My friend Jeff was the first to give me the bad news. I was stunned. What was the world coming to? How could such a thing possibly happen in this great nation of ours? Until now, losing a baseball game by the score of 30 to 3, was simply unheard of in major league baseball.
As a lifelong Orioles fan, I was greatly saddened and forlorn, that the great team of my youth, had just made the record books in the worst of ways. They had given up more runs in one game, than any other team. This was a record that went all the way back to 1897. It reminded me more of a lopsided sandlot game, than anything else. You remember those games, when two guys ran their hands up the bat to see who would pick first. And then the last guy with his hand at the top of the bat got to choose the first player. And of course, sometimes the teams got really out of balance and one team would score 16 runs in an inning or something ridiculous like that. Then the other team would call it quits and go home, or at best everybody would agree to start a new game with new captains picking different sides from the same cast of players. But there is no quitting in major league baseball, so this one game just went on and on and on, long after the Orioles had run out of capable pitchers.
As youngsters growing up in the more northern reaches of Baltimore County, we adored the Orioles. It didn’t matter, that at that point in time, they had yet to win the World Series or even an American League pennant, but they were still our team and we cheered them on no matter what. In fact, they were usually the doormat of the American League. Every team seemed to have an easy time of it, when they played in Baltimore, but that never dampened our enthusiasm. In fact it may have made us cheer the home team on with greater gusto.
For us, baseball was really the great summer pastime. We played in organized leagues in the evening hours just before dusk, and in pickup games during the day. Sometimes at the school playground, where we almost always congregated on a hot summer day, there would not even be close to enough players to make up two teams. However, there were always ways to keep on playing without the minimum required, such as playing on half a field and if you hit a ball to the opposite field it was a foul ball or sometimes even an out. The specific rules would always be decided by majority consent before the game began. But it is when only three or four of us diehards showed up, that we had to use our vivid young imaginations in order to keep playing. To this we simply used imaginary runners and players. If somebody got a single, they were allowed to go back to the plate and bat again, and an imaginary runner would take their place at first base. This was a viable solution, which usually worked out OK, but the real problems began when the imaginary runners turned into imaginary fielders. At this point the game was almost always in its last stages, because nobody could ever agree if the invisible guy playing third base was able to get the hard hit ground ball, that went just to the right of the shortstop. The shortstop, who was real, would sometimes end up in a very heated argument as to whether the third basement, that nobody could see, actually made the play or not.
On more than one occasion, imaginary players were accused of making an error. Needless to say these games did not last all that long, especially in the hot, humid Maryland summer heat. Fortunately, there were a million other things for small kids on bikes to do, which kept us busily entertained throughout the summer months.
Not surprisingly, none of the regulars on the school ground, ever made it to the majors, or even the junior varsity school team for that matter. We reached puberty and started growing up just about the same time the Orioles won their first World Series, a magical five days in October, when they beat the highly favored Dodgers in four straight. Since those precious days in early October, ( Remember when the world series was over by Columbus Day ) everything the team has accomplished seems so unimportant.
Baseball just doesn’t seem the same anymore. With designated hitters, alleged steroid use and huge astronomical salaries for a select few, some of the beauty of the game has definitely disappeared. My friend Jeff says there are too many teams and not enough pitchers to go around. That may well be true, but if I was on that Orioles team that lost so badly, I would have been tempted to stop at twenty, and pick new teams. Or maybe better yet just forfeit the game and headed for the nearest watering hole, where the loser would have to buy the beer. At least a forfeit is better than a 27 run loss. But I guess, what they say is true; “records are made to be broken”.