Although they were nearly five years before my time as a baseball fan, I feel a special kinship to that team. With Edward Bennett Williams' poorly-conceived patchwork of aging free agents finally bottoming out in 1988, the O's had finally gutted the roster and started fresh. Nothing was expected of Frank Robinson's 1989 team, a potpurri of untested rookies, overlooked journeymen, and Cal Ripken, Jr. Despite an offense that bordered on the anemic and a pitching staff largely composed of guys that couldn't hit 90 on the radar gun with gale-force winds at their backs, the Birds spent 104 days in first place through a combination of pitching and defense, timely hits, and bizarre luck. The entire city of Baltimore rallied around the O's, adopting a rallying cry of "Why Not?". In the end, they finished 87-75, a 31.5-game improvement from the previous year and two games short of the American League East Championship.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Curt Schilling, 1990 Bowman #246
You may have heard that Red Sox pitcher (and ex-Oriole, of course) Curt Schilling announced his retirement today. While his most recent status as a member of that hated gang of Bostoners and his ongoing fascination with hearing himself talk did not endear him to me, it's still a little bittersweet to see him hang up his spikes. I've mentioned in the past that I became a baseball fan in 1993, and seeing Curt dropping from the increasingly-dwindling roll call of players from that year who are still active brings me that much closer to the mortality of my baseball childhood. But I've got a more expansive entry planned on that topic. I've also uncovered further significance in Schilling's retirement.
He was the last active member of the 1989 Orioles.
Schilling wasn't a major contributor to that team, as a hard-throwing 22-year-old with more talent than brains. He pitched just 8 and 2/3 innings of relief, allowing six runs and thirteen baserunners. But he's still a part of that team, no matter how small. It's the end of an era. As for the rest of the 1989 Orioles, tomorrow I will be attempting a "Where Are They Now?" entry. Truly I am the master of suspense.