Almost 10 years ago, one of the Baltimore Orioles’ marketing department’s most successful campaigns tapped Nick Markakis’s and Adam Jones’s popularity with the home fans as they carried the team back to prominence over the last decade. Using their respective uniform numbers, 21 and 10, and that they played neighboring positions in the outfield in front of Eutaw St., the marketing department came up with the slogan “2110 Eutaw Street” to form a side identity of Buck Showater’s Orioles.
This season there are two new Orioles outfielders who are catching the “what might be” imagination of Birdland. Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins are both young and exciting Gold Glove-caliber speedsters and each day are proving to be headaches to opposing pitchers. Orioles fans have a history of really getting behind these types of units — maybe with the 1989 combo of Brady Anderson-Mike Devereaux-Steve Finley as the one for all others to be compared.
Borrowing from that 2110 theme, though, it appears natural to move along a couple doors up the street and get the keys for “2131 Eutaw Street,” doesn’t it? Hays is probably the most anticipated home-grown outfield prospect since Markakis, so it seems serendipitous that he carries on the “21” honor. Mullins (admittedly wearing No. 3 at the time), was Adam Jones’ personally hand-picked center field successor a few years ago when he made sure the kid finished Jones’ final season with the Orioles at the position. It all seems natural: Keep the 21 and add Mullins’ updated 31, and you have a new street address for the new generation.
It almost seems too perfect.
Numbers play a huge role in baseball — since the day the game was drawn up, No. 9 has been woven throughout the rules and the way the game is played: Nine players in the field versus a nine-batter lineup over nine regulation innings. It’s even 9(0) feet between bases to get home.
For the Orioles and their fans, there are a handful of four-digit numbers that will always hold special meaning: 1966, 1970, 1983 for their World Series championships come to mind. And so does 2131 — and no, for you critics, this is not a dig on when the O’s next World Championship will be. Twenty-one, thirty-one will always be associated with Cal Ripken Jr., breaking Lou Gehrig’s streak of consecutive games played on Sept. 6, 1995. Even younger fans can say what the significance of “2-1-3-1” meant in giant banners, unfurled on the Warehouse beyond the right-field flag court.
Camden Yards had a magical electricity to it that night as Ripken became the undisputed Iron Man. Probably the most iconic part of the night was when a standing ovation inspired Bobby Bonilla and Rafael Palmeiro to shove Ripken out of the dugout for his famous lap to acknowledge the fans. Remember what time it was when that lap began?
It was 9:31 p.m., or, in military time, 21:31. … The hairs on my neck always stand up when I’m reminded of that coincidence.
Wait. There’s that “2131” again. With the ghosts from a quarter-century ago, what comes around goes around. … OK, marketing department, let the t-shirt printing begin.
It’s time for the house warming party at 2131 Eutaw Street.
What are you waiting for? Cal’s blessing?