'22 O's get legend's approval: 'I'm in love with this team'

August 21st, 2022

BALTIMORE -- The 1966 Orioles were a special bunch, a group which included four Hall of Famers, three of whom have their numbers retired by the franchise, and other cult heroes who brought the first World Series to Baltimore. Boog Powell -- later the MVP of the 1970 team -- knows what kind of identity it takes to build such a unified club.

According to him, this 2022 team mirrors some of those qualities.

"I’ve been watching every [game],” Powell said on Saturday afternoon. “It kind of reminds me of 1966, the way that we felt as a team -- we go out there, and we knew we were going to kick your [butt]. ... I'm in love with this team. I really am."

Powell has been admiring the fight mostly from afar, watching from his home in Key West, Fla. But he did get to experience some of it in person on Saturday afternoon, back in town for his bobblehead day, as the Orioles’ comeback fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Red Sox at Camden Yards. 

It was a bit of a deflating loss -- one that didn’t aid the Orioles’ Wild Card hopes a day out from the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pa., -- but also one in which all the O’s runs came in the final three frames. But by the time Jorge Mateo tripled with out in the ninth -- then scampered home on a wild pitch to make it a one-run game -- did the comeback feel possible yet again?

"Absolutely,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “In that seventh and the ninth, we've done it quite a few times where we have really good at-bats late in games and gotten really big hits.”

The feeling has always felt present. The Orioles are 11-50 in games in which they’ve trailed after six innings, a mark that ties with Cleveland for second in the Majors. The O’s have eight walk-off victories, tied with the Twins for third-most.

Mateo’s speed around the bases invited the 34,939 at Camden Yards to rise in optimism, Powell included. Even when they departed following Rougned Odor’s game-ending line =out, they knew they’d have more to cheer for their next time at the ballpark.

“You guys know this team, we never give up,” said catcher Robinson Chirinos, alluding to a July walk-off win over the Angels that saw them score five runs in the final three frames. “We use a [phrase] that identifies this team -- we’re never out of the game, even in that last out. I remember when we played [Los Angeles], with two outs, two strikes, we came back. We know we can do that. Today we were just short.”

Powell has noticed, and it’s not just this year that he’s watched. Powell remained close to the club for years, often an attendee of games and an enjoyer of his namesake Boog’s BBQ on Eutaw Street. As the pandemic raged on, though, he’s had to watch from afar, with mixed feelings about the product.

The past few years -- three 100-loss seasons in tow -- were harder to stomach. This year has been far, far more fun to follow -- something he and his fellow World Series champs all acknowledge.

“A couple years ago, I'm sitting there, watching, ‘What are they doing? Why are they playing like this,’” Powell recalled. “And then all of a sudden, everything kind of came together. The whole thing was like, ‘Huh, they're doing the right thing. They know what they're doing all of a sudden.’ And I love it.”