For nearly a generation, fall baseball at Camden Yards was nothing more than a way to kill time until the Ravens played on Sunday. Sitting in the stands sipping a cold beer, devouring a hot dog, and catching a ballgame may have been a lovely way to spend an evening for 60 years, but, for the past 14 seasons, the result on the field, for the hapless home team at least, was irrelevant.
The gift that was given to us by the 52 castoffs, rookies, and rising stars who played for the 2012 Orioles was the thrilling spectacle of meaningful competition. The game remained the same, but winning actually mattered.
The season began with a victory before a sold-out crowd and the wins (93 of them) and the crowds (seven sellouts, more than the previous three years combined) kept coming.
Throughout the year, Orioles living legends returned for statue ceremonies that celebrated the team's glory years and its current magical one as well. Orange fever spread throughout the city. Everywhere you looked, it seemed a cartoon bird stared back.
After it ended on a disappointing Friday in New York, hundreds of fans showed up in the middle of the night to greet the team at Camden Yards. They wanted to say thanks, but, more than that, they needed the players to understand that, after a scintillating season packed with incredible memories, the last loss hardly mattered.