There are few things that give me more joy as a baseball fan than beating the Yankees. If you're a fan of any team other than those villains from the Bronx, this should be self-evident. After fifteen years of watching the Yankees leave my Orioles in the dust, and watching the media fawn upon them, and listening to Camden Yards rock with the cheers of carpetbagging Yankee fans nine times a year, to say nothing of Jeffrey F. Maier...every game against New York has taken on a life-or-death importance for me. It's personal. As much losing as the Orioles have done since 1998, every time they rise up against the odds and put down the guys in pinstripes, it means just that much more.
Over 162 games, the details of a baseball season tend to run together. But so many of those victories over the Yanks stand out: Daniel Cabrera's near-no-hitter, Brian Roberts' walk-off home run, Jeremy Guthrie's hard-earned win, Brian Burres outdueling Roger Clemens, Chris Ray's bases-loaded stand...they're all right there in my memory.
I didn't get to see tonight's game; I went straight to a friend's house for dinner after work. I arrived home at 1 AM (still Friday on the West coast!), exhausted after eighteen hours's absence from my warm bed. The first thing I did upon powering up my computer was click over to the Baltimore Sun to see the score on the sports page: Orioles 8, Yankees 2. A gutsy six-inning win for Daniel Cabrera. A seven-run sixth inning, on seven singles. The Yankees looking up at the Birds in the standings. How sweet it is.
I chose this card because it represents a turning point in the fortunes of the O's and the Yanks. In the early 1960's, the young Orioles gave the Bronx Bombers a run for their money almost every year, only to fade down the stretch. When they finally broke through, it was under the tutelage of a former Yankee hero, gruff ex-Marine Hank Bauer. After playing in nine World Series in the span of a decade in New York, Hank found himself exiled to lowly Kansas City in a trade.
Seven years later, he got the last laugh, leading his orange and black charges to the American League pennant in a cake walk while his original team languished in last place. While fans and experts alike fawned over the National League champion Dodgers' one-two punch of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, it was the Orioles' young arms that carried the day. Dave McNally was the only Baltimore pitcher to give up any runs (a whopping two) in the World Series, and even he "redeemed" himself by outdueling Drysdale in a 1-0 masterpiece to clinch the sweep and put Charm City on top of the baseball world. I love the simple joy and exuberance of this card, as Bauer has been smeared with shaving cream by some practical joker (Moe Drabowsky, perhaps?), but still beams from ear to ear as he embraces the winning pitcher.
Considering the charge that I get out of a regular-season win over the Yankees, I can only imagine how I'd react if the O's ever won it all again.