Monday, June 16, 2008

Beating the Pirates

Last weekend's entertaining series against the Pirates brought back memories. The Orioles came back in every game and almost swept the three game set. Yet no amount of victories against Pittsburgh will erase what happened in 1971 and 1979. I remember watching Roberto Clemente rise to the occasion after the Bucs went down 2-0 in 1971. The series featured the first-ever World Series night game. His blazing speed and rifle arm elevated him to another level. His two home runs came in close games. After the series, Clemente died in a plane crash traveling to his native Nicaragua to show support for survivors of an earthquake. He may have been one of the greatest to ever play the game.

In 1979, the "We Are Family" Pirates stunned the Orioles after being down 3-1. Willie Stargell who had one hit in 1971, came through with 7 RBIs in 1979 and was the difference maker. It was especially difficult for me because I had moved from Baltimore to Chicago in September of 1979. I followed the Birds all summer because this, as Campbell McGrath wrote, "is the magic summer of 1979 and fate is on the side of Baltimore." It looked that way for a long time. The stage was set in game seven when Eddie Murray came to the plate with the bases loaded and two out and the Orioles behind, 2-1. The crowd chanted, "Eddie, Eddie" just the way McGrath describes it in Capitalist Poem #25. Murray drilled a long fly ball to right with the bases loaded but Dave Parker had him played perfectly and nearly slipped as he caught the ball. The series was over.

Today, the Orioles and the Pirates are in similar positions. Two small market teams with low payrolls trying to compete against powerhouse teams in major markets like the Cubs, Mets, Red Sox and Yankees. The Birds and the Bucs both have winning traditions to be proud of and hopefully promising futures.


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