outside of Baltimore when they pulled into Owings Mills in early 1996. And the Orioles absolutely held the keys to everyone’s heart and soul in this city and throughout the state.
The Orioles, it seemed, could do no wrong — a full stadium, great team, great tradition and an enraptured fanbase in six states!
So what did the Modells and the Ravens do?
They kept their heads down, their noses up and their ears open and quickly figured out what people in Baltimore wanted and gave it to them — or at least tried like hell!
Beginning with Davil Modell’s emphatic decision to put a “B” on the helmet (he always told me “That ‘B’ represents this city!”) instead of an “R,” the Ravens’ people (many of whom were former O’s front office employees, who were lost in the purge once Larry Lucchino’s group was forced out and Angelos’ group took over) saw every minute detail the Orioles had ignored and tried to capitalize on it.
The Ravens have given people here a choice — and a very good one — and the Orioles just haven’t caught on, and certainly this family and ownership group never had to actually BUILD the franchise and they never planned for life in a two-sport city. They just paid top dollar at an auction in 1993 and INHERITED the best baseball franchise money could buy with the game’s biggest star and the world’s most beautiful stadium with one of the most storied traditions in American sports over the second half of the century.
They inherited a team that people flocked to support in spite of an 0-21 start five years earlier. They inherited a team whose memories and history could make thousands of people openly sob in the aisles of a closing stadium in 1991.
BUT, they never had to BUILD any of this. It was all there — baseball in a box — just open and operate!
All they needed to do was maintain the status quo, reinforce “The Oriole Way” and pay tribute to and attention to all that was Orioles baseball as this community knew it.
But the Angelos ownership group did things “differently” from the very beginning.
“Just open the gates and the watch the fans come in. No need to market. Open the wallet and the players will come. Raise the ticket prices and they’ll all pay it.
Fire the team’s beloved broadcaster and they’ll understand. Embarrass the manager who just won the division for you. Embarrass the general manager you just hired — a man who had just won two championships and five division titles in just nine years, in Toronto, of all places.
And — what I believe is the worst public relations move any sports owner can make — the ultra-thin-skinned Angelos ownership group went out of its way to go to war with the media and, like the gang from Scooby Doo, quickly inherited the tag “meddlesome.”
And most of the media’s opinions were formed when former employees — many of whom earned the right to be respected and believed through their years of service — would tell their media friends the truth about what was happening in The Warehouse, and the people who were still in the organization would stonewall and point fingers at the media for the problems, real or perceived.
In the age of high-tech media and in the age of fan enlightenment, it’s a modern-day stew for disaster to go to war with the local media, especially when a second team like the Ravens, who understood how to “play the game,” was on the other side of town showing not only the media, but the fans, sponsors, customers and community at large, how a quality sports franchise should operate.
Look, the Modells had been in the sports business for almost 35