In the Second Phase of The Age of The Internet, we have become hyper-connected through social media. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow us to force images of our homemade, artisanal pizza on our friends. We can passive-aggressively brag to our online community about what a gorgeous sunset it is we are experiencing right now. In short, it can be overwhelming at times and often people take breaks from it all in a concerted effort to decompress from the deluge of food pictures and selfies on a remote tropical beach you’ll only ever see, because your friend posted a photo of it.
On the other hand, the social media world can serve to reconnect you with friends you haven’t seen or talked to in over twenty years. One such occasion of reconnect for me was with one of my childhood buddies, Philip. Philip and I met in a small town in Southeast Alaska called Sitka. Before Alaska was added to the Union as the 49th State, Sitka served as the old Russian Orthodox capital. Ensconced amongst seemingly endless mountains on Baranof Island, Sitka will probably forever remain a small town supported mostly by fishing and tourism. We both arrived in Sitka in the early 80’s; moving from our respective hometowns of Seattle and Baltimore. Philip’s step-father and my father were both doctors, but we met before they would in the second grade.
Since reconnecting a few years ago, we quickly discovered a shared love for baseball. I thought that it would be a fun project to interview friends about the history of their favorite teams and how they interact with that history and culture. The following is a fun little Q&A with Philip.
Gabe: When was your first Orioles game? Did you go to Memorial Stadium?
Philip: My first Orioles game was in the summer of 1986 when I went (back) to Maryland to visit family. I was born there, and lived there until 1982, when my Mother moved us to Sitka. Though I can’t remember all the details of the game, it was at Memorial Stadium, and there were three grand slams hit during the game. The first was by a Texas Ranger, and Larry Sheets of the Orioles hit the second. I can’t remember who hit the other one for the O’s. The Orioles ended up losing the game by a score of somewhere around 13-10 or 14-11. While this was the first game for me in a stadium, I remember watching the Orioles on TV a lot as a young boy.
G: How many times have you attended games at Camden Yards and is it really the best park in all of baseball? Shoot straight with me.
P: I’ve only seen three games at Camden Yards. Living in NY, and not travelling to Baltimore frequently has really limited my ability to attend. While I’ll admit that Camden Yards is the best park I’ve attended, I’ve only been to four other stadiums (Memorial Stadium, Citi Field, Yankees Stadium (the new one), Fenway Park (my obstructed view may have tarnished my enjoyment of the atmosphere)). I really do love Camden Yards. It feels like baseball there. The impression I got from Citi Field was really one of over-commercialization, and Yankee Stadium felt more like a museum than a ballpark. And, I just hate anything Yankess. Fenway was great, in that it was the first park I attended in a number of years, and the story behind the Friday tickets made it interesting (I’ll have to tell you about that another time).
G: I think I’d like to hear that story sooner rather than later.
P: A friend of mine had four Saturday tickets he got from his dad, who had gotten them from one of his vendors. They were 20 rows up on the first base line, about 10 feet short of even with 1st base. We skipped school on Friday to drive to Boston, found a scalper, and traded two of our Saturday tickets for two Friday tickets, so we’d be able to watch two games. We swapped the tickets even trade, and when we got to our seats discovered they were obstructed view. Young, naive high-schoolers got had… Even with the obstructed view, it was worth it. Not a great story, but one I’ll never forget.
G: Who is your favorite Oriole of all time? Who’s the best you’ve seen in person?
P: Cal Ripken, Jr. That’s an easy one for me. Cal Ripken grew up in the same town in Maryland that I did as a boy. He was a legend in Aberdeen, MD just a year or two into the majors. His legend grew, and I never stopped adoring him as a player and community man. He’s also the best I’ve seen in person – one of the all-time greats. Eddie Murray is a very close second.
G: Why in the hell is Melvin Mora in the Orioles’ Hall of Fame? I want astute statistical analysis, which validates his vaunted status in Baltimore. Okay, anecdotal evidence is fine, too.
P: While Melvin Mora is a beloved Oriole, but I can understand why you’d question his status as an inductee to the Orioles Hall of Fame. I’ll start with the anecdotal evidence first…
During Mora’s tenure as an Oriole, the club was absolutely awful, and awful for a long time. There was a stretch of about a decade when any knowledgeable O’s fan KNEW they weren’t making the play-offs. During that time there were few bright spots that lasted longer than a season or two. Mora was the exception. He was the Orioles’ best player (sad, I know) for quite a while, and he had a number of All-Star seasons and .300+ batting seasons. So, if you’re on the Orioles HOF committee, and you’re looking at the 2000-2010 seasons, who the hell else are you going to have represent that period? He played 10 seasons with the Orioles and they NEVER had a winning record. He was the lone bright spot on a dismal team. On to the stats:
· Silver Slugger
· Two-Time All-Star
· In 2004, he set an Orioles single-season record for batting .340, including .419 OB percentage that led the AL. 100+ RBI, 27 HR, and .981 OPS
· He ranks 13th on the Orioles’ all-time list for WAR at 29, and is in the O’s top ten for career runs, total bases, RBIs, doubles, and HRs.
· He played just about every position on the field, with the exception of catcher, pitcher, and 1B.
Remember, this is the ORIOLES HoF, for which the bar is significantly lower. That he rates in the top 10 all-time in so many offensive categories is argument enough. Not to mention, he has nine kids… That’s HoF worthy, right?
G: Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Eddie Murray walk into a bar…
P: Cal buys the first round, then Brooks tells a joke that pisses off Eddie and he leaves… The grumpy bastard.
G: What is the worst trade (or free agent signing) you’ve seen the Orioles make and how much ire do you still possess for that General Manager?
P: The first one that comes to mind is the free agent signing of Albert Belle. The contract was for 5 years and $60+ million. The first year was great, with Belle hitting 37HR, 110+ RBI, .400 OBP, and nearly a .300 BA. After that it was all downhill, and he didn’t even play the final two years of the deal, with his hip injury ending his career.
G: Who was that General Manager and do you still loathe him?
P: No, not really. Frank Wren’s stint in Baltimore only lasted a year (I think he went to Atlanta?), so I couldn’t grow to loathe him. Usually it takes a few years for that.
P: Even without Tillman, that has proven to be a fantastic trade for the Orioles. When I FIRST heard of the trade, I was super pissed. Bedard was coming off of a solid year and I thought there was really good promise in him as an ace. I didn’t know much about Jones or Tillman at the time. Boy, was I wrong. BEST.TRADE.EVER.
G: What’s the best food at Camden Yards?
P: I haven’t experienced enough of them to provide a great deal of insight, but Boog’s BBQ was fantastic!
G: Which Oriole is not in the Hall of Fame who you think should be, hands down?
P: Mike Mussina, followed by Rafael Palmeiro. I think they both have the stats and longevity, but, of course, Palmeiro has that silly appearance in front of Congress that will haunt him forever. Mussina would probably go in as a Yankee though. (Regardless of doing this via email, I swear I can hear Philip sighing with heavy resignation over that fact about Mussina.)
G: What is the best trade (or free agent signing) you’ve seen the Orioles make and why is that General Manager eligible for the Hall of Fame (or at least the Orioles’ Hall)?
P: This trade or FA signing is yet to occur. It will involve two prospects from the O’s growing farm system, and it will net the O’s a 20 game winner under 30 years old who will remain an Oriole for 5-6 years. I know… wishful thinking.
G: How awful were Brady Anderson’s sideburns? Did he do steroids? I mean, really, he hit 50 homers in 1996, which accounts for 23.8% of his career bombs. Enlighten me.
P: They were truly awful. In his defense, the ladies apparently loved him. Yes, he did steroids. Fifty HRs in 1996? Hmmm, could that have been at the height of the “steroid era?” Indeed, it was. No way an un-juiced Brady Anderson hits 50 HRs.
G: Do you wear Jockey briefs underwear, strictly because Jim Palmer did all of those ads?
P: Nope. There was a brief period of time (yes, I made that pun), when Palmer toyed with returning to baseball, and I believe during his preparation, one of the pitching coaches told him his mechanics were awful. That may be Orioles’ urban legend. What a great Oriole he was though.
P: Earl Weaver, easily. He’s more curmudgeonly, and he’s got the dirt kicking down to an art. That would be a great old man fight!
G: How long until Manny Machado grows out of his whiny kid antics? Or has he already?
P: My biggest complaint about him is his immaturity. Like Bryce Harper, he’s growing up with every game.
G: Is Machado on the brink of a 30-30 season for the Birds?
P: Possibly, but the Orioles have not been stealing much. I think he has 10 steals so far this season, so he has some work to do. He’ll get to 30 HR easier than the steals.
G: Do you think the 2015 Baltimore Orioles’ pitching staff is built to win in the postseason?
P: No, they need two shut-down starting pitchers. Wei-Yin Chen and Ubaldo Jimenez have the potential, but they’re inconsistent. Tillman has clearly lost his mojo this year, as has Bud Norris. Time to make a trade for an ace, and not a freaking one-year rental.
G: Is Gary Thorne even in the same class as Vin Scully, as far as broadcasters go?
P: Wow. How about we see an Orioles-Dodgers World Series and listen to them do their thing. In my opinion, Gary Thorne is one of, if not the best, play-by-play broadcasters out there. I can listen to him all day. I haven’t listened to much of Vin Scully, but I get the same feeling listening to him. They’re both at the top of the list for me.
G: Who was the first Oriole to hit for the cycle? (No looking it up, just take your best guess!)
P: I’m going to go with Robinson (you pick which one) on this one. Actually, let’s go with Brooks. It’s a guess. (And he’s right!)
G: Who is Jeffrey Maier?
P: Ugh. That WAS fan interference. The little sh*t.
G: If you were pitching Game 2 of the 1996 ALCS, which New York Yankees’ hitter would you drill on purpose?
G: Neither did I; guy sells out to be part of the Seattle-to-New York farm system. Rubbish!
Which current hitter and which current pitcher would you most love to have added to the Orioles roster, with no detriment to the current roster (purely a fantasy move here, dude)?
P: Mike Trout, because he’s young and he’d supplement the batting order nicely. I think he can truly be one of the greats. Pitching-wise, there are a handful that would make an immediate impact. Here are some that I’d love to have: Felix Hernandez, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Jose Fernandez (he’s so young, and I’d love to get an awesome SP who stuck around for 10 yrs), and Chris Sale.
Thanks Philip! That was an excellent first run to this fan interview exercise. It’s a good thing me and my friends are getting old enough that we have plenty of salt to spare for the heartbreaks our favorite teams can provide. On the other hand, we’ve learned a deeper sense of patience with our loved ones.
Maybe that’s why I haven’t abandoned the 2015 Boston Red Sox yet?!?