Finally, the BALTIMORE Orioles…

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My b column for tomorrow’s editions…

The Orioles have – ahem – stumbled a bit recently, falling three games below .500 with yesterday’s third loss in a row to the Red Sox and into the cellar of the A.L. East but their residence in the standings was hardly the biggest story surrounding the franchise this weekend.

Sometime on Saturday evening word “leaked” from The Warehouse that the franchise and its beleaguered ownership group have finally come to their senses and restored the word “Baltimore” back to its rightful place on the crest of the Orioles’ road jerseys beginning in 2009. We can only guess to the frequency of use and design of the uniforms, but we’ll pick that debate up on another day.

Guessing about this is leak is the only option since no one in the organization is allowed “per M.L.B. rules” to make an official announcement regarding this momentous and positive occasion because it might disrupt jersey sales for the remainder of the season. And the Orioles never answer questions from me and revoked my media credential before last season so they’re always “unavailable” for comment.

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The team has apparently made the biggest ideological decision of the last decade – embracing its hometown by restoring the city’s name to the franchise’s mantel — and they can’t even figure out a way to make it a supreme public relations win to recruit the community. Go figure? Ineptitude remains the Oriole Way even when they finally acquiesce to massive public pressure and do the “right” thing.

And make no mistake: putting “BALTIMORE” on the road jerseys IS the right thing to do.

For any of you who have ever listened to WNST, you know that we have been an apolitical voice and medium for the franchise’s thousands of disgruntled fans, upset with decisions and many “out of touch” policies that have affected the team’s support, loyalty and attendance in Baltimore over the past decade.

These are the same decisions that have created 11 consecutive losing seasons and have left downtown and the local business community empty on most nights when the Red Sox and Yankees aren’t visiting.

Any doubt that there has been a serious disconnect with Baltimore is quelled by the evidence in any of the videos on our website from the Red Sox Nation’s locust-like descent on the Inner Harbor every time the word “BOSTON” appears on the road jerseys at Camden Yards. This weekend it was just as overrun as it has been in years’ past with the lower bowel of the stadium turned into a sea of red while young Oriole pitchers get booed in their own ballpark. No surprise that the Red Sox are 30-11 at Camden Yards in recent years as their fans sport T-shirts that say: “Camden Yards, Fenway South.”

For many “old schoolers” like myself, putting the word “BALTIMORE” on the jerseys establishes an identity with the city and the community and instills a local sports pride that this city has taken seriously for half a century. Just see any weekend when the Pittsburgh Steelers are in town as to how much purple pride this city has each fall.

Semantics and road jersey crests might sound like a trivial thing if you’re from “out of town,” but we “Baltimorons” prefer to know that the town is represented and that the fans are appreciated. Baltimore has been a provincial and paranoid sports community for 50 years, with good reason after the departure of the Bullets and Colts.

The Orioles, meanwhile, have gone so regional and corporate and “non local” during Peter Angelos’ ownership over the past 15 years that the word Baltimore appears nowhere on their website, team media guide or anywhere in the organization.

It was an inane policy, keeping Baltimore away from the Orioles, one that continued to harbor the bunker mentality and animosity that Angelos seems to relish in the courtroom but doesn’t translate to the soul of a sports fan.

If this is an olive branch to the community, I certainly embrace it and support it. If this is the next step in their Oriole Reach program, which will bring people back to the ballpark and into downtown to stimulate the local economy, then it’s another step in the right direction.

One final question: So, now that the word “BALTIMORE” will appear on the crest of the jerseys when we watch on television, how long will it take before the sight of that jersey fills us with the same pride that we feel for the Ravens and not the feelings of shame that 30,000 Red Sox fans in our ballpark and 11 consecutive losing seasons currently fills us with each summer?

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