Yes, the last dozen years have been particularly painful for Baltimore Orioles fans, but as we observe the Thanksgiving Holiday we still have much to be thankful for.
As an Orioles fan for 40 years, I’ve compiled a list of the 10 things I think Orioles fans can be thankful for. If you are a fan of the Orioles, I’d welcome hearing other things you think we should appreciate during this time of thankful reflection.
10. Buck Martinez —I don’t know what other Orioles fans think of Buck Martinez as a broadcaster of Baltimore games, but I hope they like and appreciate him. Personally, I think the world of him after he took 10 minutes out of his hectic schedule before a game between the Orioles and Rays in St. Petersburg this past summer to give me a personal interview. He did an amazing job giving me the rundown on the young players and key needs of the Orioles and didn’t care that I was writing for sports blogs instead of a major newspaper. For that I am most appreciative and thankful.
9. Boog Powell — My all-time favorite Oriole. I am thankful not just for the 303 home runs Boog hit for the Orioles, but also for his great personality as an advertising legend on the Lite Beer Commercials. I also am thankful for the great Boog’s Barbecue that has become a staple of Camden Yards.
8. Chuck Thompson —Most cities have a sports broadcaster from history who is most associated with that city. In Baltimore, Chuck Thompson was the voice of the Orioles and Colts long before those franchises became successful. His recognizable voice brought the action to fans for decades and he will always be considered the "Voice of the Orioles and Colts."
7. Jim Palmer —I sometimes think that the greatness of Jim Palmer has been forgotten by much of the sports world. While Orioles fans know him as the best pitcher in franchise history, because he didn’t win 300 games he often gets overlooked in the conversation of best of all-time. After his career ended, he also has been a standout broadcaster for 25 years, but again has been lost by the rest of the country. I really don’t understand why he no longer does national broadcasts considering that he is 10 times better than Tim McCarver.
6. Andy MacPhail — I know there are some Orioles fans who will be looking to run him out on a rail if the Orioles don’t start winning in the next two seasons. However, I truly believe that he has built a solid foundation for the future and it will just be a matter of time before the team starts winning. If he can sign Roy Halladay or some other pitching ace this off-season I will be even more thankful for his presence.
5. Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold —Sure the Orioles may not have ended 2009 with a winning record, but the play of these three young and talented outfielders has certainly provided hope for the future. If all three are able to harness their potential and live up to their early performances, the Orioles could end up with one of the best outfield units in baseball for years to come.
4. The Ripken Family —As a fan of a sports team, you have to be most appreciative of those who spent their entire careers striving to make your team better. Cal Ripken Jr. and Cal Ripken Sr. both did exactly that. And while Billy Ripken wasn’t quite as vital to the Orioles as his famous father and brother, he still was a solid team player for a number of years.
3. Matt Wieters and the young pitching staff —I may be looking at things with orange colored glasses, but after his performance over the final months of the 2009 season, I truly believe that Matt Wieters will be the next Joe Mauer and maybe even better than the current league MVP. Wieters has the potential to be more of a power hitter than Mauer and while he may never win a batting title, I think Wieters can be a regular .300 hitter. When combined with the many young guns the Orioles have in their pitching staff, I think the Birds could have a great pitch and catch combo for years to come.
2. Frank & Brooks Robinson —It is relatively rare in sports that two people with the same last name play for the same team at the same time, but even rarer that they were not related. However, during the glory years of the 1960s and early 1970s, the Baltimore Orioles rode the talent of future Hall of Famers Frank and Brooks Robinson to two World Series titles and four World Series appearances. The Orioles have truly been blessed to have these two super people and super athletes as representatives of their franchise.
1. Oriole Park at Camden Yards —There have been a lot of nice ballparks built since the Orioles opened the doors of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992, but there still is not a better baseball stadium in the league. Camden Yards was the standard barer for the modern baseball stadium and is an amazing place to watch a ball game. The Orioles may not have been the best team on the field in the last decade, but they at least play in the best stadium.
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