On June 17, 1994, the O's were hosting the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards. A jam-packed crowd of 47,475 fans saw the home team paste the Twins by a 9-2 score. Ben McDonald went the distance to pick up his tenth win of the season. Leo Gomez and Chris Sabo each had three hits and two RBI, and Mark McLemore and Rafael Palmeiro both drove in a pair of runs as well. The victory brought the Birds to within two games of the first-place Yankees, who were managed by Buck Showalter...the same Buck Showalter who now looks poised to become the Orioles' next manager, if Andy MacPhail ever gets around to hiring him.
Last night, while waiting for the 7:00 PM slate of baseball games to start, I surfed the OnDemand channel and found a few episodes of ESPN's excellent "30 for 30" documentary series. I decided to watch "June 17, 1994", directed by Brett Morgen. Using nothing more than audio and video clips from the fateful day in question, along with background music, Morgen tells the story of the day that the Los Angeles Police Department chased murder suspect and NFL Hall of Famer O. J. Simpson across Southern California before ultimately convincing him to surrender.
The film underscores the surreality of the situation by interspersing it with telecasts of other prominent sporting events that took place on that Friday: an aging Arnold Palmer's last-ever round of golf at the U. S. Open, the New York Rangers' Stanley Cup victory parade through downtown Manhattan, Game Five of the NBA Finals between the Knicks and the Rockets, and eventual American League Cy Young winner David Cone and the Royals hosting young superstar Ken Griffey, Jr. and the Mariners. As the day goes on, many of the broadcasters of these other events offer opinions and updates on the O. J. manhunt, often expressing disbelief and confusion in their voices. Bob Costas, covering the NBA game for NBC, seems beside himself over having to cover something as trifling as a basketball game while one of the most famous and (previously) beloved athletes in the country is fleeing from a warrant for double-murder and threatening to take his own life.
It was haunting to watch this all again 16 years later. I had nearly forgotten what a circus the whole thing had been...how inconceivable it was that anybody in the public eye - and this man in particular - could have possibly committed such a violent crime. Particularly uncomfortable is the press conference in which his friend Robert Kardashian (who today is much less of a household name than each of his entitled, fame-chasing daughters) recites what seems to be a suicide note that Simpson left behind when he went on the lam. Also chilling are audio clips of phone conversations between police and the frantic, distraught Simpson, who is in his ex-teammate Al Cowlings' white Ford Bronco with a gun that he continually threatens to turn on himself.
Naturally, I still remember where I was when the infamous Bronco chase took place. I was in the basement of my house with my friend Matt, who was sleeping over that night. He had brought his Super Nintendo and we were playing...something or other, I want to say Mario Paint. We turned the game off when we'd had our fill, and turned on the TV, probably to watch basketball. Instead, NBC News cut in with coverage of the ongoing pursuit of O. J. and A. C. by the LAPD. Unreal.