My son and I embarked on the two and half hour drive to Baltimore with great anticipation. Though only seven years old, my son boasted a 4-1 lifetime record at White Sox games, including 2-1 when Mark Buerhle pitched. Plus he was 2-0 seeing the White Sox on the road. Today seemed like an easy day to extend that mark to 5-1.
With light traffic up the Shenandoah Valley and around the DC Beltway, we arrived well in advance of game time. We found great parking for $8.00 in a garage four blocks from the stadium and soon found ourselves strolling down Eutaw Street, a road now closed to traffic that serves as the wide concourse between right field and the warehouse. There we sampled Boog's barbecue and marveled at the bronze discs on the concourse that commemorate every home run that has been hit onto Eutaw Street. We even found one marking a 2003 shot by Jeff Liefer of the White Sox. "Who was he," dad? "Honestly, son, I have no recollection."
We headed to our seats---very nice lower-level terrace boxes behind the first base dugout but in the shade for $20.00 a piece (thanks, Madvillian for the recommendation to use Stubhub)---and made ourselves comfortable. From our vantage point, we got a nice look at the Orioles retired numbers on the faced of the upper left-field deck. I named them off for my son---Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Jr. I was struck by the numbers of the great players against a background of empty seats. Few images convey the hard times upon which this club has fallen.
Which prompted my son to come up with the following joke.
Q: Why is it so hot at Camden Yards?
A: Because all the fans have gone.
Shortly before the game, we spotted Hawk in the broadcast booth. We decided to take a short walk over and see if we could wave up to him and ask him who his pick to click was for today. He saw us, waved, and the next thing I knew, he motioned to the Oriole security guard, threw a baseball down to him, and signaled for him to give the ball to my son!! What a thrill. Then he looked at the ball. And there was the autograph: Ken Harrleson "Hawk." Stone Pony threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and my son, who has every Hawkism memorized, was good to go (though he was still trying to figure out why the White Sox announcers were in Baltimore--he is only seven, after all).
As you all saw, the game was a let down. Solid hits by Rios and Konerko with two outs in the first put two runners in scoring position, only to be followed by a weak at bat by Q!. Kotsay lead off the second with a rocket of a double and then sat there through three unproductive outs. That set the offensive tone for the afternoon. Buerhle didn't have his best stuff, oscillating between easy innings and struggles. Still, he pitched well enough to win. At one point, in the seventh inning, the pitch counter had Buerhle at 114 pitches (it later was corrected). Perhaps that made him---or the defense look tired or confused---but regardless the inning ended in the unearned run which made the difference. By this time, we saw that Minnesota had come back to take the lead over Cleveland. Unfortunately, that was not an error.
The Oriole fans were delightful. We had good conversations with those around us and talked knowledgeable baseball. And then as we were leaving the game, we discovered that the battery in our camera was dead. The spare battery? At home in the charger. All kind of reminded me of Chris Sale and his cell phone battery. Well, two Oriole fans offered to take our picture on their iPhone and then immediately emailed the picture to me. Accommodating fans. I thanked them, congratulated them on the recent success of the O's under Showalter, and told them I hoped that the day is not too far off when they can dethrone the Yankees and Red Sox. Maybe they'll even play the White Sox in the ALCS some day soon---just not a repeat of 1983.
As we left, we told ourselves that we will probably long forget the game. But it is August and the White Sox were still in first place. And we went home with a souvenir to remember forever.