Wednesday, September 24, 1997, the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Toronto Blue Jays to capture their first divisional title since they won the World Series in 1983. The difference was, the team had just come off of post-season play in 1996 when they captured the American League Wild Card. They also had seasons of playing over .500 baseball between 1983-96.
This year, the O’s clinched their first winning season since ’97 and like in 1989, there was little or no hope that they would even contend for a winning record, let alone advance to the post-season.
The 2012 season has been filled with excitement and there are no signs of stopping now. The team’s “Refuse To Lose” approach to every game is a direct reflection of manager Buck Showalter. At 85-64, this team has long forgotten about simply having a “winning season” or gaining one of the AL Wild Card slots. They are pushing the New York Yankees to the bitter end for their first divisional crown since that faithful Wednesday in 1997.
I searched my basement like the sports geek that I am and came across the Baltimore Sun from Thursday, September 25, 1997. I got chills as I looked at a picture of members of that team on the front page celebrating. I instantly grew anxious, anticipating the end of this season, hoping for the same results.
This weekend, the Birds go to Boston to take on the Red Sox. The Sox had their season come to an abrupt end with a walk-off win by the O’s on the final day of the 2011 regular season. I’m sure the players on that team remember that and would love to repay the O’s. Think about it, the Orioles were a last place team only with hopes of spoiling someone else’s party.
This year, the Red Sox are only a half game out of last place as of Thursday, but they have no hopes of post-season play. They could play spoiler for teams like Baltimore. The difference is, the O’s weren’t expected to be much better than a last place team at the end of the 2011 season and there were no talks of players not wanting their manager back. Major League Players don’t lay down and die, but emotion motivates a lot of players in different ways. Things could be interesting in Beantown.