(Originally published as a prelude to the “Free The Birds” walkout in Sept. 2006, this is Part 7 of a 19 Chapter Series on How baseball and the Orioles berthed WNST.net. Please save evening of April 5th for civic action if you’re fed up with state of Baltimore baseball. Also, follow @FreeTheBirds12 for more info.)
When I wasn’t at Merriweather Post Pavilion chasing INXS or Howard Jones or Duran Duran, I was perched high above home plate and ducking past the low ceilings of that tiny little cubicle on 33rd Street.
My boss Jack Gibbons, who I really owe a debt of gratitude to for being the first guy to really stick his neck out for me by hiring me as a 17-year old (and I STILL don’t know how in the world he ever convinced his bosses to hire me!), made another bold move later that year, hiring a hotshot young sportswriter from New York who had been working in Philadelphia with an Ivy league education.
Ken Rosenthal took over the Orioles beat from long-time curmudgeon Jim Henneman, and things changed quickly around our desk in the evenings.
Keep in mind — the Blast were stumbling a bit, the Colts were gone and Baltimore was a one-bird town. The Orioles were EVERYTHING to the sports section and the newspaper.
And Rosenthal couldn’t have been 25 at the time. He worked harder than anybody I’d ever seen and was an inspiration to me, being so young and on the move to all of these exotic locales I’ve never been. Sexy places like Cleveland and Milwaukee and Detroit (hey, I would’ve picked Cleveland over Jamaica at the time because they had a stadium and played baseball in Cleveland!)
And the coolest part of the whole deal for him?
Rosenthal got a press pass to the World Series, the playoffs and the All-Star Game every year, with flight, hotel and room service included.
AND THEY PAID HIM FOR THIS??? WOW!!!
I’d take dictation from him at 3 in the morning when his crappy Radio Shack TRS-80 computer wasn’t working to send his stories. He went to war with Eddie Murray. He questioned Edward Bennett Williams at every turn. He pissed off the Orioles “establishment” almost every day.
And, even though I haven’t always agreed with him or seen eye to eye with his views, he was beyond super cool to me when I was 19 years old and I was his “assistant” at The Evening Sun.
Rosenthal always remembered to thank me for my extra efforts by grabbing me a program or a cool souvenir on the road. Even though I loved when he got me World Series programs or “officially” licensed shirts or hats, my favorite Rosenthal roadie gift came straight from the street and from his heart to mine.
Kenny was covering the 1988 NLCS in Los Angeles where the Dodgers were playing the Mets in a classic seven-game series and he came back from the parking lot of Chavez Ravine with a “F— NEW YORK” shirt.
I treasured that thing and wore it every time the Orioles played the Yankees for a decade. I had it on UNDER my shirt in 1996 when the Orioles played the Yankees in the ALCS (which wouldn’t have EVER been possible in my childhood, by the way, without wild card matchups!)
The memories of that romantic baseball trip to St. Louis and Kansas City in 1983 coupled with Rosenthal’s road stories and watching it all on TV each night from these exotic ballparks whet my appetite for more memories, more baseball and, ultimately, more fun. I did the California trip with my