big day for Baltimore baseball fans, but we are not going to name the team or the players involved. Not that it isn't a great name with a proud tradition, and not that we don't have every confidence that the professional baseball team in question is going to win tomorrow night, but why take the chance?
You understand, don't you? You get it? For the first time in Major League Baseball history, there are two wild card teams in each league, and they are facing each other in a one-game playoff. One of those teams happens to be from Baltimore. Can you believe it?
If we had asked that "believe" question at the start of the season, it's safe to say that 99 percent of people would say no, they did not, and some of those people might even be the friends and relatives of the actual players. By midseason, when it became clear that the team was better than expected, the naysayers still would have outnumbered the believers.
But now? As Phil Rizzuto would say, "Holy cow!" Baltimore's 15 years in the wilderness might not match what the Red Sox endured, but it's been hard enough. So much so that a city that was long regarded as a quintessential baseball town evolved into one where Ravens football took up residence in the prime piece of real estate in our collective hearts.
Even so, all eyes will fall upon Texas Friday. Anything can happen in one baseball game. The Rangers may look awesome on paper, but they've just completed a collapse on par with what Boston did last season. In losing the AL West, a division they once lead by 13 games, the Rangers suffered their final coup-de-grace with a three-game, end-of-season-sweep by the Oakland Athletics.
Now that's a fan base that should be gripping its rabbit's feet especially tight right now. The Baltimore team didn't quite have enough on the final few days to dislodge the Yankees from top of the East, but at least they didn't fold like a broken camping chair.
Baltimore's season has been sweet and almost inexplicable. Yes, there are several players with All-Star chops, including the league's dominant closer, but this is a team that's far more than the sum of its parts. It's got a lot of retreads, cast-offs, a 20-year-old kid playing third base and even a past-his-prime slugger. Together they magically win games, especially the one-run and extra-inning variety.
And isn't magic really what this season has been all about? Just down the road, the usually hapless Nationals caught some of that magic, too. They finished the season with 98 wins, the most in baseball. Over in Detroit, they've even got a triple-crown winner — not the horse racing kind, the Miguel Cabrera kind. The Tigers third baseman finished the season with a higher batting average and more home runs and runs batted in than anyone else in the American League, a feat that hasn't been accomplished in 45 years.
Clearly, the baseball gods have decided to smile upon us. Surely, a Baltimore victory in this historic wild-card game would be appropriate under the circumstances. Listen, you think real baseball fans around the country will root for the team that's been in the World Series the last two years or the one that's been stuck in or near the AL East cellar for a decade and a half? A happy ending requires the underdogs to prevail.
So all we ask is that everyone wear their lucky underwear, eat and drink the appropriate things, offer prayers, chants, incantations, and ritualistic dances, and let's make this happen. Baltimore deserves this. The least we can do is allow our kids to stay up and watch meaningful baseball in October for the first time in their lives, yell at the television set and enjoy an all-too-rare moment.
Baseball is back, Baltimore. Believe it.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times