Tuesday, September 6, 2011
September 6th....What it means for me
September 6th is just another day on the calander for most. This years its the day after Labor Day weekend so most are probably dragging into work this morning.
But for me, its a reminder of my youth. Its the day that my two favorite and two of the greatest baseball players ever, Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray, set career milestones on this date respectfully in 1995 and 1996.
For Ripken, it was game 2131 in his Ironman streak, eclispsing the previous rcord set by Lou Gehrig at 2130. In typical Ripken flair for the dramatic fashion, he homered in this game as the Orioles routed the Angels in front of an ESPN nationally televised contest.
For Murray, it was a swansong moment as his return to the O's in July and jump started a playoff run in 1996, punctuated by his 500th Home Run into the right field bleachers at Camden Yards against the Tigers on a late Friday evening game.
Growing up with the Orioles in Central Pennsylvania, the two big guns of the franchise were Ripken and Murray. They were the face of the team just as Mike Schmidt was the face of the Phillies. Unlike today, where your local MLB team has almost every one of its game on local cable, it was hard to watch Orioles games. Outside of a few appearances on the NBC Game of the Week, we only got to watch 40 games that were broadcast from WMAR Channel 2 out of Baltimore onto the O's televison network. Of those 40, usually only 2 of those broadcasts were home games, with one being Opening Day.
So those 40 games on Channel 2 were a big deal on the tube as Chuck Thompson & Brooks Robinson relayed the great moments of the early 80's Birds of Baltimore, culminating with the 1983 World Series win over the Phillies. It was must see TV. If the games were not on television, then we were dependent on the great Jon Miller to broadcast on the radio what was happening. It wasn't till I was in college that our cable provided Home Team Sports and all of a sudden 90 O's games plus the 40 on Channel 2 and a few other national telecasts were suddenly available.
Collecting baseball cards as a kid, it didn't take long to figure out in the early 80's that if Murray and Ripken continued there production of averaging 20-25 Home Runs a year and close to 150-200 hits per year, that each player would get to 500 Homers and 3,000 hits if they played to age 40. Those numbers seemed so far away in the early 80's, but being the math wizard I was I figured it was a good chance this could happen down the road. (500 Homers really meant something because this was before steroids and was not an easy mark to eclipse. Now its become watered down in baseball numbers)
Murray eventually eclipsed 3,000 hits and added the 500 home runs on September 6th, 1996. Ripken eclipsed the Gehrig mark, which was hardly discussed until about 1990, on September 6th. 1995. Ripken would get to 3,000 hits and over 400 Home Runs so I wasn't too far off. Not bad for a 10 year old making a prediction 12-15 years down the road.
But sadly, that September 6th date probably really signaled the end of my youth. I was in my last semester of college and about to enter the real world. I hardly followed baseball due to the strike and after 1997, Peter Angelos ruined the team. Really, who can devote 162 days a year to following something. I can't, I'm just too busy with this thing called life.
So I still have my 2001 and 1989 Ripken Jerseys in the closet to go with 1996 Murray version. I even have a picture of Ripken holding my first born, 3 month old daughter at a book signing and have the Eddie Murray autographed pic in hanging my office at school. To this day, I think the only baseball player my kids really know is Cal Ripken. They can name tons of NBA players, college football players and coaches, but not a current baseball player. They even put a post it note identifying "Cal Ripken" on the life size cut out in my classroom. Very few my of students know who he is these days, which really makes me feel old. The Ripken and Murray baseball cards I had sit stashed away in my son's closet. Maybe they are worth something, but they are now his to do what he wants with them some day down the road.
So as this Septmeber 6th passes on the calander, for me its a reflection of how much fun the Orioles were to grow up with and a sad look at how irrelvant the franchise is today.