5. King Peter silences Jon Miller and anyone else who doesn’t bleed Orioles orange
“Now, wait a while. Number one, every fan has a right to criticize the team condemn ownership, say that Davey Johnson should be fired or given a million dollar pay raise and so on and so forth. What I’m saying is, that if you’re a part of the Orioles organization and you’re broadcasting Orioles games, it’s not your prerogative to knock the Orioles team. Everyone in this room works for some organization. They are not expected to go around knocking the organization that they’re working for. That’s a fundamental proposition. You don’t hear these baseball writers who work for The Sunpapers knocking The Sunpapers do you?“
Peter Angelos – March 1997
IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG after the massive disappointment and loss to the New York Yankees in the 1996 American League Championship Series for Peter G. Angelos to get back involved in ways to make the Orioles experience better for himself and to further alienate longtime fans of the team.
In January 1996, he made sure John Lowenstein was no longer doing the Home Team Sports broadcasts of Orioles baseball. By then, the franchise had eliminated all public references to itself as the “Baltimore Orioles.” The team was simply “The Orioles,” Angelos said, out of respect to the regional nature of the franchise. That’s the way the phones were answered at The Warehouse and that’s the way the letterhead read in its primary logo. It’s the way every broadcaster on the Orioles team was to refer to the club in any reference.
Never, the Baltimore Orioles.
Angelos’ next target for improvement came in October 1996 in the aftermath of the Orioles loss to the New York Yankees. This time, it was the beloved voice of the Orioles on WBAL Radio and throughout the team’s vast radio network: Jon Miller.
Baltimore has always been a city with a strong association to its media, celebrities and voices. With a strong history of legendary radio and television personalities, sports broadcasters in the Charm City were afforded “family” status because they were the storytellers and vision creators for the games in the 1950s and 1960s when the Colts, Orioles and Bullets were taking shape and recruiting fans to their teams and sports.
Chuck Thompson had just entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York after beginning with the Baltimore Orioles in 1955. His staccato voice and genial “everyone’s uncle” quality was synonymous with Baltimore, despite being a Philadelphia native. He was simply beloved over two generations and had passed the “Voice of the Orioles” torch to Jon Miller, who was on his way to his own Hall of Fame career after joining the Birds in 1983. Radio partner WFBR-AM 1300 general manager Harry Shriver, who helped create the marketing message of “Orioles Magic” in 1979, recruited Miller to Baltimore. It couldn’t be overstated to proclaim that part of the charm of the Orioles over the years were the broadcasts which were homespun, informative, more than mildly provincial, entertaining and made the game of baseball completely transportable on summer nights in Baltimore.
Chuck Thompson coined the phrase, “Ain’t The Beer Cold” in the 1960s. In Baltimore, it still lives on long after his departure from the planet. That’s the power of Orioles broadcasts in the local vernacular.
Radio dramatically helped sell and market the Orioles brand for four decades. Great, gifted broadcasters helped get the team over with the locals and spread the gospel of baseball from Baltimore over six states long before cable television and Home Team Sports arrived. It was the soul of baseball. It sold the game.