Extinction, it seems, is not always forever. Maybe, neither is losing.
The Baltimore Orioles kicked John James Audubon to the curb during the offseason, ditching their ornithologically correct Baltimore Oriole logo and bringing back his long-lost cartoon cousin. So long, Icterus galbula; welcome back, Smiling Bird.
He's a little bit goofy, which is an occupational hazard when you're a cartoon. But after all, this is the franchise that made “Thank God I'm A Country Boy” by John Denver – an ode to being carefree, and that's another way of admitting you're a little bit goofy – its seventh-inning stretch song.
In the interest of science, I'll state the obvious: Real birds don't have oversized eyes, grin or wear baseball hats.
Perhaps for these birds, such traits are evolutionary advantages: As of this posting, the cartoon-capped Orioles were 11-7 and tied for first in the AL East. A year ago through 18 games, they were 8-10; two years ago, they were 2-16.
Coincidence? As the song says: “Life ain't nothing but a funny, funny riddle.”
Then again, Smiling Bird has something else you won't find in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: six American League pennants and three World Series championships. He might look like the spiritual avian cousin of John Lowenstein, but he's a proven winner.
When you look at Smiling Bird, the great Orioles clubs of the 1960s and '70s come to mind – the stunning sweep of the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series and the three straight 100-plus win seasons and AL pennants in 1969-71. You think of Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar. You think of Eddie Murray, Al Bumbry, Rick Dempsey and Earl Weaver blowing a gasket.
You don't think of a franchise that hasn't cracked .500 since 1997.
Maybe, all it took to set things right in Baltimore was a goofy grin.