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The 100 Most Significant Dates in Modern Orioles History


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It's 99 days until pitchers and catchers report.  Here is the 99th most significant date in Orioles history.

#99 December 12, 1993

After Edward Bennett Williams' death, the Orioles were owned by Eli Jacobs, who only bought the team as an investment and put little money into the team.  He eventually went bankrupt and was forced to sell the team.

New owner Peter Angelos wanted to reverse that, and immediately set about spending money to build a winner.  By 1997, the Orioles had the highest payroll in all of major league baseball.

Angelos' first big free agent was Rafael Palmeiro, signed on December 12, 1993 to a 5 year contract worth more than $30 million.  That would be followed by another expensive signing in Roberto Alomar, as well as trades for high priced players David Wells, Bobby Bonilla, and Scott Erickson.

Angelos' spending spree proved successful, as the Orioles reached the playoffs in back to back seasons in 1996-1997, the first time in 23 years they had done so, and something they have not achieved since.  They reached the ALCS both of those years, and Palmeiro was a huge part of their success.  All of the expensive acquisitions played key roles for the Orioles in 1996/97.

Palmeiro received AL MVP votes in all five years as an Oriole, and won a Gold Glove.  He hit 192 home runs in those 5 years, even though one of them was strike shortened.  He had an OPS of .942 or higher in 4 of the 5 years.

It was a very brief period of Oriole greatness, especially looking back knowing what happened next.  But the Orioles were arguably the best team in baseball in 1996-1997, and the first major step to make that happen took place on December 12, 1993 when a new owner made a big splash in the free agent market, arguably to this day the greatest free agent acquisition in team history.



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It's 98 days until pitchers and catchers report.  Here is the 98th most significant date in Orioles history.

#98 April 19, 1960

One of the longest streaks in MLB history began on Opening Day 1960.  35 year old Ernie Tyler took over as umpire attendant at Memorial Stadium for the Orioles.   His duties included preparing the balls for each game, attending to the needs of the umpires, and sitting on a stool on the field ready to provide new balls whenever they were needed.

Ernie Tyler participated in more Oriole games than anyone who ever lived, and in fact did not miss an Orioles home game for the next 57+ years.   Tyler served in his on-field job for 3819 consecutive Oriole home games, marking the transition from Memorial Stadium to Oriole Park, and his streak only ended in 2007 when Cal Ripken paid Tyler's way to Cooperstown to watch Cal be inducted.

Ernie Tyler never fully retired he remained on the job at least part time through 2010, his 51st year, and passed away at age 86 in February of 2011.

Ernie's two suns, Jim and Fred, still serve to this day as visiting clubhouse attendant and umpire attendant, marking 58 years of service by the Tyler family to the Orioles. There's probably no one who has witnessed more Orioles baseball than Ernie Tyler and his family.

Ernie was beloved by the MLB umps with home he worked, and in 2011, all major league umps wore a patch with "EWT" on it while working games at Camden Yards that year.



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It's 97 days until pitchers and catchers report.   Here is the 97th most significant date in modern Orioles history:

#97 July 8, 1985

On July 8, 1985, the Orioles began to enforce a policy prohibiting fans from bringing their own beer to Memorial Stadium.  Technically that had been illegal for a while, but neither the Orioles nor the police enforced the rule.  But on this date, the Orioles decided to do so.

For many years, going to Memorial Stadium could be a very inexpensive proposition.  Tickets were fairly cheap, you could bring your own food, and you even could bring your own beer.  The Orioles attracted a "blue collar" crowd, and the same fans who made Memorial Stadium the "World's Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum" for the Colts made it a wild place for the Orioles, too.

Best known was Section 34, where Wild Bill Hagy and others would bring coolers filled with beer and have a really good time, get rowdy, and cheer on the O's.  Those fans were a huge factor in the development of "Oriole Magic" and the boom in attendance at Memorial Stadium that took place in the late 70s and early 80s.  (No, it wasn't "just winning" that made the attendance go up... the Orioles had been winning but drawing small crowds throughout the late 1960s and early to mid 70s).

Hagy himself was incensed by the ruling, and at the end of the last game where you could bring your own beer, he tossed his cooler on the field and vowed never to return.   And as far as is known, he never attended another game at Memorial Stadium.   (He did show up at Camden Yards a few times in the 1990s).

The July 8 decision was a major factor in the transition from the "blue collar" crowd at Memorial Stadium, to what is now a more "upscale" (and less rowdy) crowd at Camden Yards.  Obviously the economics of a new stadium and the demand for tickets played a part, but that transition was triggered on July 8, 1985.

[I'll also note that I included this date on the list because I had to, in some way, recognize the Orioles' most famous superfan.  My research was unable to determine the first date he ever led the crowd in spelling out Orioles or the first date that Section 34 was recognized as a significant fan presence.  I certainly would have included such a date if it was known].



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It is 96 days until pitchers and catchers report.  Here is the 96th most significant date in modern Orioles history:

#96 -- April 5, 1974
On Opening Day 1974, a new voice took over as public address announcer at Memorial Stadium, and became an institution.  Rex Barney, a lanky former Brooklyn Dodger pitcher with a blazing fastball, and a no hitter to his credit, was also known for his wildness as a pitcher.  In the vast majority of major league towns, most people don't even know who the PA announcer is, but Barney was immensely popular in Baltimore.   His signature catchphrase "Give that fan a contract!" when a fan made a good catch on a foul ball was unique in baseball, and after several years the Orioles actually gave contracts out to fans that Rex signalled out.   And of course his signature signoff, "Thank youuuuuuu".

Rex also hosted a radio talk show in the 80s and 90s,   His friendly demeanor made him popular with fans of all ages.

Late in his career, Rex battled numerous health problems.   He couldn't make the final game at Memorial Stadium, but the last words ever spoken over the speaker there, broadcast remote from his hospital bed, were "Thank youuuuuu!".

He stayed on the job as Oriole Park opened,  Rex's last game was July 30, 1997, the last day of an Oriole homestand.  He passed away at age 72 on August 12, just before the Orioles were to begin a homestand.   That night, the Orioles played their game without a public address announcer in his honor.
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It's 95 days until pitchers and catchers report.  Here is the 95th most significant date in modern Orioles history:

#95 - May 9, 1961

Jim Gentile was the first true superstar in modern Oriole history, and May 9, 1961 was perhaps his greatest moment as an Oriole.

After breaking in with the Dodgers, the 26 year old Gentile was traded to the Orioles and immediately made an impact, making the AL All Star Team and helping the Orioles to the first winning season in franchise history.  He had his greatest season in 1961, batting .302 with 46 home runs and 141 RBIs, and a whopping 1.069 OPS.  He was third in the MVP voting behind Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.  

Gentile hit 5 grand slams in 1961, which stood as the AL record until Don Mattingly broke it in 1987.   He hit two of them on May 9 in Minnesota, becoming the 4th player in ML history to hit two in one game.   In front of 4500 fans in the Twins first season in Minnesota after moving from Washington, Gentile blasted two grand slams, one in the 1st inning and one in the 2nd.   The second one was on the first pitch, so the two slams came on back to back pitches.   The first was off starter Cesar Ramos, the second off reliever Paul Giel.

Gentile played 4 years with the Orioles, hitting 124 home runs and compiling a .891 OPS.   He was the Orioles first true superstar, and his most memorable game was on May 9, 1961.



Edited by SteveA
Fixing formatting. Had to post over the weekend from phone while travelling
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It's 94 days until Orioles pitchers and catchers report.   Here is the 94th most significant date in modern Orioles history:

#94:  November 23, 1998

On November 23, 1998, Albert Belle signed a 5 year, $65 million dollar contract with the Orioles.   It was the biggest free agent contract in Orioles history, and it put him just barely behind Mo Vaughn and Randy Johnson as the 3rd highest paid player in baseball.

The Orioles had been a high payroll team for the previous several years, actually having the highest payroll in the majors one of the years.   It paid off with back to back trips to the ALCS in 1996 and 1997, but the aging team collapsed in 1998 and finished under .500.   Peter Angelos, who had ponied up for Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar and several others in the previous five years, once again opened his wallet in a big way.

In 8 years with Cleveland and 2 with Chicago, Belle had become a monster, blasting 321 home runs and putting up a .945 OPS.  In 1995 he became the only player in history to hit 50 homers and 50 doubles.   Outside of Barry Bonds, he was probably the best hitter in the majors.   In his first year as an Oriole, he didn't disappoint, putting up a .941 OPS and hitting 37 home runs.   But unfortunately, his career was ended after just two years due to degenerative hip osteoarthritis (although Oriole fans noted that it didn't prevent him from playing a lot of golf).   Most of his remaining contract was covered by insurance, although to collect those payments the Orioles had to put him on the 40 man roster each of the next 3 offseasons.

The Belle signing was historic because it was the biggest contract in Oriole history, but its greatest impact was that the ultimate outcome helped sour owner Peter Angelos on the idea of big free agent contracts.   It may have contributed to the Orioles inability to retain Mike Mussina, and the loss of Belle's talent for the final 3 years of his contract was a factor in the continuation of the stretch of losing that wound up lasting 14 years.


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It's 93 days until pitchers and catchers report.   Here is the 93rd most significant date in modern Orioles history:

#93 -- September 30, 1989

1989 was a magical year for the Orioles.   After 16 straight winning seasons, the Orioles began a decline in 1985 that culminated with the horrific 1988 season that included an 0-21 start and a 54-107 record.   But the Orioles pulled off one of the biggest turnarounds in history in 1989.   An influx of youth and the "Why Not" catchphrase vaulted the Orioles back into contention.   They led the division for a good part of the season, but the lack of starting pitching began to catch up with them as the summer came to an end.   After leading the division for more than 3 straight months, the Orioles were finally caught and passed by the Blue Jays at the end of August.   September was a pennant chase for the ages, as the Orioles chased the Blue Jays down to the wire, never trailing by less than 1 game or more than 2, matching win for win and loss for loss.   There was no wild card.

The patchwork rotation of Milacki, Ballard, Harnisch, and Dave Johnson struggled to keep the O's in contention down the stretch.   But the Orioles still came into the last weekend of the season trailing Toronto by one game -- and the season ended with a 3 game series in Canada.

On Friday night the 29th, Todd Stottlemyre faced off with Jeff Ballard.   Phil Bradley homered in the first inning, and that 1-0 lead held up until the 8th.but the reliable Orioles bullpen blew the game late, aided by an unfortunate passed ball by midseason acquisition Jamie Quirk.   The O's were now two down with two to play, and Pete Harnisch, one of the Orioles best starters, due to go the next day.   But walking back to the hotel after the game, Harnisch stepped on a nail and was unable to start Saturday.   Dave Johnson went in his place, on 3 days rest and having lost his last 5 starts.  But he kept the Orioles in the game, giving up 2 runs in 7 innings. And the O's led 3-1.   But once again the bullpen couldn't do the job, as Kevin Hickey and Mark Williamson gave up 3 runs and the Orioles lost 4-3.   Eliminated, the Why Not season had come to an end.   The Orioles would not make the postseason for another 7 years.


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It's 92 days until Orioles pitchers and catchers report.   Here is the 92nd most significant date in modern Orioles history.

#92 - October 22, 1960

Brooks Robinson is acclaimed as the best fielding third baseman in major league history, and his string of 16 consecutive Gold Gloves is still the record for a non-pitcher.   Brooks was awarded the first of those 16 gold gloves on October 22, 1960.   Frank Malzone had won the previous three, but Brooks won in 1960 and every one thereafter until Aurelio Rodriguez took the 1976 Gold Glove.

Brooks spent his entire 23 year career with the Orioles,   A MLB Hall of Famer, he is without a doubt the most beloved player ever to put on the Oriole uniform



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It's 91 days until pitchers and catchers report.   Here is the 91st most significant date in modern Orioles history:

#91 May 8, 1966

Frank Robinson joined in the Orioles in 1966 and had the greatest season in Oriole history, winning the triple crown, MVP, and leading the Orioles to the World Championship.   One of the most memorable days of the season was on Sunday, May 8.

It was Mother's Day and the Cleveland Indians were in town for a doubleheader.  The Orioles were 13-4 heading into the game.  I have found conflicting reports on the crowd size... a Sun article reports that there were 49,516 fans and that it was the biggest crowd ever to that date in Oriole history.   But baseball reference lists the attendance at just over 37,000 (still the biggest regular season crowd of 1966, even ahead of Opening Day).

The Orioles won the first game of the doubleheader 8-2 behind Jim Palmer.   They faced Cuban legend Luis Tiant in the second game.   In the first inning, with a man on, Frank Robinson launched a shot to left field that cleared the entire left field lower deck stands, fair enough so that the outcropping from the upper deck did not interfere with it.   It left  Memorial Stadium and landed out in the parking lot, an estimated 450 feet, and rolled another 90 feet and stopped under a Cadillac in the lot.   Exhorted by fans in the back row, two kids who lived in the neighborhood found the ball and later got to present it to Frank.

It was the first, and only, ball ever to be hit completely out of Memorial Stadium in a game in the 38 years that the Orioles played there (though I personally witnessed Bo Jackson match the feat in batting practice in 1985).   The Orioles put up a flag at the back of the grandstand at the approximate spot where the ball went out.   The flag simply said "HERE" and stood for the remainder of the Orioles time at Memorial Stadium.




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This is a very fun thread.    It’s going to be really interesting when you get down to the final 25 or so.   What makes this unique is that it’s not necessarily tied to something that happened on the field, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be something positive.   I’ll be interested to see if and where January 10, 1991 falls on the list.   

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Fun read.

I'm hoping the final game of the 2011 season, in which Andino hit that walk off that knocked the Red Sox out of the playoffs, makes the list. That game was legendary. The raucous crowd stayed celebrating afterwards as if we had just clinched a playoff spot. After that, we made the playoffs 3 out of the next 5 years. I count that game as the beginning of this era. And one of my top 3 games all time.

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