Baltimore is a historic sports town, but like the Colts abandoning us for Indianapolis, I had the unfortunate luck of being born while winning had left town.
I can claim one Orioles World Series win during my lifetime. Unfortunately I didn’t savor the moment when my dad yelled out the back door that the O’s had beaten the Phillies. My friend and I just shrugged and went back to playing in the woods.
My family had Sunday season tickets at Memorial Stadium and then Camden Yards, but although years of losing has diminished my passion for Baltimore baseball, I remain a Terps and Ravens fanatic who has witnessed success as an adult.
And I’ve seen my share of terrible sports metaphors and analogies used to describe politicians, campaigns and elections during more than two decades as a journalist, including my latest role as The Baltimore Banner’s political editor.
Here, in no particular order, are the nine favorite Baltimore sports moments of my lifetime (sorry Johnny U., Brooksy and other greats from the ‘60s and ‘70s — you’re excluded).
Coppin State upsets South Carolina in the NCAA tournament — March 14, 1997
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has the bigger upset, but coach Fang Mitchell and Coppin were the original Charm City Cinderellas. Junior Danny Singletary came off the bench to close out the victory against South Carolina. I was at a family gathering and at least 20 people were crowded around the television screaming for the Eagles.
Jermaine Lewis’ Super Bowl kick return — Jan. 28, 2001
This one is a homer twofer for me: a Raven and a Terp turning in a decisive play during the 2001 Super Bowl against the New York Giants. The only time this game was in doubt was after the Giants returned a second quarter kickoff for a touchdown to cut the Ravens lead to 17-7. On the very next play Lewis took the kickoff to the end zone and ended any chances of a Giants comeback.
Lewis pointed skyward as he crossed the goal line and then took a knee to pray, honoring his son Geronimo who had been stillborn earlier in the season.
Clinchmas — Sept. 16, 2014
The Orioles sparked a DIY folk holiday in 2014 the night they sealed their first American League East title in seventeen years with an 8-2 victory over the Blue Jays. The team was full of likeable, talented players but Clinchmas marked the high-water mark for a very short-lived run of success.
Steve Blake punks the Blue Devils — Feb. 17, 2002
I am a Terp born and bred. My dad once packed me in the car for Cole Field House to watch Len Bias, telling me only, “You gotta see this guy play.” But while I am a die-hard, I am also petty. Which is why I’m not picking the national championship game from that same year or John Gilchrest leading Maryland to an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title in 2004. I’m picking Steve Blake stealing the ball — and Duke’s soul — from an inattentive Jay Williams and banishing the Blue Devils to the shadow realm during the 2001-2002 season.
Lamar vs. the Bengals — Nov. 10, 2019
This is the one. Of all the video game moments from one of the most athletic men to ever play in the NFL, Lamar Jackson’s 47-yard touchdown run is the signature moment from his MVP season. Jackson whooshes past a defensive lineman, clowns a safety, spins back inside — creating a comic Bengal pileup — and sprints to the end zone. I immediately rewound it about 15 times on the DVR.
Orioles sweep the Braves in Atlanta — June 14-16, 1997
Winning all three games against the best team in the National League in their stadium, the Orioles were the best they’ve been in a generation as they went on to win a wire-to-wire division title. I remember listening to every pitch on the radio that weekend right through to Lenny Webster’s two-run 10th inning homer to win the game on Sunday.
The Mile High miracle — Jan. 12, 2013
Down late and desperate, quarterback Joe Flacco just chucks it downfield and Jacoby Jones somehow snags the ball and winds up in the end zone, allowing the Ravens to kick a winning field goal in double overtime. The win sparked a Ravens playoff run that ended with their second Super Bowl victory. Flacco at his most elite — and maybe the most foolish defensive play I’ve ever seen in the NFL.
Tank Davis knocks out Ricardo Nunez — July 27, 2019
Hometown guy Gervonta Davis gets a TKO win in the second round at the Royal Farms Arena (now the Baltimore Arena) to defend his 130-pound title. Baltimore took on the world and won.
2131 — Sept. 6, 1995
An obvious choice. A Maryland guy setting the most Baltimore record in sports by showing up for work every day for 13 years. Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. only upped the drama by homering three games in a row, including the record-tying and record-breaking games. On top of all that, the moment has been credited with restoring the relationship between the sport and its fans following a bitter strike that began the previous year.
Honorable mentions: Another Super Bowl kick return — Jacoby Jones against the 49ers; Drew Nicholas’ buzzer-beater against UNC Wilmington; Amateur club Christos FC taking a 1-0 lead against D.C. United in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup; Alan Mills fighting every Yankee during a 1998 game; and I had so many good times at Baltimore Blast, Spirit and Skipjacks games but couldn’t pick a specific moment.