Orioles continue ban on free speech in Baltimore

April 10, 2007 | Nestor Aparicio

So who is it gonna be next week? Or next year?

Scott Garceau? Peter Schmuck? Steve Davis?

Who’s next?

So it seems, these days only Fred Manfra, Jim Hunter and Tom
Davis — those bastions of journalistic integrity and fellow MASN employees –
are safe.

Maybe that’s the question the rest of the local and national
media should be asking.

Who’s next?

Who will be the next person to show up at a sporting event
– after spending nearly a quarter of a century in press boxes all around the
continent in virtually every sport imaginable, it’s all I’ve ever done to feed
my family since 1984 — only to be turned away by management for being too
critical of the team?

Having been an accredited media member for the totality of
my career, I have never heard of such a thing, nor has anyone in my industry,
until yesterday when I was denied entrance to Camden Yards.

To have some young PR flunky in a tie meet me at the front
door and say: “No thanks, the owner is not only not taking questions from
the fans or the media, but he is now no longer making his team available to
you, so you can’t won’t be able to ask THEM or the coaches any more questions
either!”

But that’s not gonna be a big problem for most members of my
chosen profession, who when they really put their heads on the pillow at night,
have to really, deep down in their souls, question the nonsense they say and
the truths that they protect to keep their jobs.

That’s what it’s come down to for so many people you see on
TV and hear on the radio. They are being systematically told what side of the
fence they will be on by the business deal their bosses strike. If you work at
WJZ, WJFK, WHFS or anywhere in the CBS family, you must preach that the Orioles
walk on water and your work on the air must reflect that in every reference.

If you work anywhere else, you get to mumble under your
breath about how bad the Orioles are at just about everything they do, but as
long as their ads appear on your station sales log or in your newspaper, your
criticism will be faint and your praise will be convincing.

I know nearly all of these people — the Baltimore media –
some better than others. And, some care for me, some don’t. I get that I’m not
going to be the “belle of the ball” in that circle of people,
partially because I compete with them for news, information and a piece of a
financial pie, but mostly because I have been critical of them at some point.

So, I’m honestly not expecting much of anybody to run to my
defense over having my press credentials stripped after 23 years.

Well, today is the day I boil over, because every single one
of them KNOWS I’m right on this issue. Even the ones who hate me know I’m right
because freedom of speech is ALWAYS right.

Being from Dundalk, my “b.s.” barometer has a keen
sense of smell. And it’s almost comical to me that anyone would ever consider
listening to some of our “competitors” and portend their integrity,
especially in light of their dalliances with Angelos and the Orioles.

Let’s take them one at a time…

CBS and Infinity…and whatever they’re calling whatever FM
signal they have this week…Jack…Jill…Anita? Who knows?

Last year they brought in a woman from Miami who is famous
for playing football and posing naked in magazines. She seems like a nice lady.
They call her a sports talk show host, but she almost never takes a call, knows
very little about sports if you’re measuring her against anyone who really
does, and always has a trusty “sidekick” lined up to help her limp
through the hours.

Watching her with Kirk McEwen last week had virtually every
employee at my radio station glued to MASN. We saw the train was about to wreck
and we were taking bets via text to see where on the track it would make
impact!

Ms. Marks’ boss, Bob Phillips, thinks people want to listen
to this. Peter Angelos, or maybe it’s John Angelos, (since apparently he’s
running MASN as well as the Orioles media relations department) think people
want to watch it — followed by Hawaiian League Baseball and painful highlights
of Orioles games that mattered from long before they systematically destroyed
the franchise over the last decade.

Speaking of CBS Radio, how about my man Damon Yaffe — a guy
who hates me for some reason, but I barely even know him — who happens to be a
real Baltimorean. So, like me, he RAILED and I mean RAILED against Peter
Angelos until two things happened.

  1. I led
    the walkout in September. He couldn’t stand that — probably because it
    was my idea — although much of what he’s said about Peter Angelos has
    been far more severe than anything I’ve said lately. But for the record,
    he was right, too!
  2. His
    boss, again, a guy named Bob Philips, went to lunch and decided to do
    business with Mr. Angelos.

And we all know what doing business with Peter means: he
runs the show!

Alas, the Bulldog was muzzled. And that’s as wrong as
telling me I’m not allowed to ask questions to baseball players after spending
my entire professional life building a reputation and relationships and a radio
station to do so.

Funny, too, how cozy everyone up on TV Hill at Ch. 13 have
gotten with the Orioles now that they’re all hoping to print money together.
Don and Marty have started bleeding orange and black in the morning. All day
long, every newscast — it’s happy, happy, joy, joy about the baseball team and
MASN.

Look everybody’s gotta turn a buck, but geez, can’t we find
a shred of honesty and/or journalistic integrity anywhere about what’s happened
to the franchise on the field and off, and the resulting effect on the downtown
marketplace and the reality of whose fault it is?

Yeah, it was all wine and roses at 3 p.m. yesterday, but
honestly, do you have any idea how empty that ballpark is going to be this
week!

When WJZ had an “exclusive” interview with Angelos
last year, some of the questions Denise Koch asked were almost laughable. But
it was just another example of what we’ve come to expect from the new-millenium
Orioles.

But that’s the only way you get to ask the owner (or
similarly now, the entire organization) any questions: if Angelos can make
money on the deal while he writes the script with the questions. He is
literally trying to own all coverage of the Orioles and make his spin the
“only” spin.

Just yesterday, he ostensibly told me to watch the game on
MASN and whatever they said is what I should believe about what’s going on with
the Orioles.

What’s really comical and transparent is watching WBAL Radio
squirm and whine over receiving the same shoddy treatment I’ve been receiving
for years. Steve Davis is livid all of a sudden about the Orioles. They are the
same team and organization that he was paid and encouraged to defend the past
few summers.

I find it rich with irony that the nanosecond that WBAL
stopped making any money off of the Orioles, they quickly became insolent about
the franchise’s behavior, but when it served their purpose, every horrible
thing they’ve done since firing Jon Miller was always given a solid and
convincing defense. How about last September’s “Free The Birds” rally
that blared on their airwaves for a solid hour without ever garnering a mention
on their airwaves? Where’s the truth in journalism there?

The real lamb in this fight, believe it or not, is the
biggest company — Comcast and their Sports Net. Their employees were given a
folding chair in the back of the press box yesterday, and were initially denied
clubhouse access.

Comcast Sports Net marched in line as a pretty decent
“partner” with Angelos until they didn’t serve his purpose anymore
and he smelled more money via the Washington Nationals. He threw Comcast and the
Nats and their fans under the bus, stirred up a ridiculous lawsuit, parted ways
in a nasty spat and STILL got $650 million thrown in on the way out of the
deal.

Comcast has passed that bill on to me.

So, we, the customers are stuck with lo-def baseball (the
Orioles are the only team on the planet whose games aren’t in HD) and people
over at MASN with a vendetta for everything Comcast, weakening their coverage.

The Orioles are forever preaching a “new season.”
Yesterday they got one. I wanted to come back into the ballpark, attempt to
“reconnect” with the Orioles, hang out on Opening Day and maybe ask
Sam Perlozzo a few questions in the post-game interview room — like I’ve done
a dozen times before.

This column should have been about a big win at home and my
memories of how great Opening Day always was the first 30 years of my life — a
rite passage for my Pop and me.

Not only was I denied access, but the Orioles media
relations department STILL hasn’t sent me ANY official word about our season
credentials — nothing! As I write this, I still have NO IDEA which of my guys
are in and which ones are getting in which ones aren’t.

They contacted Casey Willett via cellphone at
8:45 a.m. yesterday to tell him he had credentials…he believed ALL MORNING that
he WASN’T going to the game!

We had no confirmation of anything from anybody and still
don’t.

Well, the season is a day old and I’m locked out of the
ballpark and my attorneys will be left to piece that puzzle together this
morning. I can honestly see that nothing much besides the “bring your food
and drink to the park policy” has changed in the three years since I’ve
been gone — even though I think that’s a cool policy!

The Orioles, alas, are still as bush league as they’ve ever
been.

So who will be the next reporter banned from the ballpark?

If I’m gone for good — and I don’t fight — it’s not a matter of “if,”
it’s just a matter of “when.”

Because if after 23 years of being a media member they could
do it to me — and they did yesterday — then it can happen to anyone.

I sure hope all of my colleagues stay in line, roll me under
the bus and make Peter happy.

Making Peter happy saves jobs and credential privileges. I
wouldn’t want them to lose their jobs by telling the truth.

Luckily for me, I own the joint. I’m not going anywhere.

And I’ll just keep telling the truth.

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