I was born and raised in Baltimore, and have always had an inexplicable fondness for my hometown despite having moved away for good in 1983. Of course, one’s feeling for a city is really nothing more than a feeling for its people, and I had the good fortune of having good friends both in my neighborhood (Mt. Washington, in the northwest corner of the city) and school (Friends School, where I went from kindergarten through high school graduation).
My parents, both of whom were born in the New York City area, never developed much of an affection for Baltimore. They moved there in 1950 when my father took a job at Johns Hopkins (both were doctors), and left when he retired in 1976. My two sisters, two and four years older than me, had a completely different experience of the 1960s, when family experience and social aspirations of girls were radically changing. They had friends, to be sure, but growing up in Baltimore was for them a volatile, mostly unhappy experience.
But my heart has always been mushy for Baltimore, and my baseball allegiance has remained steadfastly that of an Orioles fan. And that’s the reason my heart can still beat a little faster at the news that the Orioles’ third basemen Manny Machado is six-to-eight weeks ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from his knee injury and subsequent surgery last year. (Do yourself a favor and play the clip on the link above and thrill to Manny Machado’s extraordinary arm – and rejoice in the prospect of a full season’s worth of highlights to come.)
In about an hour my wife Susan and I are leaving to visit a woman named Cindy who lives in Brownsville, Vermont who, as a kid, was our next door neighbor in Baltimore. We last saw her (and her mother, now 86) at our wedding over 33 years ago, though I can still see in my mind’s eye a photo of Cindy taken in Baltimore in the early 1970s with her decked out in Orioles’ colors in anticipation of going to a game. She invited us because she and my sister Susan share a birthday on January 19, and she thought it would be fun to have a reunion of the January 19 babies, but I’ve heard from my sister this morning that she doesn’t want to drive in the forecasted “snow showers,” so I’ll have to take responsibility for all the Baltimore memories myself.
You can be sure, though, that I’ll trot out the iconic “How ’bout dem O’s?” in my best Baltimore accent and see if she responds. It’s the secret handshake for true Baltimorons.