- Bret Holmes Baltimore Md

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I Kan't Spell

Friday, September 22, 2006

Oriole Walkout

I was proud to be a part of this yesterday.

The rally to let Oriole ownership know how dissatisfied we are with the Orioles was taken to the streets yesterday. I was in the midst of about a 1000 or so friends of the feathered who wanted to let our lying lawyer owner Pete Angelos know that his handling of one the greatest sports franchises, not only in baseball, or in America, but in the world, is absolutely appalling. And you may roll your eyes at the "World" reference but I implore you to look up the fact that from 1966 - 1997 nobody won more games in baseball than the Baltimore Orioles, and we started the sellout crazes of the 90's with one of the most beautiful sports fields on the planet. I really think that the park, the team, and fan base around it at one time rivaled any other franchise.

The Orioles were the classiest organization in baseball. We had something that no one else had. We had the "Oriole Way". That saying was echoed throughout not only the organization but the rest of baseball and the streets and ball fields of Baltimore. It was a tradition of always doing things right through hard work and honor. I really believed that and still believe that that is what it was meant to instill inside the people that rang those words. "We do things the Oriole Way." was a flagship for not only the team, but the sport of baseball and the city of Baltimore.

On top of that philosophy sat the pillars and cornerstones of personell that any team would treasure. We had stoic community heroes and team leaders. We had the classiest man in baseball in Brooks Robinson. He was so revered through the sports world that he was even immortalized by one of America's great revelers of Americana; Norman Rockwell.

We had possibly the greatest left fielder in history and the man who brought official legitimacy to the team in Frank Robinson. When Frank came to this team he was considered an "old 30". Well Frank proved them wrong by winning the Triple Crown and had it not been for a freak beaning early the next year Frank may have hit 600 homers in his career.

We also had the greatest thinking man's pitcher and only Cy Young award winner and hall of famer to have never given up a Grand Slam in Jim Palmer. He was the embodiement of grace on the mound and nobody wanted to face Palmer in a rubber match.

We have the man who single handedly brought the fans back to baseball after the strike in Cal Ripken. Cal was the symbol that baseball needed and the Orioles had him. We had him and he was brought up with his legend father Cal Sr. through the Oriole way and he preached that way to all those around him. I heard the calls of milk commercials and workmanlike mentality through my daily activities. I think it is safe to say that as a child Cal Ripken was one of my heroes.

We had the man with maybe the sweetest switch hitting swing and amazing ability to be clutch in Eddie Murray. Eddie Murray was quiet and stand offish but the man was great for this city. He was our African American link to what is a culturally divided town. While Frank was the original African American star in the city, it was Eddie that really got the city integrated into baseball. He was the idol for half the kids on the west side of Baltimore in the early 80's.

We have beloved colorful local fixtures in Boog Powell, Paul Blair, and BJ Surhoff. All of them still remain inside of the cities corridor. We have my favorite Oriole, who never even swung a bat for the team, and is considered by most to be the first statistician and the pioneer of thinking man's baseball in Earl Weaver. We have all these cornerstones of tradition but how many do you see honored by the team or embedded at the games? I see Jim Palmer in the broadcast booth but I don't see Cal, or Brooks, or any old Orioles for that matter besides Boog sometimes.

The legacy that has been left has all but been demolished and it is a sad state of affairs when something so beloved to so many has gone tarnished by the constant neglect and mishandling of so few. I actually get very emotional when I think of the times my father and I would go to games or watch at home and listen on the radio coming home from little league games. I remember being 5 games back in September and wanting to know what happened every night. "Did we sweep? We Swept 'em? Shit, that means we are only 4 back!!!" I used to eat fruit loops because of Mickey Tettleton and I drank a half glass of milk every time Cal Ripken came to bat.

But over the years, especially the last 9, the team has grown cold. New management has signed non-Baltimore type players in the time of this ownership. Players that spoke nothing to the city the way the fond names of those above did. We had born losers like Glenn Davis, Albert Belle, Will Clark, on our rosters. These were men who embodied everything a working class city hates. Then we started signing over the hill players to huge salaries. We managed to procure the following gems well into the DL days: Andy Van Slyke, Chris Sabo, David Segui, Marty Cordova, Joe Carter, Scott Erickson...the list can get long. But the major hits are the guys that they let go. If you take a cornerstone out of your house, that house is going to tilt and then one day fall. When you take all of them out, then you are truly hopeless. The departures, mistreatment, and misunderstanding of talent of players such as Mike Mussina, Eddie Murray, Bobby Bonilla, Rafeal Palmeiro, BJ Ryan, Steve Finley, and Curt Schilling have left the team's house teetering on stilts.

The team is so bad that I have to convince people that I am a fan. I have to plead with them trying to convince them that the team is turning around, and that Baltimore still loves them. But in actuality, we are a laughing stock and Baltimore does not love them. We have confederate money being offered by the nastiest of owners. Players now automatically put Baltimore in their "no-trade' clauses. Peter Angelos came to us in sheeps clothing, explaining that he was a true Baltimorean and that he would rebuild and carry on a proud tradition. He has revealed his wolfish nature in ravishing our beloved team from perennial contenders to bottom dwelling embarrassment. In all honesty, "wolfish" may actually be too proud an endorsement as it is more likely this team's struggles lay not at paws of a cunning wolf but the hands of a fumbling old man that micro manages everything down to the hot dog prices to churn another nickel for his vast gold money vault pool.

I was proud to be there at the rally yesterday. It was the first time in a long time that I felt like an Orioles fan. I didn't feel like I was just some sucker there to line that hideous human being, Pete "asbestos" Angelos, pockets with my pipe dream hopes.

The Orioles are very important to me as they encapsulate a lot of what I remember as a child and they have a gleam to them that warms me. I have a hard time now finding that gleam and it hurts me to know that one of the things I cherish most is struggling to even account for anything in my life anymore.

It is not the losing that makes the gleam less bright. I could honestly care less if we were losing. I would enjoy some winning of course, but I still loved them in '88 and 91' and '00 when they were losing. I might even have loved them more in those years because it was as if we suffered through the hard time together. I loved them losing and loved them winning.

The bottom line in the meaning for my distaste of the Orioles as of late is that I feel as though I am being lied to. I feel that what was once a great incorporation of pride is now a sagging and bloated sack of mismanaged bumbling shit. I don't feel any pride surrounding the team. I don't see much light at the end of the tunnel and I don't feel any warm embrace coming from what I love.

There is a dishonest looking gray shrouded around the stadium. It is a gray that envelopes a gleaming golden mystique that I once looked to in order to smile and even hope. It is a gray that is currently reaching out to its most loving fans and slapping us with lies, deceit, and false promises. It lacquers us with these misgivings wrapped in shiny marketing campaigns and hokey gimmicks. It is a gray that I am sick of seeing.

I don't know what the answer is to solve the issue with, what I believe, was Baltimore's most cherished civic institution. I am not a baseball owner nor am I a GM or VP of personnel or public relations. I am a fan. I am the team's surrogate child. I will love them and be hurt by them until they see fit to do so no more. It may sound sad to really adore something that much that doesn't even know you exist but to me, loving this team and what it stood for and still stands for inside of me is something that I take pride in. It is part of my past and will be part of my and my family's futures.

Please bring back that gleam. Please lift that gray shroud and put the people that love you back where they belong. Put them back in their seats, in your arms, and under your roof. We would really like to come home.

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