One of either the Orioles or the Royals is going to The World Series. We asked their long-suffering fans to share just how that makes them feel.
On Friday evening, the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals will kick off the American League Championship Series, with the winner advancing to The World Series, a feat neither franchise has accomplished since the mid-1980s.
This year, it’s not the Yankees. Not the Red Sox. Not the Tigers. Not the Angels. Not even the White Sox.
This year, it’s the Royals and the Orioles. And – ratings be damned – that is a good thing for baseball. A great thing. Both are proud franchises that evoke the goodness of baseball Americana, from the fire of George Brett to the preternatural solidity of Cal Ripken Jr. Both swept higher-profile, highly favored, big-market teams. The Orioles sliced through the Tigers vaunted Cy Young filled pitching staff and carved up the soft underbelly of their bullpen. The Royals made equally quick work of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and the Angels.
To celebrate this momentous occasion we asked two fans, one for the Orioles and one for the Royals, tell us their story and make their case as to why their team is going to the World Series.
(They’re both just a wee bit excited . . . Along with a whole lot of others!)
Orange and Black is the new….um…Orange and Black. Why the Orioles will win.
By Jesse Olitzky, Orioles Fan:
I am an emotional Orioles fan.
I threw something at the television in 1996 when Jeffrey Maier turned a fly ball off the bat of Derek Jeter – a fly ball that Tony Tarasco was going to catch – into a home run. After that, there was no turning back. The Yankees had all the momentum.
I cried – yes cried – as I watched the Orioles lose the ALCS in 1997 to the Cleveland Indians. All experts said that the Orioles, who had gone wire-to-wire to win the division that year, were the better team. Then their offense went cold. Agonizingly, each of their losses that series were one-run losses (two of which were in extra innings).
Then I waited. I waited for a decade and a half for the Orioles to be competitive again. There were glimpses of false hope along the way – a team that was competitive in 2005 managed to flounder down the stretch and finish in last place.
This all changed in 2012, when Baltimore came out of nowhere to win a Wild Card and advance to the ALDS against the Yankees. I was in the stands at Yankee Stadium – risking my life – decked out in Orange and Black screaming as the Orioles were just outs away from taking a commanding 2-1 series lead. And then Raul Ibanez happened. Twice.
It seemed that any time the Orioles excited the baseball world and made the playoffs over the past two decades (which were few and far between) the baseball gods found a way for them to lose the game. Which makes what they are doing now that much more remarkable.
All analysts agreed that this year, the AL East would be less competitive than in past years. Still, with the defending World Series champs in Boston, an always competitive Tampa Bay team, the offensive juggernaut north of the border, and the deep pockets of the Evil Empire, many again picked the Orioles, only two years removed from the postseason, to finish dead last. Then their all-star catcher Matt Wieters went down for the season with Tommy John surgery, they were left for dead. And then their gold glove, all-star third baseman Manny Machado, who missed the first month and a half recovering from knee surgery injured his other knee, and they were the forgotten team. And then their all-star first baseman who led the league in homeruns last year was suspended for testing positive for amphetamines. All they did was run away with the division.
Maybe the Orioles have finally found favor in the eyes of the baseball gods. Steve Pearce, twice released by the Orioles (along with the Yankees, Pirates, and Astros) is playing like an all-star. Scouts said Caleb Joseph, who replaced Wieters at catcher, wasn’t good enough defensively to stick behind the plate in the big leagues. He led the American League in caught stealing percentage. The Orioles traded away their all-star closer (and got nothing back in return!) in the winter. Zach Britton who was out of options and pitching last fall in the instructional league was slotted into the ninth inning and is now the most dominant closer in the American League.
Yes, the baseball gods finally fell in love with the Oriole Way!
Or maybe it is Buck Showalter, who is the most prepared manager in the big leagues. He is always three steps ahead of the chess match, always rolling the dice. That is would made what the Orioles did in the ALDS this year all the more impressive. Statistically, their rotation has been very good this year, but Baltimore does not have the names that Detroit has. For the first time, the past three Cy Young winners started for a single team in the playoffs, back-to-back-to-back. And the Orioles beat all of them. Them, and of course the Tigers’ bullpen.
The Orioles believe they can win. They believe they will win. And they will, because their fans believe in them, because Buck believes in them, and because, for the first time since 1983, it looks like the baseball gods believe in them as well.
Cause They’re Gonna Be Royals (Royals…). Why the Royals will win.
By Justin Ricklefs, Royals Fan:
Named after Hall of Famer George Brett. That would have been my name, if my older brother (who was 10 at the time of my birth) didn’t throw a fit that he wasn’t also named after someone famous. I mean, I was introduced to people in the hospital as Brett and then a day or two later, they pulled the carpet out from under me. My parents changed my name to Justin. And I’m still bitter.
I was born in the throes of the 1980 World Series. A series the hometown Royals lost to the Phillies in six games. Baseball was as much a part of my life as baby food. I had no choice. I’m told this was a baseball town in the early 80’s. The Royals owned this city. They appeared in the World Series again in 1985. This time beating the Cardinals in the I-70 Series. I was too young to remember the exact sequence of events, but I remember the feeling of euphoria that swept through this town. George Brett could have run for mayor during any election in the 80’s, 90’s or 2000’s and won. In a landslide.
As a boy that saw his beloved team make two World Series’ in five years, I never imagined anything but a dominant and adored franchise. But 1985 would be the last time the Royals were relevant. Until this season. 29 years later.
This season didn’t feel any different to the normal fan. April, May and June were filled with anger and “here we go again.” Seven games back in mid-May. 4 games below .500 in early June. 8 games back on July 21. Let me emphasize that – 8 GAMES BACK ON JULY 21. Columns were being written calling for heads on platters. Ownership was chastised. But then the tide turned. They immediately won 5 straight. A few days later they started an 8 game winning streak. By August 11, they were up a half game on the Tigers. And this town started to believe. They ended up losing the division to the Tigers by a game, but then they won an unforgettable Wild Card game against the A’s. Then they swept the regular season best Angels.
We could discuss the on-field reasons for why the Royals will win. Their starting pitching is legit. Their bullpen is arguably the best in baseball. Their defense is unreal. They steal bases (even Billy Butler). They found out how to hit home-runs in the playoffs. Hosmer is turning into a star (and buying fans drinks in celebration). Gordon reminds baseball people of #5. They aren’t perfect, but they’re built for times like this.
But far beyond the on-field reasons lies a sleeping giant. A baseball town that has been longing to believe again. For nearly three decades. And the bad news for Baltimore is that KC is awake. The vibe in this town is unlike anything I’ve experienced, well at least since I was five. The Royals aren’t a cuss-word in Kansas City any longer. They’re beloved once again.
In fact, babies that are being born in this city will likely start to be named famous names. Alex. Eric. Sal. Maybe even Moose or Big Game James. Or maybe, like my brother did, their older siblings will get jealous and make them change their name to Justin.
We couldn’t stop with Jesse and Justin. More fan voices below!!
Steve Intlekofer (Orioles)
On August 22, 2007 the Baltimore Orioles lost a baseball game 30-3 to the Texas Rangers. Yes, that was the actual score. The Orioles were actually up 3-0 before giving up 30 straight runs. At this point, the Orioles had not had a winning record since 1997. They would not have a winning record again until 2012, when they surprised everyone by sneaking into a wildcard playoff spot. That day in 2007 was arguably my low point as a baseball fan, the epicenter of the dark vortex.
Now, in October 2014, we have fully emerged from that vortex. Starting with the Buck Showalter hiring in 2010, and followed by the (seemingly absurd at the time) hiring of Dan Duquette as GM in 2011, the Orioles have now become, somehow, a legit franchise. Three straight winning seasons, two of them playoff seasons, and the joy has finally fully returned, with some confidence behind it now. I vividly remember when the O’s lost to Cleveland in the playoffs in 1997 (I was in college). I remember most of the details of the glorious “Why Not?” year of 1989, and I even have some hazy childhood memories of winning the World Series in 1983. I can say that there were times, as on that August day in 2007, when I thought we may never see a winning season in Baltimore again. Now it’s here, and it’s beyond incredible. It’s hard for cities like New York or St. Louis to understand what it’s like to win after losing so much and so often. I think it’s sweeter, much sweeter.
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Chris Reaves (Royals)
It’s our time! After 29 years of suffering with the longest playoff drought of any of the 4 major sports, it is the Royals time! This year, the Royals slogan was “Be Royal.” For me, it has always been “Be Loyal.” Every year in baseball there seems to be a team that has the ball bounce their way in the playoffs. So far, that team has been the Royals, so I say, “Why not us?” It is our time and we are WAY overdue.
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Peyton Cory (Orioles)
For years, I’ve grown accustomed to the Orioles taking a back seat to Boston, New York – and Tampa Bay, even more recently – each year. I’d grown accustomed to the mediocrity (on a good day). Lots of Baltimore fans ditched MLB altogether and adopted the Ravens and their winning ways. At lovely Oriole Park, you couldn’t get 25% of the seats filled on a typical weeknight. Now, seeing the Birds fortunes turn around.. our fair weather fans are back, and are welcomed with open arms.
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KC Royals Blogger, Rany on The Royals (Royals)
On the one hand, we’re playing with house money at this point. If you had told me, or pretty much any fan, or the Royals themselves, that they would reach the ALCS this year, we would have taken that happily with no expectations for what might happen beyond that point. No matter what happens from this point on, the 2014 Royals season has to be considered a rousing success. On the other hand, the Royals are eight wins away from turning “a rousing success” into the kind of sports story they write books and produce movies about . . . . It’s never going to be this good again, folks. Unless there’s another 29-year drought, there will never again be a season where the Royals can capture the attention of the nation the way they have at this very moment. We may never have a chance to get in on the ground floor of a dream season quite like this one. So they might as well win the whole damn thing.
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Lauren Hall (Orioles)
Ms. Hall expressed her views – she’s got the Orioles – in her Baltimore themed re-write of Lorde’s song Royals.
Your city turns its lonely eyes to you. (Woo woo woo).
Let’s Play Ball.
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Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel (Cover), AP Photo/Patrick Semansky (Orioles), AP Photo/File (Royals).
* Special thanks to Jesse Olitzky, Justin Ricklefs, Steve Intlekofer, Chris Reaves, Peyton Cory for contributing to this piece! *