As a lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan it goes without saying that I HATE THE NEW YORK YANKEES!
While Yankee fans now pretty much dismiss the Orioles as a pesky little hang-nail, at one time that hate was quite mutual as the Orioles were often the only thing standing between New York and an Eastern Division crown.
Because of the legendary Babe Ruth trade and their classic match-ups over the last 15 years the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has been elevated to the top of the baseball hemisphere, but there was a stretch when the real rivalry in the American League East was between the Yankees and Orioles.
Between 1970 and 1985, the two teams were annually competing for the American League East title as Baltimore posted a winning record every season and the Yankees were above .500 in all but two of those 16 campaigns.
During that stretch, Baltimore won the division six times and the Yankees claimed the crown on four occasions. Baltimore was second in three of the four seasons that New York won the division while the Yankees finished second to the Orioles twice.
Perhaps the height of their competition during that stretch was in 1980 when Baltimore won 100 games, but still finished three games behind New York, who registered 103 victories.
Both teams’ struggled in the late 1980s as New York didn’t finish higher than fourth in the division between 1987 and 1992. Baltimore wasn’t much better as their best finishes during the stretch were second in 1989 and third in 1992.
For a while in the mid-1990s it appeared like the old rivalry was resurfacing.
New York returned to the playoffs in 1995 and the following season, thanks to the new wild card format, both squads advanced to postseason.
Of course, any good Orioles fan still gets riled up when the circumstances around the first game of the 1996 American League Championship Series are mentioned. Baltimore was winning the game 4-3 in the eighth inning and seemed destined to steal one from the favored Yankees until a young Yankee fan who ditched school to be at the game reached onto the field to turn what would have either been an out or a double into a momentum changing home run.
While the incredibly bad decision by umpire Rich Garcia to rule Jeter’s ball a home run instead of an out definitely led to Baltimore losing that game in the 11th inning, it did not really cost Baltimore the series.
The Orioles rallied to win game two, but then lost three straight games to New York at Camden Yards.
Even though Baltimore again advanced to the league championship series the following season, the 1996 championship series really served as the catalyst toward a decade of glory for New York and a decade of decline for the Orioles.
New York won the 1996 World Series and went on to claim three more in the following four years.
Conversely, Baltimore has not had a winning season since 1997.
So, when the two teams met this week at the new Yankee Stadium it served as yet another reminder of how much has changed certainly since the Orioles’ hey days of the 1970s and even since the mid-1990s.
New York is back in their accustomed place atop the AL East and Baltimore is back in a spot they are becoming all-too-familiar with, the AL East basement.
And, to just rub it into the noses of those of us who still bleed Baltimore orange, the Yankees ripped another valve out of our hearts with three straight victories.
The first game of the series was typical of what has been happening to the Orioles in recent years as they had a chance to win the game, but had two runners thrown out at the plate in the eighth inning. New York, of course, went on to win on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.
After watching that entire game, I had a hard time mustering any excitement for the final two games of the series. Both games followed the expected pattern of New York fans ending up happy for another day and Baltimore fans looking for any reason to talk about 1966, 1970 or 1983.
Much is being said and written about the new excitement and energy that the talented young players are bringing to the Orioles. That is wonderful and I am among those who have preached patience related to giving the team time to grow and develop.
However, when it comes to playing the Yankees, I sure hope they grow and develop quickly, because it isn’t much fun when hate only goes one way.