Let us review:
Palmeiro was asked by the Congressional committee to refute the claim that he ever used steroids. He did his best Bill Clinton impersonation and pointed at the Congresspersons and said, “I have never used steroids period.” In August, Major League Baseball suspended him for 10 games for his steroid use. Less than three weeks earlier Palmeiro had become the forth player in history to achieve 3,000 hits and 500 homeruns. The Congressional committee debated whether to charge the finger-pointing Palmeiro of perjury, though he was exonerated of taking the illegal substance at the time of the hearing. In Palmeiro's behind-closed-doors testimony, he stated that a B-12 vitamin injection administered to him by fellow teammate Miguel Tajada was laced with the steroid ingredient Stanozolol that caused the positive test result.
The collapse of the Orioles enraged many diehard fans and had questions circulating as to why and how a team could be in first place heading into June, and then totally collapse in the second half of the season, finishing fourth in the division. Manager Lee Mazzilli lost his job--and factors in this decision included steroid use, B-12, alcohol, mystery injuries, dissension, terrible pitching, and Sammy Sosa dying bat.
In the Women’s division, Ramilya Burangulova of Russia, 44, won for the second consecutive year, with a time of 2:42:00, beating out Ilona Barvanova, 33, of the Ukraine, who had a time of 2:44:44, and Marina Bychkova of Russia, who finished third with a time of 2:46:07. Denise Knickman of Baltimore finished in seventh place, with a time of 2:57:09.
Elrod Hendricks 1940 – 2005
Elrod Hendricks, a longtime Baltimore Orioles player (back catcher) and coach for 37 years, died December 21 from a heart attack, one day shy of his 65th birthday. In April, he suffered a mild stroke, but returned to bullpen coaching duties before the All-Star break. Hendricks was not retained after the season, due to his previous health concerns, and was awaiting reassignment in the organization. He played in three consecutive World Series with the Orioles from 1969-71. One of his most memorable highlights as a player was in 1978, when he took the mound in a blow-out, pitching 2.1 scoreless innings.
[Reporter's personal note: When I was a little boy 35 years ago, I first encountered Hendricks outside of the old Memorial Stadium. I asked him for my very first autograph. He took the time to sign his name, though he was running late for practice. I reminded him almost 30 years later in the O’s clubhouse of the autograph session, and thanked him for his patience and courtesy to an eight-year-old.]
Jim Parker 1934 – 2005
Former Baltimore Colts Hall-of-Famer offensive tackle Jim Parker passed away at the age of 71. He played for the Colts from ’57-‘67. He was instrumental in the famed “Greatest Game Ever Played” in 1958, when the old Colts defeated the New York Giants 23-17 to win the NFL Championship Game. The following year, Parker was opening up holes for running back Lenny Moore once again, and repeating as NFL champion against the same Giants, winning 31-16. He played in eight straight Pro-Bowls and was named to eight straight All-NFL teams. Picked in the first round of the 1957 NFL Draft, he received numerous college football awards while playing at Ohio State, including All American and All Big Ten in ’55 and ’56, and won the Outland Trophy in 1956 for most outstanding offensive linemen. Parker was inducted into the College Football Hall-of-Fame.
Chuck Thompson 1921 – 2005
Chuck Thompson, the voice of Baltimore’s baseball and football, was an institution in Charm City for more than 50 years. He died at the age of 83. His smooth style of delivering the play-by-play was soothing to millions of listeners over the years, who cringed at every opposing homerun called or touchdown scored. He painted the picture and became Michelangelo to all who listen to him.
His famed signature “Ain’t the beer cold!” and “Go to War, Miss Agnes!” became household phases.
He started his career with the Philadelphia Athletics and Phillies in 1947. In 1949, the Orioles, then in the minor International League, hired him. When the former St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore, Thompson became the voice of the team until 1958, then moved to the Washington Senators in 1960, and returned to the Orioles in 1962. He called the old Baltimore Colts games from the 50’s until they left town in Mayflower's moving vans in 1984. He received the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Injuries to strong safety Ed Reed, middle linebacker Ray Lewis, running back Jamal Lewis, cornerback Chris McAlister, and tight end Todd Heap caused all of them to miss significant time this season. Also, season-ending injuries to second-round pick linebacker Dan Cody, fullback Alan Ricard, guard Keydrick Vincent, and tackle Orlando Brown contributed to a disappointing season. Injuries to defensive end Anthony Weaver and fullbacks Ovie Mughelli and Justin Green added to the long list of those missing in action.
A lack of imagination on offense caused rumblings among the fan faithful. Former offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh was fired before the season for offense's lack of production in previous years. Cavanaugh's successor, Jim Fassel, was less productive, which led many to believe that the play-calling was initiated by head coach Brian Billick, and that Billick himself should be fired.
It was a dull year for winning, to be sure, but having teams to cheer for should still be a blessing to all of us sports fans.
This story was published on December 23, 2005.