Chapter 1: This whole WNST thing was started by man in Dundalk who loved Orioles

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(Originally published prior to the “Free The Birds” walkout in Sept. 2006, this is Part 1 of a 19 Chapter Series on how my Pop, baseball and the Orioles berthed WNST-AM, then and now Baltimore Positive. This is the “why” behind Free The Birds. A lot has happened over the last 18 years. This manuscript will remain unedited from its time and place. In case you missed Free The Birds in 2006, here’s the book that tells the story of “why” behind the rally and movement that was a direct message to Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos. Nestor wrote a book about his Pop’s love of baseball and the hometown Birds.)

When I first started getting that urge during the All-Star break that maybe we should try to storm the castle that is The Warehouse and attempt to overthrow the King — again it was a well-documented email from a guy who said that even the Berlin Wall fell because people like us made it fall that started this whole thing — I started to do some serious soul-searching.

About my life, and what it’s become. And where I’m going. And what’s important. And really what makes a fool like me tick. Maybe, like Dudley Moore’s character in the movie “10,” I’m having my “mid-life” crisis at 38, who knows?

But when you’ve been talking to and with people for four hours a day, five days a week, every day for almost 14 years about basically the one civic thing we all have in common besides taxes — SPORTS — and, no less, for a completely wide open audience of anyone who cares to eves drop on your life, and then, poof, you just disappear for 18 months — believe it or not, you find that you talk “to” and “with” yourself a LOT.

And — after much deep and very sincere self-analysis — I’m here to tell you that for me, personally, I’ve concluded that every single good thing or worthwhile pursuit in my life came directly because of or through my lifelong passion for baseball and the Orioles.

I’m going to say that again, because for all intents and purposes, this is the thesis of my mid-life term paper that will be The Moon or some future book title over the next month and why I’ve been in mall parking lots handing out little orange cards and behaving more like a very revved-up version of Marty O’Malley meets Bob Ehrlich meets Howard Beale from the movie “Network:” EVERY SINGLE GREAT THING IN MY LIFE CAME BECAUSE I LOVED BASEBALL AND THE ORIOLES AS A CHILD!


Now, I know what you’re saying right now. You’re saying, “Nestor’s done gone and lost his mind.” It’s only about the 10th time in my life that I’ve been told that by most everyone around me.

But I can prove it to you. And I will, if you follow the orange brick road with me!

You know those points in your life that you come to where there’s a giant Y in the road and you have two directions you could potentially go in and you hope to God you pick the right road. Every time in my life that these events have transpired, in some way, baseball has been the backdrop, the calendar of my life, really.
I can tell you where I was living, who I was dating, where I was working and how I was feeling based on what two teams were in the World Series that fall.

Swear to God!

And those lessons I learned on my first day of “tee ball” about teamwork, and communicating and preparing and practicing and playing fair and experiencing winning and losing, and doing my best, sacrificing, and respecting the game and respecting the opponent or the obstacle.

They are the guiding principles in my life: things that I’ve tried to use every day in everything I’ve done or ever dreamed of doing.


Baseball, in no small way, taught me all about how to live the right way. And how to survive. And how to judge situations. And how to adjust.

To this day, my best friends and I talk in a language all our own. We can put virtually any life situation: family, friends, business, money or just about anything, and we can draw from or make a baseball analogy. And he and I have only been doing that together since 1985. And even though 1985 feels like last week to me, it has been 22 YEARS!

And then there are the years. For me whole YEARS of my life are punctuated by baseball – just saying the words “1979” can stir up emotions that, at least for me, all revolve around baseball and the Orioles.

Maybe it’s a stat or a batting average or a baseball card or a stadium opening or a prom or a birthdate or a dinner or a date or a wedding or a funeral or a plane ride or a city or a picture or a party or a bar — or more important than anything in my life — a person.

Because the people you surround yourself with ARE the joy in your life. And for me, nearly every single person in my life came to me — in one way or another — through loving baseball as a little boy and shaping my destiny, and I suppose for your purposes if you’re reading this or listening to this, the radio “powerhouse empire” that 5,000 watts at AM-1570 in Towson can afford me.

But they ALL have baseball memories for me, because my life has always been marked by baseball.

Over the next few weeks you’ll get to meet some of these fabulous people, that when my life is over, will have made up the story of my life. Every time there was a bend in that road, every time there was a choice, every time there was a challenge, much of what I’ve learned in baseball or about baseball or the people I’ve met through baseball steered me in the destiny that has become my life.

We are all here today — me as the writer, you as the reader, this station as a conduit, this website as a forum, the hosts at WNST as products of it and everyone (listeners, guests and sponsors) – – everyone I’ve ever touched or who has ever touched me — because of baseball and the Orioles.

And if that sounds like a deep thought, well, I kinda think it is, too!

I kinda think that this community has recognized that “depth” on several occasions, like the day when Memorial Stadium closed its doors to the Orioles in 1991. Or when Cal Ripken ran the bases that night in September 1995. Or like me, when my father died in July 1992.

And, I’ve concluded after some very deep soul searching, that every single good thing that’s happened in my life has happened because a man taught a boy to love baseball. And when you’re from Dundalk, if you love baseball, then you love the Orioles.


But today, I’ll start with the most significant person in the story of my life: my father.
Many of you might be familiar with the annual show I’ve dedicated to my Pop on his birthday: usually, on or around, March 5. He was born in 1919, in Elmira, N.Y. (the place where Earl Weaver managed for four years in the 1960’s, he’d like to brag!) and he died on July 11, 1992.


Not coincidentally, I was at a baseball game on July 1, 1992 when he had the stroke that eventually took his life. It was an afternoon game and Arthur Rhodes had just been called up from Rochester and was making the start when I got the call from the hospital in the press box. My father and I communicated briefly that night at the hospital (he could only blink his eyes) and he died 10 days later.

I went to the Dundalk Florist on German Hill Road, and when it came time to pick a flower, they made a special one-of-a-kind gigantic baseball glove. It cost way more than I could really afford, but they made a field out of white carnations and it was absolutely stunning. The most beautiful flower arrangement I’d ever seen. I’ll never forget it. The one last thing I could do for my father, that one final gesture, involved baseball and our bond.

My Pop never saw a game at Camden Yards — he was sick at the end, but I certainly could have wheeled him down for a game earlier that spring, my first on the radio after Kenny Albert skipped town to do hockey — and it’s one of my life’s greatest regrets.

And I don’t live life with many regrets.

After his evening viewing three days after his death, we left the Connelly Funeral Home on Mace Avenue in Essex and all came back to the house to — you guessed it — watch the All Star Game from San Diego. My father’s sister, my Aunt Jane, actually had to give up her tickets to the game in her hometown of San Diego to fly to her brother’s funeral in Baltimore.

So my Aunt Jane, who loved baseball almost as much as my father, missed her hometown All Star Game she had waited all summer to see.

If she hadn’t flown in, I really think my Pop would’ve understood.


He knew the importance of a big ballgame because he’d been to a few, himself.

My Pop wasn’t actually my paternal father, instead he was actually one of my maternal grandparent’s best friends from the 1940’s days of Mars Estates in Essex (I always kind of thought of them in black and white, kinda like a whitebread Ricardo’s and Mertz’s) and I was baptized at Our Lady of Fatima with him as my “Godfather.” My Pop also had a real name. It was Bernard. Some in the family called him “Bernerd” or “Buster” but to most everyone in the world he was “Mac,” or around the ballyard, he was just “Mister Mac.”

Even I called him “Uncle Mac” and then just “Mac” until I was about 9 or 10 when I was adopted and then everyone seemed to think it would be polite or “more politically correct,” — and yes, even in Dundalk politically correct stood for something in 1978 — if I called him something more “fatherly.”

In my case, I called him Pop, because he was kinda a Dad and a Grandfather all rolled into one. I used to get very insulted as a child when anyone tried to pass him off as my grandfather, probably because I didn’t like my real grandfather very much. And to me, at that point, he wasn’t “old.” He just was what he was. He loved baseball and that was cool enough to me!

He grew up in Scranton, Pa., during the depression. Soup and bread lines, a coal-mining community, pure Americana pre-World War II stories right out of History 101. He always told the stories of playing ball with Pete Gray as a kid. And taking the train into New York to see Babe Ruth play at Yankee Stadium as a child with his Dad, who was a boxer. My Pop was an absolute baseball lifer. Just a big fan — he was never involved with the game beyond coaching kids — but he was a lifer.

Ted Williams was his main man. And Stan Musial didn’t stand too far behind. My Dad never cared for Joe DiMaggio — he didn’t like the flash of Marilyn Monroe, or at least he said he didn’t. And when it came to modern ballplayers, none of them ever matched up to No. 9.


He always loved to tell the story of the 1966 World Series and how he beat the line to get his tickets at the post office. The story never made much sense to me, but he loved to tell it anyway. Something about he yelled that he “dropped his false teeth” and got his order ahead of the other people so he wound up with tickets, and some others didn’t. So much for fairness, huh, Pop? He had tickets for Games 3 and 4. One of his best pals had tickets for Game 5. His friend never made it to the World Series.

Mac had two boys of his own, neither of whom aspired to do much of anything athletic. They understood and enjoyed baseball and sports, but not at his advanced, fanatical level of interest.

He worked for two decades at Glenn L. Martin during the war years, briefly had a job at Westinghouse (he hated going through the tunnel every day and our family never, ever had a car — we took the No. 23 or No. 4 bus everywhere we ever went) and finally took at job “Down the ‘Point” in the rod mill at Bethlehem Steel. He worked there for 23 years when he retired in the mid 1980s.

My Mom, by contrast was from the deep South, and also born in 1919, in Ware Shoals, S.C. and was raised in Abbeville, S.C. — and coincidentally liked baseball. Her family was so old-school Southern that one of her ancestors has a Civil War statue  in her hometown square. My Mom and Dad met at a baseball game in D.C. (at Griffith Stadium, I think…my Mom is 87 now and these stories seem to come and go!) and were wed at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Essex in July 1945.

I came along in October 1968. Their youngest son, who was born in 1957, drowned in a freakish rain storm tubing accident on a creek in Delaware in the summer of 1969. It took me years to fully understand the scope and breadth of that kind of tragedy, losing a 12-year old child. And it wasn’t the most fully functional family in most ways to begin with.


By the beginning of 1970 and into 1971 — with my birth parents at odds to say the least — I became their “de facto” son. They had been that kind of family that sought counsel after their tragedy, and at that time, social workers tried to place troubled children with families who had suffered a loss. We had several children come in and out of my parent’s foster care, many of them much more deeply disturbed than I ever was. I never really remembered living anywhere else or any way else, so to me this was a completely normal and acceptable “family.”

Because of their relationship and friendship with my maternal grandparents (both of my real parents were constantly in and out of my life, but they were “around” enough to be dangerous but extremely ill-suited to raise a child — alcohol abuse, neglect, immaturity, sanity, major cultural differences, etc.), it was a natural thing that my “Godparents” would raise me.

I was kind of a “pre-packaged” child for them. Believe me, I would have DEFINITELY wound up in a foster care program or at the St. Vincent’s Center had my “Godparents” not taken me in.

After my Pop ended his day at Bethlehem Steel (always a packed lunch, always a lunchtime call home to my mother), he would take the bus home and was always wanting to be around kids, teaching them how the world worked and, yes, watching sports. In addition to taking hours every night to teach me how to read and write and count, he spent nearly every ounce of his leisure time watching and coaching and reading about sports. He loved baseball, basketball, boxing and football. He never took any interest in auto racing, horse racing, hockey, tennis or the Olympics. We watched the Kentucky Derby, we watched Wimbledon and had the Indy 500 on, but that was about the extent of it. We never, ever watched golf in my house. I think my Dad thought it was for old rich people, like Bob Hope or Milton Berle or Bing Crosby. And I honestly don’t think my father knew the first thing about lacrosse.

He enjoyed professional wrestling, but not nearly as much as I did. But he did catch on, and humored me each month on a Saturday night when we’d take the No. 10 bus to the matches, much like he did with the Clippers and the Skipjacks. When the Blast came, he thought they were the greatest thing ever, even before Bob Irsay skipped out of town with the Colts. Pop always wanted to go to Blast games (and he HATED soccer, really) and we usually struggled to get tickets because it seemed like they were always sold out.

I think he had a man-crush on Kenny Cooper.

My Mom was, and still is, a very simple woman. She DEFINITELY had a crush on Kenny Cooper. She’s now 87. She likes soap operas, game shows, the 6 o’clock news, a beer every single night of her life and she ALWAYS has the Orioles game on. ALWAYS!


If you want to make my mom happy you do one thing: bring her a crab cake! Any size, from any place and no matter how crappy her day is, she perks right up!

She’s clearly been in Baltimore too long!

She was the kind of Mom who was always in the background, but usually complicit in most of the sports fun. She always liked to see Pop and I have fun with sports, whether we were watching or playing. She’d say: “You guys going to the game tonight? GO AND HAVE FUN!!!” When she went with us to a baseball game it was a “special” event. Like once or twice a year, when she felt like it, she’d just announce to us but very nonchalantly, “I’m going to the game with you guys tonight.” And that would be it. No asking, no indecision.

And there she was on the bus next to us an hour later!

She LOVED doing the “prep work” for Colts games on Sunday mornings and she always made me a thermos of hot chocolate for the No. 22 bus — we always purchased the “Super Sunday” bus ticket for $2 — and made sure I had warm gloves.

She didn’t go to the games much but she did see Walter Payton play  in that September 1983 game at Memorial Stadium when Mike Ditka kicked in the wall. Last minute field goal by Raul Allegre: the Colts win. I have the program she bought that day. I didn’t go and I never saw “Sweetness” play in person, I think, because I had discovered girls and girls were a much sexier proposition at the time than going to see the slapdick Colts of 1983. I did make the Denver, Pittsburgh and Houston games that final season, but I still kick myself over the Payton thing!

Sports was the guiding light of our household every single night of our lives.


And the one thing we ALWAYS did as a family was attend the WWWF matches at the Arena. Beginning in 1977, right before Bruno Sammartino lost the title to Superstar Billy Graham (we were there, Sect. 15, lower concourse — we didn’t sit in the cheap seats for ‘rasslin!), we were faithful supporters of Vince McMahon’s empire. And that continued until I did discover girls. And even then, sometimes you’d discover a girl who liked the wrestling matches too! But such was the fantastic reality that my childhood in Dundalk was! You could have your girl and your Bob Backlund too!

But baseball was always priority No. 1 in our house. If the game was on TV, it was on in our living room.

Look, my mother is 87 years and God bless her, if you went over to her house tonight, I guarantee you she’s sitting with a beer (probably Busch Light) and watching the game. And my Dad’s been dead for 15 years now! But she’s been doing that every night of her summer life since 1954 when the team came to Baltimore from St. Louis. She doesn’t see so well these days, but she sees well enough to tell me who won the game every single day.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought over the past few weeks.

If my Pop had lived long enough to get to this point — the all-time low for attendance and interest in Orioles baseball, nine straight losing seasons, management that is the laughingstock of the entire industry if not sports in North America as a whole — what would he say to me? Especially considering my place in the media and having a radio station that could opt to do one of two things:
1.    Sit still. Whine. Do nothing. Boycott in silence.
2.    Act! Be bold! Be brave! Speak up! Take a stand!


I would tell you that action has been the story of my life — in baseball and in every facet of my world — and I think my Pop would disown me given the circumstances and what we could accomplish as a community with a little moxie and resolve and unity.

At some point during this whole cathartic process of writing all of this drivel and thinking about this rally, his spirit has spoken to me every day.

What would he have thought in 1982, if I owned an all-sports radio station and didn’t step up to try to save the Colts? I remember those tears in his eyes that morning when the Mayflower vans pulled outta Owings Mills in the snow.

My Pop would have, in true Dundalk style, beaten my ass! And then lectured me for being a coward, but he probably would’ve busted out the “P” word, to be honest!

So, I guess I’ve started this firestorm out of respect for my father and the tools he gave me, many that were taught on a baseball diamond.

So, this rally is for my father (and maybe yours too!). Or maybe it’s for your children. Or maybe you just want to be selfish and you want those summer nights back for yourself. You want to bring back that old “Oriole Magic.”

I’m doing this for the right reasons and with the best of intentions. That’s good enough for me and I know it would be good enough for him.

My Pop is gone — just like “the Oriole Way” — and has been since 1992, but his spirit will be at the Inner Harbor on Sept. 21 whether any of you show up or not!

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