BALTIMORE –Oriole Park will be awash in nostalgia all weekend, what with the O’s celebrating the 40th anniversary of their last World Series championship and former manager Buck Showalter in town with the New York Mets.
The Orioles brought in a large contingent from the team that defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in five games to win the Baltimore franchise’s third title back in 1983, with a few of those players confirming during a Friday media conclave that they never imagined they would someday be invited back to celebrate the four-decade distinction of being the most recent O’s team to stand on top of the baseball world.
Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, referring to the last of his six World Series, fell back on an old quote from Cal Ripken Jr. to sum up the feeling at the time.
“Cal said, ‘You know my second year, we went to the World Series and I was MVP after being Rookie of the Year. I figured I’d be in a lot of World Series.’” Palmer remembered. “Never again.”
But when popular outfielder Ken Singleton looks at the array of talent that has carried this year’s incarnation to the top of baseball’s toughest division, he doesn’t expect the title drought to last much longer.
“It’s a little tougher to win the World Series now because you have to navigate through different series to get there,’’ Singleton said. “I like what I see. They’re young. Even if they don’t win this year, I have a feeling they won’t be bringing us back after so many years because we were the last team to win a World Series. I’ve got a feeling this team’s going to get it done.”
The presence of the Mets is just a bonus — a chance for fans to show some appreciation for the man who led the Orioles back to prominence in 2012 after they spent 14 seasons wandering in a competitive desert. The team welcomed Showalter with a video tribute just before the start of Friday night’s game and the crowd of 29,550 responded affectionately.
It might have been an even bigger deal if the huge-payroll Mets had arrived in town a serious title contender instead of the team that just sold off two of the best starting pitchers in the sport.
Since the weekend already was dedicated to World Series remembrance, it would have been fun to fantasize about a possible rematch of the 1969 World Series in which the Orioles were on the wrong side of one of the greatest sports upsets in the history of major professional team sports. No one around here has to be reminded that was the same year that the Baltimore Colts were similarly embarrassed by the underdog New York Jets in Super Bowl III.
Showalter isn’t conceding a playoff run in spite of the trade deadline teardown and anything is possible with the recent introduction of additional wild-card slots, but these are two teams seemingly going in opposite directions.
There was some room to wonder what kind of reception the former O’s manager would receive in his first visit to Camden Yards since he was fired at the end of the 2018 season, but it was clear that fans still appreciate his three playoff appearances over a five-year period from 2012 to 2016.
Apparently, the feeling is mutual.
“I know how much people care, the fans, and that’s what it’s about,’’ Showalter said on Friday. “So, I’m really happy that the fans of the Orioles, who are as good as it gets, are getting some return for their support. Just like we hope to do with our fans in Queens.”