(Originally published as a prelude to the “Free The Birds” walkout in Sept. 2006, this is Part 16 of a 19 Chapter Series on How baseball and the Orioles berthed WNST.net. Please follow @FreeTheBirds12 for more information regarding our April 5th events downtown for a civic awakening.)
Lying in bed on the night of our wedding reception, my wife and I were exhausted.
It was 3 a.m. and we were sitting going through all of our envelopes with cards, checks, notes — you know the “wedding gift” drill.
And we got kind of emotional and started talking about our marriage and how the night had gone. And I said that the coolest part of the whole experience for me was gathering all of our best people, all of our best friends and relatives, and putting them under a roof for one night and allowing them to laugh and drink and eat and mingle.
I said it was like one giant “All Star Game” — the night when we bring our best of the best together for a night of celebration.
Funny, on the biggest night of my adult life — my wedding night — in the most tender moment possible, I wind up making a baseball reference to the whole experience.
And it’s probably apropos because when I look at the pictures now, and see all of the people in those pictures — my personal self-described “All-Star team” — every one of them either came to me either directly or once-removed from baseball.
Especially the really important people who’ve been in my life since before I was on the radio. They were all people who were older and wiser than me and took me in and made me their de facto “little” brother.
Tom Kapp and I met in 1985. He was my health teacher at Dundalk Community College. Hundreds of baseball games later and most ballparks in the country later, he was the best man at my wedding. He was my first business advisor, my first marketing helper, my first ballpark reporter. If there’s no Tom, there IS no WNST — period! Tom loved Graig Nettles, Fran Tarkenton and “Sudden” Sam McDowell. He also absolutely LOVED baseball and its history and its strategy.
And if he wasn’t the first person to believe in me and bet on me, and not against me, it was Don Mohler, who was my Dundalk High School guidance counselor in 1982. We watched in agony as the O’s fell to the Brewers during the first month of our relationship, but it was only the beginning of a beautiful friendship, much of it centered around the nation’s pastime.
Throughout high school he always encouraged me to “be the next Chris Thomas (Chris Thomas was MY GUY when I was in high school!).” He was part of my first “Sports Huddle” in 1992 on WITH-AM 1230, he still calls and plays my conscience once a week, and now, 24 years later, we spend holidays together and he sits with me at every Ravens’ home game. His baseball experience all came with his Mom, strangely enough, who was one of the biggest O’s fans I’d ever met.
Dave Meurer was one of Kapp’s baseball/idiot/friends. In him, I finally found a guy who was louder than me, more obnoxious than me and I figured keeping him around would take the heat off of me, especially after sitting through just one Kansas City Royals-Orioles game on 33rd Street in the late-1980′s. Once we went to that ballgame and laughed our asses off all night — and especially going with a guy who really knew and loved baseball and its history just like I did — you just KNEW you had to be friends with that guy!
Mike Ricigliano was a funny sports cartoonist who I met at Sportsf1rst in 1984 when I was 15 with a pregnant girlfriend. I vividly remember our first conversation, because he was so considerate and non-judgmental at a time in my life when I was a complete pariah to most people. Not only is he our staff cartoonist at WNST (and he works cheap!), but I can’t tell you how many games we’ve been to, events we’ve shared and laughs we’ve had through baseball, football, travel and sports over these 22 years. He was literally in my bedroom during the Oilers’ infamous collapse against HIS Buffalo Bills in 1993 and did the sauciest private cartoon in my collection. (He was in my bedroom because that’s where the giant-screen TV was and he had the stones to actually show up