Hip Hip Hooray for the Baltimore Sports Heroes!
The Baltimore sports fan has experienced more than his share of highs and lows.
In 2012, for the first time, we have a successful baseball team along with a football team that shows great promise. Both teams play in first-class sports venues adjacent to the spectacular Baltimore Inner Harbor.
Take a deep breath, Baltimore, and smell the coffee. It doesn't get any better than this.
We have fought through a lot in our sports history. As a result, the Baltimore sports fan is prone to being a little neurotic, and with good reason. Maybe we did not witness some of the madness, but our parents and grandparents did. The neurosis has been passed down and nurtured through the generations.
The Baltimore Orioles baseball team picked up and left the city three times in 15 years. We were romanced by the Federal League, which melted away after two years. With its departure went our hopes to rejoin the “major leagues.”
We did not get that opportunity again until we purchased the lowly, broken St. Louis Browns. We did not get a whiff of this transaction until the city of Milwaukee told the St. Louis Browns, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Football has been a boondoggle since arriving in 1947. The Colts came and went three times . The last departure scarred the city, ingraining the neurosis into our psyche. We tried to fool ourselves with the USFL and the Canadian Football League, but it was not pretty, no matter how much lipstick we applied to the pig.
Whenever the football team left town, The Baltimore Colt Marching Band kept the home fires burning. The band stuck together for the hiatus of 1951 and 1952. They really made a name for themselves when they outlasted the absence of the NFL from 1984 until 1996.
Sure, we can boast that we are the only city that has won a Super Bowl (two times with different teams), a Grey Cup and the USFL championship, despite that team never playing a game in Baltimore.
Pro basketball was short-lived here, but nice while it lasted. There have been several incarnations of hockey that are buried underneath the “Baltimore Civic Center.”
Indoor soccer and duckpin bowling are not going to draw much national admiration or interest. Professional tennis lasted a year (I think).
Once a professional sports team is settled in Baltimore, the support is terrific. The Baltimore Ravens have sold out every game since the franchise moved here from Cleveland. The Orioles were flirting with the 4-million mark in attendance in the mid- to late-1990s. Not too shabby.
On the other hand, we are a fussy, stubborn bunch which felt sure that we were going to show Colts owner Robert Irsay where he can stick it. Thankfully, the Orioles decided to let the professionals run our team, to everyone’s delight. Hallelujah!
Despite our roller-coaster history as a major league sports town, Baltimore leads the USA in one special sports category, heroes. We have been blessed with some of the greatest of all time.
Matter of fact, I will mount my soapbox and say that Baltimore has more sports heroes than any other major league city in the USA. Allow me to define what I call a hero.
- Is arguably the best athlete to play his position in his respective sport.
- Has been enshrined into his respective Hall of Fame.
- Once a member of the team, became a resident of Baltimore, lived in the city during his career and remained after his retirement. Raised his family here.
- Spent essentially his entire professional career with one team.
- Was a philanthropist. Gave of himself to help the city, which has some rough spots.
Baltimore has three people who fit this definition. While others may surely disagree, I contend that no other city, in my brain-wracking analysis, can equal this number.
Who are they? Brooks Robinson, John Unitas and Cal Ripken Jr..
Baltimore is blessed to have known them.
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