The U.S. Navy was established on October 13, 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized the creation of the Continental Navy. Baseball plays an important role in the Navy, as it does in other branches of the U.S. military. In fact, baseball has been associated with the Armed Forces at least since the Civil War.
In honor of the Navy’s birthday tomorrow, I’ve posted some footage of baseball being played aboard a naval battleship in the 1930s. Checkout the footage at about 1 minute, 40 seconds.
I know this is bad timing, given the results of last night’s game, but yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of “the incident.” You know, that time that the Yankees used a kid to steal the game 1 and the entire 1996 ALCS from the Orioles? This one:
It still makes me cry.
But what if that had never happened? Let your imagination run wild here:
Perhaps Rocky Coppinger, losing pitcher of game 4, would have instead gone on to have a long and successful MLB career, instead of being shuttled between the Orioles and their minor league affiliates for three and half more years, then being traded to Milwaukee in July 1999, where, after not playing at all in 2000 due to injuries, he made history by giving up the final home run of Mark McGwire’s ignominious career.
Maybe Mike Mussina, El Traidor, wouldn’t have ended up signing with the Yankees 5 years later. (And maybe he’d have gotten into the Hall of Fame after a fabulous career with the Orioles.)
Maybe Todd Zeile would have stayed with the Orioles instead of bouncing around for eight more years with eight more teams before becoming an actor. (Where IS he now?)
Perhaps Manny Alexander wouldn’t have been traded before the start of the next season, ultimately ending up with the Boston Red Sox in 2000 where he loaned the bat boy his Mercedes who was then arrested for possession of steroid (found in the glove compartment of said Mercedes), thus destroying the bat boy’s baseball career. (The charges were later dropped, but the damage was done.)
Maybe, just maybe, the Orioles would have have gone on to the World Series, defeating the Atlanta Braves, and continuing to have winning season for the next 22 years, thus, not having the worst season in Orioles history this year.
Do you remember Yamil Benitez? Me neither. But today is his birthday. Born on October 5, 1972, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Yamil Benitez was signed by the Montreal Expos in 1989. After six seasons in the minors he made his major league debut on September 16, 1995. Two years later he was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft. After his MLB career, Benitez played two more seasons in the Mexican League. Today he is the president of the Asociación de Peloteros Profesionales de Puerto Rico (an organization I need to do more research on).
Benitez also hit the first walk-off home run for the Diamondbacks twenty years ago, on June 28, 1998:
Happy Birthday, Yamil! And Happy Friday, everyone!
So, the National League Division Series (NLDS) begins today. And the American League Division Series (ALDS) begins tomorrow. Even though my favorite teams might not be playing this postseason, I can always pretend.
For starters, if you’re an O’s fan looking for an excuse to root for the Brewers (and former Oriole Jonathan Schoop), the two teams share a common lineage. The Orioles were, in fact, “born” in Milwaukee. The 1901 Milwaukee Brewers, who finished eighth in the American League that year, moved to St. Louis in 1902 and became the St. Louis Browns. Five decades later the team moved again, this time to Baltimore, where they became the Baltimore Orioles. (Of course, the current Brewers team started out as the Seattle Pilots before moving to Milwaukee after the Milwaukee Braves departed in 1965 for Atlanta (after first moving from Boston to Milwaukee in 1953).
If that’s too complicated, just think about all of the former Orioles who will be playing in the NLDS. The series features the Dodgers v. the Braves and the Brewers v. Rockies. How many former Orioles will be playing? Quite a few, actually:
Matt Albers, P, Brewers
Wade Miley, P, Brewers
Jonathan Schoop, IF, Brewers
Manny Machado, IF, Dodgers
Justin Turner, IF, Dodgers
Brad Brach, P, Braves
Kevin Gausman, P, Braves
Ryan Flaherty, IF, Braves
Nick Markakis, OF, Braves
And let’s not forget about my other favorite team, the Washington Nationals. The Brewers have two former Nats, including one of my all-time favorite pitchers, Gio Gonzalez (the other being Matt Albers, who also is listed above as a former Oriole). In addition, the Dodgers have Ryan Madson, the Braves have Kurt Suzuki, and the Rockies have Ian Desmond.
For the ALDS it will be the Indians v. the Astros and the Red Sox v. the Yankees. A handful of former Orioles will be playing (Eduardo Rodriguez, former Orioles minor leaguer; Steve Pearce; Andrew Miller; and Zach Britton), as well as a few former Nats (Sandy Leon, former Nats minor leaguer; Oliver Perez; and A.J. Cole).
Even if you aren’t an O’s or Nats fan, you can use the same logic to determine which teams to root for this postseason if your favorite isn’t in the running. If that doesn’t work, you can always fall on classic reasons like rooting for a city you like, the team with the best uniform colors, the underdog, or even the team with the best players, best record, etc.
So, if your favorite teams aren’t playing this postseason, you have options for finding another team to root for.
When looking up “This Date in Baseball History,” I saw the following entry for October 3: “1986 – Baltimore loses to Detroit 6-3, assuring the Orioles of their first last-place finish since moving from St. Louis in 1954.”
That got me wondering, how many last-place finishes have we had since moving from St. Louis? Further, how bad (or good) have the Orioles actually been throughout their history – particularly in light of this past horrific season?
For starters, the 2018 season was the absolute worst season the Orioles have ever had in their 65 years in Baltimore: the O’s won only 47 games and lost 115 (a win percentage of .290). The 1986 team — the historic first last-place season team since moving to Baltimore — was far better, winning 73 games and losing 89. In fact, in the franchise’s entire history, only the 1939 St. Louis Browns have a worse record with a .279 win percentage. Nonetheless, this year the Orioles still managed to lose more games than the 1939 Browns (the Browns lost 43 and won 111 in 1939; the 2018 winning percentage is higher only because they played fewer games in 1939).
The 2018 Orioles finished 61 games out of first place. Only the 1954 Orioles come anywhere close to that, finishing 57 games out. The St. Louis Browns finished more than 50 games out of first place four times (in 1910, 1911, 1927, and 1939). Again, only the 1939 Browns finished even worse than the 2018 Orioles, finishing their season 64.5 games out of first place.
If it’s any consolation, when you look at the decade-by-decade breakdown (see table below), the Orioles were actually worse from 2000 to 2009, when they won only 698 games. With one year left to go in this decade, we’ve already improved upon that record. (Sure, a decade is an artificial breakdown, especially when comparing team performance, but at least it gives us a sense of how we are trending.)
Of course, worse than the number of games lost or the number of games we ended up out of first place is the number of favorite players traded and the number of favorite players likely to not be offered new contracts this off season.
Baltimore Orioles Record: 1954-2018
No. of Times in 1st Place*
No. of Times in Last Place
*Refers to place in the division after 1969; divisions were created in 1969.