When last I left you I had done Game 3 in my Camden Yards countdown. Game 2 was a contest that almost didn’t happen.
The Orioles opponent in the 1997 League Championship series was Cleveland. I had tickets for game six, if there was to be one. Baltimore won the first game but then lost the next three. Things looked bad but they did manage to win game five. Game six was a 5 PM start on Wednesday October 15. If the Orioles won there would be a game seven while if the Indians won they would be the American League Champions.
The Baltimore starter was Mike Mussina while Cleveland countered with Charles Nagy. If there was one word that could describe this game it would be “tension.” Every time Cleveland came to bat the crowd would suffer through each out, through each pitch. Then after Cleveland would be retired without scoring, it would be the Birds chance to try and get things going. Just about every inning the Orioles would get men on base, usually in scoring position. And every time they would fail to score. The Orioles had ten hits that day and fourteen men left on base. Every time they got men in scoring position Nagy would get tough and shut them down.
Eventually the two teams went to their bullpens: Meyers for Baltimore, Assenmacher, Jackson, and Anderson for Cleveland. Nothing – either way. After a while I just became exhausted from the tension that mounted inning after inning. Then in the top of the eleventh inning manager Johnson brought in Armando Benitez. I had been dreading this. Benitez could be spectacular but he was a bit erratic. He got two outs, but then infielder Tony Fernandez popped a drive to right field. All of us experienced a sinking feeling as we watched the ball sail into the temporary seats that had been erected behind the scoreboard. Cleveland had a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the eleventh the Tribe brought in their closer Jose Mesa. The Birds did manage a two out single by Brady Anderson but Mesa then struck out Alomar for the final out. The Cleveland Indians were the American League champions and I watched with disappointment while the Indians players ran out on to the field to celebrate. Leaving the Yards that night, I fully realized that this had been one of my most memorable ballgames ever. One again I would not be going to the World Series but at least I could say that I saw a game that decided the pennant.
My wish to see a World Series game remains but a dream, but with a dream there is always hope.