The top 5: Essential Yankees-Orioles games

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The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles are even after two games, and with a day off we'll take a breather from the ALDS for a little background and history to this AL East rivalry. The two franchises first met on May 25, 1901, in the debut year of the American League, but the Orioles were then known as the Milwaukee Brewers while the Yankees were . . . the Baltimore Orioles. The Brewers, who would finish in last place with a 48-89 record, defeated the Orioles, 6-3. Baltimore, managed by John McGraw, came in fifth place that year, with a 68-65 mark. The following year the Brewers moved to St. Louis and became the Browns, while the Orioles relocated to New York in 1903, and changed their name to the Highlanders (they became the Yankees in 1913). The Browns moved again, in 1954, to Baltimore, finally becoming the Orioles. The first Orioles-Yankees game occurred on May 5, 1954, at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees winning, 4-2. Eddie Lopat threw a complete game for New York, while Bob Turley, who would be traded to the Yankees with Don Larsen after the season, took the loss. The Orioles finished a St. Louis Browns-like 54-100 that year. Here are five memorable games in the almost-six-decade rivalry between the Yankees and Orioles.

5. The Cal Ripken Game, Sept. 20, 1998: Ripken had already broken Lou Gehrig's consecutive-game streak and was up to 2,632 games when he decided to take a day off. And it just happened to be when the Yankees were in Baltimore for the final home game of the Orioles' season. There was no press conference or big announcement. Fans and players noticed when his number was not on the scoreboard in the starting lineup and when he was nowhere to be seen as the Orioles took the field. Rookie Ryan Minor replaced Ripken at third base (going 1-for-4, batting sixth), and even he thought his name in the lineup was a rookie prank. After the first out of the game was made, Ripken received a standing ovation from the crowd as well as from the Yankee dugout. The Yankees won the game, 5-4, behind Orlando Hernandez, with Derek Jeter sparking the offense by going 3-for-4, with a triple and two RBIs. In Ripken's last game of the streak, the preceding day, he went 0-for-4 in a 5-3 O's win. The day after he ended his streak he was back in the lineup in Toronto, where he got two hits off of Roger Clemens, but the Blue Jays won the game, and it was the 20th win of the season for Clemens.

4. The Roger Maris Game, Sept. 26, 1961: Roger Maris was bearing down on Babe Ruth's single-season home run record as the 1961 season wound down, and he finally tied the Bambino, against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. In the third inning of a 3-2 Yankee victory, after a Billy Gardner strikeout and a Tony Kubek fly out, Maris belted a solo shot off Jack Fisher for his 60th home run of the season. Bud Daley was the winning pitcher for the Yanks. Boog Powell made his major league debut in that game, pinch-hitting for left fielder and future World Series-winning manager Dick Williams. The Orioles also sent in future legendary New York Mets first baseman Marv Throneberry to play first late in the game. Mickey Mantle made his last appearance of the regular season (and only had six at bats in the World Series), after he was lifted for a pinch runner after a first-inning walk. Maris moved over to center field for the remainder of the game, while Mantle sat out with an abscessed hip. Five days later, Maris passed Ruth (who had once played for the minor league Baltimore Orioles), with his 61st home run, which came against Tracy Stallard of the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees won that game 1-0.

3. The Joe Torre Game, Oct. 13, 1996: The Yankee manager had played or managed in 31 seasons and had never been in a World Series before 1996. He played his first game, for the Milwaukee Braves, in 1960, and just missed out on that team's consecutive World Series appearances in '57 and '58 (and they tied the Dodgers in '59, but lost a three-game tiebreaking series). Torre was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in '69, just missing their back-to-back World Series appearances in '67 and '68. He was shipped to the Mets in '75 (to make room for Keith Hernandez), again narrowly missing his new team's World Series, with the Mets losing in seven games in '73. But finally, in '96, with the Yankees, he got his chance. The Bombers took a three games to one lead into Camden Yards, and defeated the Orioles, 6-4, thanks to a six-run outburst in the third inning. Jim Leyritz and Darryl Strawberry solo home runs were sandwiched around a run from a Roberto Alomar error and a three-run Cecil Fielder home run. Andy Pettitte (eight innings, two runs) was the winner, while Scott Erickson took the loss. The Yankees were on their way to the World Series, and the tears flowed for Joe Torre.

2. The Bobby Murcer/Thurman Munson Game, August 6, 1979: On Thursday, August 2, 1979, Thurman Munson was tragically killed in a plane crash. The following Monday, his funeral was held in Canton, Ohio, and his eulogy was given by teammates Bobby Murcer and Lou Piniella. That evening, the Orioles came into Yankee Stadium for a game broadcast on Monday Night Baseball. Manager Billy Martin offered to give Murcer the night off, but the left fielder insisted on playing. And in a script straight out of Hollywood, Murcer practically won the game single-handedly. Lee May put Baltimore on top in the second inning with a solo home run off Ron Guidry. The Orioles added three more runs in the fifth and sixth innings on a Rich Dauer sacrifice fly and a Ken Singleton two-run homer. That 4-0 lead just set the scene for Murcer, though, who blasted a three-run homer into the right field stands off Dennis Martinez, in the bottom of the seventh. Still losing, 4-3, in the bottom of the ninth, Bucky Dent walked and Willie Randolph reached on former Yankee Tippy Martinez's error. Murcer stepped up to the plate and sliced a shot down the left field line scoring Dent and Randolph with the winning runs. He never used that bat again, and gave it to Munson's widow. Unbelievable.

1. The Jeffrey Maier Game, Oct. 9, 1996: Before Torre could celebrate his first World Series, there was a memorable moment in Game 1, when a 12-year-old from Old Tappan, New Jersey, became a household name. With the Orioles leading 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter led off with a fly ball to right field off Armando Benitez. Right fielder Tony Tarasco, who had just come into the game as a defensive replacement for Bobby Bonilla, drifted back to the warning track, but before the ball came down, Maier reached over the wall and deflected the ball into the stands. Right field umpire Richie Garcia ruled the ball a home run. Replays clearly showed the boy reached into the field of play, and instant replay would overrule that call if it happened today (we hope). O's manager Davey Johnson was ejected from the game for arguing the call (and yes, it's not your imagination, the Orioles were filled with former and future Mets -- Johnson, Benitez, Bonilla, Alomar, Todd Zeile, Jesse Orosco, Randy Myers and Eddie Murray), and Baltimore's protest of the game was denied by AL President Gene Budig because judgment calls can't be protested (sound familiar?). The home run stood, the game was tied, and in the bottom of the 11th, Bernie Williams led off with a home run to win the game. Maier was a New York hero and celebrity, who appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and was given a key to New York City by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In the years that followed, Maier had a successful high school and college baseball career, and he was an extra and worked on the set of the ESPN miniseries The Bronx Is Burning.

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