Orioles Advance to the American League Championship Series for the First Time in 17 Years
In what felt like a “team of destiny” sort of season (until the bitter end, of course), the Baltimore Orioles overcame all odds to accomplish a feat they hadn’t achieved in nearly 20 years. Despite losing All-Stars Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis to injuries and some negligent paperwork, the Orioles prevailed, clinching the American League East Division and sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS. Yes, we all know how the season ended, with some other “team of destiny” (I think they were from Missouri?) surpassing us and advancing to the World Series (only to lose to the San Francisco Giants). But it was too late. Baltimore had already fallen head over heels for the 2014 Orioles, as our skyline glowed orange, the bird logo was plastered on every surface, and a new generation got a taste of Orioles Magic. Job well done, boys.
“We reminded the country what a great baseball city, and city in general, Baltimore is. I feel good about that.” — Buck Showalter, Orioles manager
Hogan Defeats Brown for Governor
As a two-term Lieutenant Governor with the backing of the Democratic Party establishment, Anthony Brown was supposed to win in a walk. But Marylanders flipped the script on election night when Republican Larry Hogan was elected governor in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. And while the results — Hogan won by five percentage points — stunned political prognosticators, in retrospect, the signs were there to be read. Hogan shrewdly framed the election as a referendum on outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley’s often-divisive, tax-heavy policies, saying a vote for Anthony Brown would be tantamount to a third O’Malley term. Then, there was June’s Democratic primary, which revealed weak support for Brown in some areas of the state. In contrast, voters were receptive to Hogan, an Anne Arundel County businessman, who promised lower taxes and fewer regulations on free enterprise. Though both sides hustled at the end (Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama appeared for Brown, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stumped for Hogan), the race was already over — we just didn’t know it yet.
“Wow, what a historic night in Maryland. They said it couldn’t be done here in Maryland. But together, we did it.” — Governor-elect Larry Hogan at his victory party
Ray Rice Scandal Starts National Conversation about the NFL and Domestic Abuse
The first video, released by TMZ on February 19, was damning enough. It showed Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging the unconscious body of his then-fiancée, now wife, Janay, from a casino elevator in Atlantic City. Ravens fans hoped against hope that our eyes were lying to us: Maybe he had struck her by accident? Maybe she was unconscious from alcohol? The NFL suspended Rice for two games, which most agreed seemed too slight. Then, the bombshell: On September 8, TMZ released the footage from inside the elevator and it was the worst-case scenario: a punch to the face that instantly knocked Janay out cold. The Ravens terminated Rice’s contract almost immediately, and, shortly thereafter, the league suspended Rice indefinitely. But the saga was far from over: ESPN’s Outside the Lines wrote a blockbuster story that implied that both the Ravens and the league knew much more than they had let on and were essentially involved in a cover-up. Many called for the resignation of league commissioner Roger Goodell. In a press conference, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti denied all charges. The league stiffened its penalties for domestic violence to a mandatory six-game suspension and vowed to take the problem more seriously going forward. Meanwhile, Ray and Janay remain married. At press time, Rice was appealing the suspension.
Baltimore Throws a Really Big “Shew”
Charm City never looked better on national TV than it did in mid-September, when we threw what might have been our biggest bash ever, Star-Spangled Spectacular, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the defense of Baltimore against the British and the penning of the words to the national anthem by a little-known Georgetown lawyer named Francis Scott Key. The final reports on attendance and economic impact aren’t available yet, but earlier tallies counted more than 1 million visitors during the event’s week of Blue Angels acrobatics, visiting tall ships, concerts, battle re-enactments, and epic fireworks displays. Even Vice President Joe Biden stopped by for the climatic (and televised) Saturday night ceremony at Fort McHenry. It’ll be a long time before there’s another event the size of Star-Spangled Spectacular, which was a follow-up to 2012’s equally successful Sailabration. The only downside to a party that successful? Wondering how we’ll ever top it.
“We’re obviously looking for the next great thing that we can promote.”— Tom Noonan, CEO of Visit Baltimore
Horseshoe Casino Opens Big
Regardless of whether you voted for or against gaming in Maryland, the long-awaited opening of the $442-million behemoth Horseshoe Casino Baltimore was proof positive that the folks at Caesars Entertainment know how to make an entrance. With sexy showgirls and death-defying aerial artists, as well as pop star Iggy Azalea and celebrity chefs Duff Goldman, Aarón Sánchez, John Besh, and Guy Fieri, the August 26 kicff celebration for Baltimore City’s first casino was an affair to remember. And though, days later, a fight broke out between two patrons waiting in the food court’s pizza line, that didn’t seem to deter anyone’s appetite for staying — and playing. In its first weekend, more than 50,000 guests came to visit, and throughout September — the casino’s first full month of operation — Horseshoe raked in $22,390,602.91, helping boost statewide casino revenue to a record $82.4 million. So far at least, it seems like Lady Luck is on Horseshoe’s side.
“Thank you to everyone waiting so patiently, we have reached capacity but are working efficiently and diligently to get people in quickly.” — Horseshoe Casino Twitter post on opening night
Shooting at The Mall in Columbia Terrifies
January 25 was an unexceptional mid-winter day until news broke just before noon that a shooting was underway at The Mall in Columbia. There were reports of people sheltering in the food court, police and SWAT teams on the scene, and families desperately trying to contact loved ones inside. The day’s grim tally: three dead (the shooter, 19-year old Darion Marcus Aguilar; 21-year-old Brianna Benlolo; and 25-year-old Tyler Johnson), plus five injured. In the days and weeks that followed, a fuller picture emerged, and it was a sadly familiar one. Aguilar, a College Park resident, had not known his victims; was obsessed with mass shootings, especially the 1999 Columbine massacre; and had been hearing voices. The incident recalled any number of recent tragedies——from the Aurora, CO, movie-theater and Sandy Hook school shootings of 2012 to the D.C. Navy Yard shooting of 2013. Still, disbelief reigned. “I truly never thought something like this would ever happen here,” one mall employee told CBS News. “It’s really, really shocking.”
“I swear everyone is running.” — Tweet from mall employee Rachel Hunter during the shooting
The Landslide Brings 26th Street Down
On a rainy late-April afternoon, stunned residents in Charles Village watched as their parked cars, streetlights, and sidewalk — slowly at first, then all at once — collapsed, landing atop the CSX railroad tracks below. Naturally, one of the neighbors caught the entire scene on video, which went viral, racking up more than 10 million views. In addition to the spectacle, the landslide (to be clear, it was not a sinkhole) became a rallying point for those tired of city government’s seemingly laissez-faire attitude toward infrastructure maintenance. It turned out residents had been complaining about the block’s instability to both the city and CSX for several years but to little effect. Fortunately, no one was injured, but some residents were forced to leave their homes for weeks until gas and water lines could be restored. And though rebuilding is now underway, the costs keep mounting. In addition to the $18.5 million the city says it will take to reconstruct the block, some residents are considering legal action.
Michael Phelps Busted for DUI, Enters Rehab
Watching Michael Phelps exceed limits in the pool is one thing, but on the road and behind the wheel? Quite another. But that was the situation when the Olympic champ was pulled over after driving erratically when returning from the Horseshoe Casino on September 30. He failed field sobriety tests, registered a blood-alcohol level of .14 (well over the state’s .08 limit), and was subsequently charged with DUI, excessive speed, and crossing double lane lines in the Fort McHenry Tunnel. Of course, this is not the first time Phelps’s golden boy reputation has been tarnished. He pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in 2004, and a photo was released of him smoking pot in 2009. Banned from competition for six months by USA Swimming as a result of the arrest, Phelps checked himself into a six-week in-patient substance-abuse program at the beginning of October. Let’s hope he got the help he needed — or at least instructions for how to download Uber.
“I recognize that this is not my first lapse in judgment, and I am extremely disappointed with myself.” — Michael Phelps
Baltimore Confronts Police Conduct
Maybe it was just a coincidence that the Baltimore Police Department’s years-long struggle with excessive-force and misconduct cases came to a head when it did — against the backdrop of the Ferguson, MO, shooting by a white police officer of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. Or maybe the coverage just heightened public awareness of police-misconduct cases. In any case, after fresh charges of misconduct hit the news in September — including bystander video of an officer beating a man at a North Avenue bus stop — Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and police commissioner Anthony W. Batts asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the police department’s history of — and response to — use-of-force cases that over the past several years have resulted in millions of dollars in legal settlements. At the same time, such incidents have renewed the call for officers to wear body cameras, an idea both the mayor and city council profess to support, though they differ on the details of implementation. Batts also recommended increasing staff in the Internal Affairs Division, which handles misconduct cases, as well as more training of street officers and increased openness regarding such incidents.
“It’s pretty terrible. People act like it doesn’t happen daily and quite often. It does happen daily and quite often.” — City Councilman Carl Stokes, who represents the area where the North Avenue incident occurred, to The Baltimore Sun
Amazon and Maryland Make it Official
Though Amazon’s two new Baltimore processing plants are undoubtedly net wins for the area, they do come with one sizable string attached: sales tax. The 1-million-square-foot distribution center scheduled to open in early 2015 at the old General Motors site on Broening Highway will support more than 1,000 jobs and improve delivery times. The smaller (only 345,000-square-feet) “sortation” center on Holabird Avenue in Dundalk is already open, supporting more than 300 part- and full-time staffers. So what’s the catch? Amazon’s physical presence in the state requires the company to begin collecting Maryland sales tax on all purchases, which it did as of October 1. From now on, all Amazon transactions made by Marylanders will be subject to the 6 percent levy, regardless of where a shipment originates, a practice the state expects to add an extra $50 million to its coffers this fiscal year. We suppose it is, quite literally, a small price to pay for getting the electric toothbrush we ordered online that much faster.
“It will have what’s the equivalent of 28 foot-ball fields of space.” — Kelly Cheeseman, Amazon spokeswoman about the new distribution center.
Molly Shattuck Accused of Raping 15-Year-Old Boy
The rumors began circulating, particularly among the families of the prestigious McDonogh School, long before the arrest was made. Then, on November 5, the shocking news became public: Molly Shattuck, the now ex-wife of former Constellation Energy CEO Mayo Shattuck and a former Ravens cheerleader, was indicted in Delaware for two counts of third-degree rape, four counts of unlawful sexual conduct in the second degree, and three counts of providing alcohol to a minor. According to the indictment, Shattuck first contacted the 15-year-old, who attended McDonogh with her eldest son, via messages on Instagram. Then, while on vacation in Bethany Beach, she gave the boy alcohol and performed oral sex on him. Shattuck’s prim mug shot barely resembled the bubbly woman known around town for her philanthropic work, lifestyle ventures (a book, an exercise DVD), and the celebrity she achieved as both the oldest NFL cheerleader and a participant on the reality show Secret Millionaire. Shattuck pleaded not guilty at her November arraignment. If convicted on all charges, she faces up to 28 years in prison.
Maryland Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Pot
This year, Maryland joined the national trend toward minimizing or eliminating penalties for marijuana usage and possession with the passage of three bills. Two of the bills altered Maryland’s already-existing medicinal marijuana laws, which allowed for prescriptive usage but made obtaining the drug difficult. On June 1, licensed dispensaries became legal and a maximum of 15 growers were allowed to cultivate the crop, though that number could rise if demand warrants. Then, as of October 1, the third bill went into effect, reducing the penalty for a first offense of possession of less than 10 grams of pot to a civil fine of up to $100 and no jail time. Penalties are stiffer for subsequent offenses and for those under 21 years of age, but none involve jail. But don’t spark that joint just yet. Possession of pot paraphernalia, such as bongs and pipes, remains criminalized, though many — both for and against — think decriminalization is merely a pit stop on the road to full legalization, regulation, and taxation of the substance. We know, it blows our mind, too.
“Decriminalizing possession of marijuana is a key step on the road to saner drug policy in Maryland.” — Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland
City Paper Bought by The Sun
City Paper was founded in 1977 as a brash, editorially adventurous alternative to The Baltimore Sun. Over the course of the next 37 years, it developed into a crucial and critical outlet that didn’t hesitate to question authority or speak truth to power. So when City Paper was put up for sale last summer, its readership worried that new ownership might severely curtail its independence. Those concerns were exacerbated in February when The Sun bought City Paper, a once-unfathomable scenario that sparked all sorts of doomsday speculation about the alt-weekly’s future. “We want the paper to remain a valued alternative, independent voice in Baltimore,” Sun Media Group CEO Tim Ryan said at the time. After a rocky transition, that certainly seems to be the case. In fact, CP staffers noted in its recent “Best of Baltimore” issue that “our worst fears were not realized” and pointed to the fact that the new regime didn’t object to April’s “Guide to the High Life” weed issue.
“A Horseshoe up my Ass” — City Paper headline to a November story about the new Horshoe Casino, proving they’ve still got it
Mosby Defeats Bernstein
In hindsight, you could see the seeds of new Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s campaign in the “Enough is Enough” peace walks that she and her husband, 7th District City Councilman Nick Mosby, organized in the months before she announced her candidacy. Still, despite the increased name recognition, the 34-year-old former prosecutor-turned-insurance litigator remained a significant underdog against well-funded incumbent Gregg Bernstein in the Democratic primary. But Bernstein was vulnerable. Though citywide homicides dropped below 200 for the first time since the 1970s during his first year, killings ticked back up in 2012 and 2013. Mosby, a Tuskegee University graduate, capitalized on this with an energetic campaign, driving home a theme that the status quo wasn’t good enough, while questioning Bernstein’s priorities. She also touted her family’s law-enforcement background and won endorsements from key African-American leaders, including former congressman and former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume and former mayor Kurt Schmoke, putting her over the top in a close race.
“This is about our homes and our communities. And at its root, this is about our peace of mind.” — City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the Baltimore Afro-American
Dolphins Get Their Freedom
The National Aquarium made waves in May by announcing that its hugely popular dolphin exhibit may close. Aquarium CEO John Racanelli, who halted dolphin shows in 2012 after two newborn calves died at the facility, said the remaining dolphins might be transferred to some sort of sanctuary. Because most of the aquarium’s dolphins were born in captivity, it’s unclear if they would survive in the wild. The proposed move, which was widely hailed by marine mammal experts, reflects Racanelli’s overall goal of focusing less on tourism and more on conservation. It also reflects the public’s unease about keeping such animals in captivity, an awareness that has increased with the popularity of documentaries like The Cove and Blackfish. Though no such sanctuary exists at present, Racanelli continues to explore possibilities for such a site because this dolphin’s tale hasn’t had its happy ending yet.
“There are chimp sanctuaries, orangutan sanctuaries, gorilla sanctuaries, elephant sanctuaries, bird sanctuaries. . . . And there’s not yet a dolphin sanctuary. What’s that about?” — John Racanelli in The New Yorker
Oprah Cracks Crabs at Captain James Landing
When Oprah Winfrey last spoke with us about her Baltimore days as a WJZ anchor and co-host of People Are Talking in 2011, her favorite Charm City “things” included The Prime Rib and Tio Pepe. These days, she’s added Captain James Landing to her Baltimore hit list. On an August 6 visit, the media magnate and her longtime steady, Stedman Graham, cracked crabs for two hours at the Canton restaurant. According to Captain James’s owner Bill Tserkis (who told The Baltimore Sun that Winfrey “was great to deal with”), the talk-show titan dined on crab cakes, mussels, and boiled crabs seasoned with Old Bay, while seated on an outdoor balcony overlooking the harbor. (Word has it she knows how to crack a crab.) Winfrey proudly posted her adventures on Instagram, with a caption that read: “Crab feast in Baltimore! #CaptainJames,” then hit the town the next day when she was equally enthusiastic about the development of our downtown. It’s always nice to have the Oprah stamp of approval.
“Loving Baltimore today OMG has this city grown. I hardly recognize downtown. #CharmCity.” — Oprah Winfrey on Twitter
Don Scott Retires After 40 Years at WJZ
For 40 years, Don Scott’s hirsute visage and rumbling baritone were sources of comfort. Just 24 years old when he joined the station as a weekend anchor and general assignment reporter in 1974, Scott really found his niche when he and Marty Bass were paired as morning co-anchors in 1984. Over the course of his career, he covered events ranging from Three Mile Island’s partial nuclear meltdown in 1979 to Pope John Paul II’s 1995 Baltimore visit, but it was his early-hours double-act with Bass that really endeared, a fact reflected by their consistent No. 1 market share. So when Scott, surrounded by his family and colleagues, signed off for the last time in July, there was a not a dry eye in the house. Subsequent cameo appearances and voiceover work have eased the sting of separation, but we still miss his unflappable, paternal presence with our morning joe. After all, old habits die hard.
Podcast About 1999 Baltimore Murder Piques Global Interest
Most Baltimoreans had never heard of Hae Min Lee until early October. That’s when Serial, the new podcast from the team behind This American Life debuted. In each weekly installment, host (and former Baltimore Sun reporter) Sarah Keonig leads listeners through a reexamination of the 1999 murder of Lee, a bright, cheerful Woodlawn High School senior. The central question is this: Did Lee’s ex-boyfriend — another Woodlawn High School senior named Adnan Syed — murder her? But within that, an almost infinite number of other questions about the nature of truth and identity arise. Who is telling the truth? How do you know? Is the truth even knowable at this point? Listeners are left to judge for themselves — and they have. From Australia to Canada, fans of the show follow each new episode with an obsessive fervor usually reserved for the best fictive mysteries, such as True Detective or Lost. (Visit the show’s sub-Reddit board and you’ll find JFK-conspiracy-theorist-levels of obsession.) How the podcast will end is uncertain at this point, but one thing is for sure: We’ll be listening.
Under Armour Wills What It Wants After Sochi Snafu
Under Armour had a worldwide stage this February at the Sochi Winter Olympics, where it outfitted the U.S. men’s speedskating squad in what one skater promised would prove the “fastest speedskating suit ever made.” But the team didn’t even medal, and some blamed the suits. That the U.S. Speedskating organization later determined the suits weren’t to blame hardly mattered. The damage to Under Armour’s image was done. Or was it? The company rebounded in July with the release of its “I Will What I Want” women’s campaign featuring a commercial with ballerina Misty Copeland. The video, which celebrated female strength and self-empowerment, went viral, garnering over 6 million YouTube views, a full-page spread in The New York Times, and the approval of supermodel Gisele Bündchen, who became a UA ambassador herself. The $15-million campaign was also the first major step in expanding UA’s women’s division, a move that has boosted total revenue by 30 percent in the third quarter. Where there’s a will, there is definitely a way.
“Big tough Under Armour decided to launch a women’s campaign, with a ballerina, no less.” — Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank to The Baltimore Sun
The So-Called “Baltimore Bull” Stages a Jailbreak
“Nothing to see here. Just a bull running in the streets of Baltimore” read a sample tweet. “Save the Baltimore bull,” wrote journalist Spencer Ackerman. Yes, on June 13, a 780-pound bull (actually a steer; but forever to be affectionately known as The Baltimore Bull) escaped from a local slaughterhouse. It traveled down North Avenue and onto Eutaw Street and Druid Hill Avenue before it was shot dead by Baltimore police in Mt. Vernon. In response, Baltimore served up a bunch of jokes (“Baltimore goes vegan!”), hashtags (#BaltimoreBull; #Bulltimore), and even a video of the bull trotting past a lake trout joint. But one question lingered: Did the police really have to kill it? A statement issued by the Baltimore Police Department said that the steer grew “increasingly aggressive” and that “officers made numerous attempts to trap it” before they killed it. But the Baltimore Bull got a second life on T-shirts, mugs, and, briefly, a hilarious (fake) chalk outline of the dead steer’s corpse. Only in Baltimore, folks.
“There’s, believe it or not, a bull—B-U-L-L—running east on North Avenue.” — call to 911
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We give you a rundown on Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, which opened as the first full-service casino in the city.