New York Yankees fans have a question they love to collectively ask opposing teams at ballparks throughout America. Former Boston Red Sox fireballer Pedro Martinez knows this question well: “Who’s your daddy?”
While pinstripe-donning fans will gladly answer this question, baseball historians may have a different answer.
The Baltimore Orioles share more than just a rivalry with the Bronx Bombers. The Orioles are one of the AL's original eight from the turn of the 20th century. But like Baltimore’s beloved Colts bolting for Indianapolis, these Orioles packed up, moved to New York and changed their name to the Highlanders.
In 1903, the Highlanders became the New York Yankees. But the connections do not end there.
Iconic Yankees slugger Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore. He played Steel League ball in Sparrow’s Point during World War I. The Baseball History Blog has old newspaper clippings of Ruth’s presence in Baltimore during this time.
Ruth’s tenure in New York marked the start of an impressive reign of Yankees greatness that continues to this day. To be exact, 27 World Series championships.
“Who’s your daddy?” is right.
Not to say Brooks Robinson and Co. did not give the Yankees heated runs for their money in the 1960s, but the long and storied (and sometimes violent) relations between the Bronx Bombers and Baltimore’s Birds do not end there.
Nearly 80 years after Ruth played his final Steel League game, “The Iron Man,” Cal Ripken Jr., passed “The Iron Horse,” Lou Gehrig, for the "most consecutive games played" record. Who could ever forget Ripken’s victory lap before an exhilarated crowd at Camden Yards on September 6, 1995?
Yankees icon Derek Jeter returned the favor on June 29, 2012, when he passed Ripken to move into 13th place on the MLB all-time hits list.
Jeter’s feat happened 14 years after a May 1998 brawl between New York and Baltimore instigated by a bean ball thrown by frustrated Orioles closer Armando Benitez. This '98 brawl was the icing on the cake that resulted in a sharp decline of a proud Orioles franchise that would go on to 13 straight losing seasons.
While Camden Yards suffered a declining fanbase that could not bear to watch constantly-changing lineups, the Yankees went on to win four more World Series titles.
But how things have changed this season. For with steadfast leadership from skipper Buck Showalter, a resurgent Orioles team has taken MLB by storm. Now in early September, the Orioles and the Yankees share the top perch in the American League East.
And the ballpark at 333 West Camden Street—a site repeatedly invaded by tens of thousands of Yankees fans for the past decade-plus—is now filled to capacity with a bright sea of orange and black.
On the night Ripken was immortalized in bronze, rowdy cheers, fist-pumps and loud chants of “Let’s go O’s” drowned “Let’s go Yankees.”
John Denver’s upbeat song, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” inspired a loud roar that can be heard beyond the city traffic roaring down Pratt Street.
For Orioles fans that have endured decades of misery, playing a meaningful game against the Yankees in September is inspiring. For Yanks fans, watching the Orioles rejoin them atop the AL East standings is a completely foreign idea.
How this proud franchise that began in Baltimore over a century ago responds to this new pressure will be interesting.
But whether you are a Yankees fan or an Orioles fan, the rekindling of this once-exciting rivalry is great for the game of baseball.
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