The Yankees were in Baltimore because it was the 1996 American League Championship Series. Mark Teixeira was in Baltimore because he was a 16-year-old at Mt. St. Joseph’s High School.
“We had a team we thought was going to win it all that year,” Teixeira said. “And one tough call changed the momentum of that series. Things kinda weren’t the same after that.”
Teixeira remembers watching Game 1 on television. Derek Jeter hit the ball. Jeffrey Maier tried to catch it. The Yankees went on the win the World Series. The Orioles went back to the playoffs the following year, but didn’t go again until this year’s unlikely run.
“To be honest, I never thought it would happen,” Teixeira said. “It’s been such a tough run for the Orioles, and I have a ton of family and friends who stopped talking about the Orioles, stopped going to games. To see the Orioles back in the playoffs, this is great for the city of Baltimore.”
This is where the Yankees real season begins. They’re expected to make it this far, and this team will be defined by what happens next. What happens next, it turns out, begins here in Baltimore, where the Orioles haven’t been to the postseason since 1997 and have finished last in the division the past four years.
“No one gets here by coincidence,” Alex Rodriguez said. “You play 162 games. They’re a very good team. We know them very well, they know us very well, now we just have to go out and play baseball.”
The Yankees and Orioles split their season series, and 18 games is certainly a larger sample size than the five games — at most — that will define this series. Personally, I’ve been waiting for the Orioles to fold since April, but they just keep winning. The Yankees finished the season incredibly strong, and the Orioles were still in it until the very last day.
:They did all that stuff the last month without Markakis in their leadoff spot,” Nick Swisher said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They’ve done a great job, they believe in themselves, and it’s going to be two great teams going up against each other.”
Of course, we’re all going to hear a lot about Maier these next two days. That home run remains a defining moment, although perhaps not a perfectly accurate moment, of when the Yankees went one direction and the Orioles went another.
“We would have beat ‘em anyway,” Jeter said, with that small grin that’s become so familiar. “You can’t overturn it. Last I knew, it was a home run. I couldn’t see it.”
The past is the past. What matters now is whatever happens next.
Associated Press photo