Tag Archive | "memorial stadium"

Chapter 10: Imagine a Baltimore without the Orioles

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Chapter 10: Imagine a Baltimore without the Orioles

Posted on 14 March 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

(Originally published as a prelude to the “Free The Birds” walkout in Sept. 2006, this is Part 10 of a 19 Chapter Series on How Baseball and the Orioles berthed WNST.net. This is an unedited version of the original post without updates regarding Mike Flanagan’s suicide.)

Mike Flanagan is as close to an Orioles’ kindred spirit as I have in the world. Maybe Jim Palmer and Elrod Hendricks and Jimmy Tyler could be thrown in there as well, because they’ve seemed as omnipresent as my fandom of the Orioles.

But, Flanagan is really ” The One,” because in real terms, he’s been with the Orioles as long as I’ve been with the Orioles. And no one else I know, other than my Mom, has stayed in my life all of these years and still keeps popping up.

He came up in 1975, and I really started regularly going to games around that time, when I was 6.

I remember when he first came up, the expectations, the rotation — with Jim Palmer, Scott McGregor and Dennis Martinez, every night was trouble for some AL team — and I probably spent 80 nights of my life inside Memorial Stadium watching Mike Flanagan pitch.

From 1977 to 1984 he never had a sub-par season, only many very good ones and a couple of great ones. He left the Orioles just once — for two-plus years, pitching for the Blue Jays after a trade deadline deal in 1987.

In 1979, he won 23 games and led that magical team every time Earl Weaver threw him out there. It was his best year in baseball. It was mine too!

In 1992, he began his broadcasting career. That’s the same year I left The Evening Sun and went on the radio.

In 2003, he became part of “management”. In early 2005, I did the same thing.

But, even though we’ve gotten to know each other over the years — with him at one point walking up to me (when I didn’t even know he knew I existed) in the late 1990′s and admitting that he was a fan of MINE and addicted to “Nasty Nationwide” and listened every day with his daughter — on that last game at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 6, 1991, Mike Flanagan was just a childhood hero to me. He was, in some ways, larger than life because when I was 10 years old, he took the hill every couple of nights for the centerpiece of my life, the Baltimore Orioles.

Mike Flanagan was one of MY guys! My mood hung on every pitch he threw!
So on that sad-yet-uplifting and chilly October afternoon in 1991 — surrounded by a disgusting Redskins fan actually watching a football game on her laptop TV in Sect. 34 — it was me, Mike Flanagan, my memories of my youth and my best friend Kevin Eck (he keeps popping up doesn’t he!), along with 54,000 others just like us gathering for one of the biggest public tearjerkers in the history of this city.

If you didn’t spend your childhood at Memorial Stadium, you can probably stop reading or listening right around now.

Because you just won’t understand it. You couldn’t possibly think it is anything beyond silly.

It is truly a “Ball’mer thing.”

But EVERYONE who has ever loved the Orioles remembers

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Chapter 7: Finally, a 1983 World Series crown for Baltimore

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Chapter 7: Finally, a 1983 World Series crown for Baltimore

Posted on 11 March 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

(Originally published as a prelude to “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. Follow @FreeTheBirds12 on Twiter for updated information regarding our April 5th events.)

Life was percolating along very nicely for me at the end of the summer of 1983.

There was that awesome trip to St. Louis, the Orioles were doing extremely well, the Phillies (again, I was an idiot!) were busting up Montreal in the NL East, I had a new girlfriend and my junior year at Dundalk High was coming.

Despite this “long distance” romance I was having with the Phillies, I was still VERY involved in going to Orioles games. I didn’t get to as many as I had before (again, once girls came along, it was all downhill for sports!), but I still did about 20 games on 33rd Street in 1983. And, like 1979, all in Sect. 10 General Admission seats, some with my Pop and some with my pals. All of those nights on those long, gold, aluminum benches, complete with the jar-rattling volume when banged on.

And the Phillies and Orioles, it would later be proved, were on a destiny’s collision course for the World Series in October.

But en route there was the AL Championship Series against the vaunted Chicago White Sox, led by Lamar Hoyt.

My Pop landed some right field seats for Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS at Memorial Stadium and we were all set. Right before the series my Dundalk buddy John Rafalides (at whose wedding I would later be the best man) gave me a buzz and told me his Dad, Pete, had an extra seat in Sect 39, Row 19 right behind home plate upstairs and asked if I wanted it since I was such an Orioles nut.

So, my Pop actually took my Mom to Game 2 and I went with Mr. Pete Rafalides, who was just a super cool guy. He was a realtor and connected with the Greek community. He loved talking sports with me and would always feed me cool munchies when I came to his home. And I mean he FED me! He always had the coolest snacks — Doritos, Dolly Madison cakes, Tastykakes, those chocolate malt balls, all sorts of great stuff!

I caught on quickly and made sure I got to go there every year for Thanksgiving! And later in life, when John became my roommate, I got the residual effect — the baklava, pastitsio, spanakopita, the grape leaves — from every Greek holiday!

But, for whatever reason, John’s dad liked me and off went we to Game 2 — me, Mr. Pete and two of his work friends. And we hung on every pitch! And Mike Boddicker pitched his ass off, a five-hit shuout over the White Sox, and we had a paaaaaah-tttaaaay in Sect. 39 that night. “Wild” Bill Hagy was going nuts over in Sect. 34. We had binoculars and I could see my folks over in right field having fun, too. That was just one of the greatest nights, even 23 years later.
I remember the smell of the air that night, the lights in the sky, how bright the field looked from up in that perch in Sect. 39. The steepness of the seats, the people crowded into that cozy ballpark and trees lined up in the outfield.

I can’t imagine my life without that night.

It was just a beautiful thing, that night. Life was perfect!

Two afternoons later Tito Landrum hit a 3-run homer off of Britt Burns that sent me and my 64-year old Mom onto Bank Street banging pots and pans with the shot heard ’round the beltway, a blast at Comiskey Park that sent the Orioles back into the World Series for the second time in four years and the sixth time in 17 years. I’ll say that again: the Orioles were in the World Series SIX times

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Chapter 4: Got any 33rd Street memories? Time will not dim the glory…

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Chapter 4: Got any 33rd Street memories? Time will not dim the glory…

Posted on 08 March 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

(Originally published in Sept. 2006 as a prelude to the “Free The Birds” walkout, this is Part 4 of a 19 Chapter Series on how baseball and the Orioles created WNST.net. If you miss “The Oriole Way” and Baltimore’s love of baseball, please join us on April 5th for a civic action event.)

So, today I wanted to write and think about and talk about Memorial Stadium and 33rd Street and the wonder of baseball as a child in Baltimore.

Thirty-third street. The World’s Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum. The memories, the stories, the things we saw and experienced, the words we said and heard, and the people we shared it all with.

At the end of the day, Memorial Stadium was about people.

But, honest to God, I don’t know where to begin!

Look I don’t want to get too deep, but go ahead and show me a place where more people in this community have gone, worshipped without regard to race, color, creed, religion — and all came together in a common civic bond. There were only two colors that ever mattered on 33rd Street. Orange in the spring and summer; blue from fall through the cold of winter and that was that!

As for its significance and impact on our community, there must’ve been a reason why grown men wept in the aisles there on Oct. 6, 1991 when the Orioles walked away from 37 years of history on 33rd Street. Or literally, a MILLION different reasons to ponder, reflect and pay tribute to the good times of our lives, especially for those who experience our lives through this prism that is “sports” over the last century.

Memorial Stadium is one of those places: if you were ever there and experienced any of the “Oriole Magic” then you just know what I’m talking about. And if you weren’t, there isn’t a columnist alive or any old grainy clip or any soundtrack that could ever make it as vivid and real and clear as it is to the rest of us who felt “The Magic.”

As it turned out, that giant sign with the steely letters was indeed prophetic. Major League Baseball has been gone for 15 years now and the sign said it all:
“Time Will Not Dim The Glory Of Their Deeds!”

So, instead of getting even more poetic, I’ll just tell you a few of my favorite stories.

Hopefully, they’ll remind you of yours.

And, hopefully, these incredible memories will trigger a voice pulling you downtown

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Chapter 3: My Pop and Little League in Dundalk

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Chapter 3: My Pop and Little League in Dundalk

Posted on 07 March 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

(Originally published as a prelude to the “Free The Birds” walkout in Sept. 2006, this is Part 3 of a 19 Chapter Series on How baseball and the Orioles berthed WNST.net. If you’re as upset about the demise of the Baltimore Orioles, please save Thursday, April 5th for some civic action.)

I think the biggest part of my Pop’s revitalization as a person in the 1970′s after his son’s death wasn’t that he found a little sports buddy in me — as a bat boy and an avid baseball, football and basketball watcher — but in the abundance of energy it must’ve taken to keep up with me.

Can you imagine the energy it took a 60-year old, overweight steelworker after a full 90-degree, eight-hour day at Sparrows Point to chase a rambunctious 10-year old boy down from Section 34 in the summer of 1979? That happened every single night! Forty-two games that summer, I swear to God!

My Dad took great pride in volunteering as a Little League coach in my neighborhood, Colgate, near Eastpoint Mall. He won two league championships as the coach of the Colgate-Eastpoint Pirates in 1973 and 1974. It was a four-team league with a great parade through the neighborhood on Opening Day Saturday. It was very a very typical American kinda thing, I thought. I was the team batboy. We had our championship picture and clipping from The Dundalk Eagle on the kitchen wall from the day it was published through my father’s death in 1992. He loved coaching those kids and winning! I liked just being the batboy and being a part of baseball.

All of those “older” kids kind of took me under their wing and made me feel good. They played catch with me, pitched to me — stuff like that. And when you’re 4 or 5, that’s a pretty big deal! These kids were like 12 and 13 years old.

My Pop was such a little league wacko that one time he had a really talented kid named Ted Boccia, who wanted to be a catcher. Only problem was, he was LEFTHANDED!

He was adamant about catching and catching was my Pop’s FAVORITE position, the one he played as a kid. So, clearly being unable to find a left-handed catcher’s mitt anywhere in the known universe in 1973, he wrote to the Rawlings factory, told the story of this boy’s dream to be a left-handed catcher and they had one made and sent it to my Pop. I even think my Pop might’ve paid for it himself. Needless to say, the Eastpoint Pirates had an outstanding left-handed catcher, the only one I’ve ever seen in my life!

As for me during those years, I excelled at the greatest game ever played: waffle ball!

We played in my backyard and alley. All the neighborhood kids did.

There were no “fantasy” leagues or video games. There was APBA and Strat-o-Matic (we honestly didn’t discover those until adolescence and I loved me some “Strat” in the days when I got a little older), but we opted for good old-fashioned “put the bat through the glove” kinda ball.
ANY kind of ball, actually — wallball, wiffleball, kickball, rundown, pitcher’s handout or just plain, baseball — we’d play!

We’d play with pinkies (those soft spongy balls), we’d play with superballs, but mostly we’d play with tennis balls and wooden bats on the pavement at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on the back side of Eastern Avenue. We’d play ANYTHING but softball,

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Your Monday Reality Check-Wounds Re-Open With Arrival in Indianapolis

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Your Monday Reality Check-Wounds Re-Open With Arrival in Indianapolis

Posted on 30 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

I had handled it much better than I ever did in the past.

Unlike the last three seasons, I wasn’t on hand to see the Baltimore Ravens’ season come to an end last Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. Instead of making the trip to Foxborough, I stayed in studio at 1550 Hart Rd. in Towson for “The Nasty Purple Pregame Show” and “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show.” I watched the game only with my producer Ryan Chell and I IMMEDIATELY hit the airwaves after Billy Cundiff’s kick sailed wide-not allowing me much time to stew over the dramatic end.

After fighting with a caller who labeled quarterback Joe Flacco as “a bum” following the crushing loss to the New England Patriots, I genuinely felt as though I had moved on. It only took about 30 minutes. No eight hour drive home with other miserable Ravens fans for me, just a 25 minute drive home to Monkton where playing with my dog quickly made me feel better about a tough loss.

On Sunday afternoon the WNST crew (Drew Forrester, Nestor Aparicio, Luke Jones and myself) touched down in Indianapolis for week-long coverage of Super Bowl XLVI festivities at Radio Row. We do it every year, no matter when/where the Ravens’ season comes to a close. Immediately upon landing at Indianapolis International Airport, we were greeted by vendors selling Eli Manning and Tom Brady t-shirts. Everywhere we turned in Indy for the first 12 hours was remarkably similar.

New York Giants stuff here. New England Patriots stuff there. Live NFL Network video of Bill Belichick getting off the plane. Quotes filling up my GMail inbox from Tom Brady and Jerod Mayo as transcribed by the National Football League staff here on site. A replay of Super Bowl XLII following Australian Open coverage on ESPN2.

It all hit me like a ton of bricks. This was SO close to being the Ravens. Perhaps a Cundiff kick, perhaps a Lee Evans catch, perhaps a John Harbaugh timeout, perhaps Joe Flacco not throwing an interception to Brandon Spikes.

Perhaps.

We could have gotten off the plane in Indy and been greeted by Ray Lewis t-shirts instead of seeing Alex Flanagan try to get Lewis to change his mind about retirement on the sideline during NBC’s coverage of the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. We could have been covering the first media gathering of the week for the AFC champs instead of sitting in the hot tub at the J.W. Marriott or celebrating Forrester’s birthday at Buca di Beppo. (Both of these things were nice…but we’d rather not be there.)

It wasn’t as painful to arrive for Super Bowl coverage the last couple of years as there was really no argument that the Ravens may have been the best team in the AFC. Two years ago they were clobbered by the Colts here at LucasOil Stadium. Last year there was the feeling they let one go against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, but at least the loss didn’t come with a Super Bowl trip on the line.

This time there was a REAL feeling that we should be spending Media Day tomorrow chatting up Terrell Suggs instead of trying to track down Matt Birk for five minutes later in the week when he comes to promote the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

It wasn’t the only wound re-opened however.

As you can read about in Monday’s Indianapolis Star, there’s already a bit of a “friendly” back and forth going on between us and some of the folks in “The Friendly Heart of the Midwest.” While most of our comments have been made in jest, there is no doubt that seeing horseshoes everywhere I look and staring at a sign for the “Jim Irsay Collection” at the Indiana State Museum across the street have left a bad taste in my mouth.

The team my father fell in love with is now the reason why a city hundreds of miles from Charm City is experiencing a financial boon. The likes of Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore and Art Donovan left sweat and blood on the field at Memorial Stadium, the value of which has allowed governor Mitch Daniels to make millions of dollars-which will in no way benefit the city of Baltimore.

We don’t REALLY want the Colts back in Baltimore as I joked with the Indy Star reporter. We want an entire civic injustice reversed. We know it’s impossible.

The wounds are fully re-opened here. We’ll make it through (covering a Super Bowl in Indianapolis is STILL better than having to cover the Baltimore Orioles), but there will be a number of times this week where I’ll look over and say “damn.”

-G

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My Ravens v. Steelers “Top 10 Most Memorable”

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My Ravens v. Steelers “Top 10 Most Memorable”

Posted on 06 November 2011 by Glenn Clark

I’m simply calling this my “Top 10 Most Memorable.” Not my “Top Ten Most Memorable Games” or my “Top Ten Most Memorable Moments”, just my “Top 10 Most Memorable” in the history of the Baltimore Ravens/Pittsburgh Steelers Rivalry…

10. Jamal2K (December 28, 2003-Ravens 13, Steelers 10 OT)

jamal

The game didn’t really end up meaning anything for either team, as the Ravens clinched the division earlier in the day with a Cincinnati Bengals loss. That said, the atmosphere remained electric for the Sunday Night Football matchup as Brian Billick stuck with his starters. RB Jamal Lewis fell short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record (live shots of Dickerson from ESPN during the broadcast actually added to the excitement), but he DID surpass the 2,000 yard mark and the Ravens claimed victory of their AFC North foe.

9. Ravens won’t defend (January 20, 2002 Steelers 27, Ravens 10)

2022

Despite an up and down 2001 season, there was still a feeling that once the Baltimore Ravens reached the playoffs, they’d somehow figure out a way to defend their Super Bowl XXXV crown. Kordell Stewart and Amos Zereoue did little against the Ravens defense, but three Elvis Grbac picks ensured the Ravens’ title hopes would be dashed at Heinz Field.

8. Flacco’s coming out party (September 29, 2008 Steelers 23, Ravens 20 OT)

After a surprising quick start to the 2008 season with first year head coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens entered their Monday Night Football showdown in the Steel City undefeated. They took a quick lead in the game, but some mistakes allowed the Steelers back into the game. The game would ultimately be won by the Steelers in overtime, but Ravens fans who made the trip felt good about the hopes for the coach and QB moving forward in the series.

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Ravens-Cardinals inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 30 October 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — As if an earthquake and hurricane in the same week wasn’t enough, a touch of snow in late October explains how strange of a start it’s been to the 2011 season in Baltimore.

While it may not explain the inexplicable losses to Tennessee and Jacksonville, the Ravens will try to bring some normalcy back into the picture against the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium. Having lost five in a row after a season-opening win over Carolina, the Cardinals face the daunting task of coming east to take on an angry Ravens team with something to prove on the offensive side of the football.

Sunday marks the fifth all-time meeting between the teams, with the Ravens holding a 3-1 advantage in the series. The Cardinals’ only win over Baltimore came at Memorial Stadium in 1997.

The Ravens have won 13 of their last 14 games at M&T Bank Stadium and have not lost consecutive games since October 2009 when they dropped three straight to New England, Cincinnati, and Minnesota.

With cornerback Danny Gorrer injuring his thigh during Thursday’s practice, the Ravens will depend on rookie Jimmy Smith and returning veteran Chris Carr to handle duties in the nickel and dime packages behind starters Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb. In addition to Gorrer, rookie corner Chykie Brown is also inactive.

For Arizona, running back Beanie Wells (knee) will be active, but former Ravens tight end Todd Heap will miss his third straight game with a hamstring injury.

Here are today’s inactives:

Baltimore
CB Danny Gorrer
CB Chykie Brown
CB Sergio Kindle
WR Lee Evans
G Ben Grubbs
LB Dannell Ellerbe
RB Anthony Allen

Arizona
TE Todd Heap
LB Joey Porter
QB Richard Bartel
WR Stephen Williams
FS Kerry Rhodes
T D’Anthony Batiste
DE Ronald Talley

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The Reality Check Presents “The Five Plays That Have Defined Ravens History”

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The Reality Check Presents “The Five Plays That Have Defined Ravens History”

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Glenn Clark

With no game to offer analysis for this weekend, Ryan Chell and I decided to go a different way with our Tuesday “Five Plays” segment. Instead of “The Five Plays That Determined The Game”, we went with “The Five Plays That Have Defined Baltimore Ravens History.”

Interesting, huh?

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Tony Siragusa pancakes Oakland Raiders QB Rich Gannon in the AFC Championship Game (January 2001)

gannon

4. Le’Ron McClain 82 yard TD run against the Dallas Cowboys to close Cowboys Stadium (December 2008)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzGRUNJorz8&feature=related[/youtube]

3. Steve McNair intercepted by Indianapolis Colts DB  Nick Harper in AFC Divisional Round playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium (January 2007)

harper

2. Kyle Boller drops ball, Denver Broncos DL Demetrin Veal recovers fumble (December 2005)

boller

1. Ray Lewis breaks up pass intended for Eddie George, returns INT for touchdown against Tennessee Titans in AFC Divisional Round (January 2001)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRlIEMhv-ZE[/youtube]

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Flanagans Passing

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Flanagans Passing

Posted on 25 August 2011 by Tom Federline

I am on vacation. There has been an earthquake, there is a hurricane on the way, Ocean City is being evacuated, the Orioles just swept 4 games in Minnesota and Mike Flanagan has apparently committed suicide. What in the heck is going on?  Can’t wait to get back to work – yeah right. I am not sure if it is “official” yet, but sources and police are calling it – “a self inflicted gunshot wound.” That’s heavy. My definition of suicide – a permanent solution to a potentially temporary problem. Something was troubling Michael, down there deep.

My two fondest memories of Mike Flanagan are - a) the entire 1979 Orioles season and b) the ninth inning on October 6, 1991. After Palmer, Flanny was the ace of the Orioles staff. Most of the time you felt like the O’s always had a shot when he was in there pitching. He was confident, stoic on the mound. One of the best left handers ever- in my book. He was….. a Baltimore Oriole. 1979 – Flanagan, Scott McGregor, Dennis Martinez, Jim Palmer, Sammy Stewart, Don “Full Pack” Stanhouse and Tippy Martinez. That’s not all of them but wow, what a staff. 1991 – the Orioles bring in Flanagan to pitch the final two outs - class act. The last Oriole to pitch in Memorial Stadium and he threw 2 strikeouts. Yes, I was there.

MASN is pulling out all the stops. “Remembering Flanny” tributes have been flying. I believe MASN is even going to broadcast that final game at Memorial Stadium the next 2 nights. I also hope they show more Oriole Classics – i.e. 1979 and 1983 World Series. Check your cable listings and Do Not Miss. MASN may go into “Overload” with this one, but it is warranted. I have to give credit – where credit is due. MASN handled the news last night with class. I had heard the announcement around the 5th inning last night on a break through on the radio. So I go turn on the tube - nothing. Palmer and Jim Hunter are calling the game as if nothing had happened. Quick break to radio broadcast – heard nothing more of death notice. Game ends. O’s win. The flood gates open.

Class move. Awful circumstance – but a pleasure to watch MASN handle the situation. Demper and Palmer expressing heart felt sympathy, trying to gather themselves and report on the passing of a lost friend. Amber Theo-Harris, Jim Hunter, Buck-Buck, Tom Marr, etc. all of them - passionate expression during a live broadcast. I was riveted. All the while asking ….well how did he die? Then came the 11 o’clock news and the walls came “Crumblin’ Down” – (John Cougar Mellancamp). 

Classless act – WBAL news staff and Gerry Sandusky. This is what was being reported……not verbatim – Mike Flanagan is dead of an apparent suicide in his Monkton home………(brace yourself for this)….Despondent over the inability to make the corrective changes to the Orioles organization to better the team. My first words – are you (blankety-blankety) kidding me. The news media -  are they to report news or make news? A tragedy being made worse by the media. I may never watch Channel 11 again. WJZ and Viviano handled it better, short to the point, reporting only information that needed to be expressed at that time. Comcast Sportsnet, ESPN, etc. all reporting with dignity.

Mike Flanagans death has been reported as a suicide, potentially due to “financial issues.” Something wasn’t right in Bedrock. In my book the public does not really need to know – unless it is the family wishes and knowledge of said suicide could help another human being who is troubled. Bottom line – a respected man by his peers took his life. A fan favorite of Baltimore and a definite member of the Orioles family has passed. For those of us approaching the ripe age of 50 – he was a staple of Orioles conversation during our high school /college and those entering the work world years. He did “try and make a difference” in the organization. He stayed with the Orioles organization. He wore orange and black inside and out.

The Yankees and Irene are blowing into town this weekend. The weather and emotions may be fairly turbulent. Pre-game at tonights Ravens/Redskins game and tomorrow nights O’s Yankees game will be rough. Hopefully the Camden Yards crew took some lessons from MASN and the Minnesota Twins organization and will continue to display class tribute to a great Oriole. Thanks for the memories – Mike Flanagan. Go O’s.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Sure, Angelos is at heart of Orioles misery but 25 others are accountable, too

Posted on 23 July 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

This inglorious 14 years of misery, lies and ineptitude for fans of the Baltimore Orioles all over the world has been hard to watch at every level. I’m exasperated with the media corruption, lack of integrity and pure filth of heart of Peter Angelos and his profiteering and lack of civic pride for something that this community held near and dear to its heart — bringing tens of thousands to literal tears in 1991 when the memories of 33rd Street moved downtown.

But circa 2011, on a night-to-night basis, the only ones who can change the course of the franchise “in the moment” are the players Peter Angelos is paying millions of dollars, Andy MacPhail has hired and the ones Buck Showalter has morbidly signed up to manage this summer.

Sure, Angelos is to blame for this entire mess — that much is self-evident at this point — but that does not exonerate alleged Major League Baseball players from being able to produce in the glare of the bright lights in the eighth inning of a one-run game.

Take Friday night’s multiple fiasco-fest with the game on the line vs. the Angels. Nick Markakis came to bat with two outs and two on and the Orioles a single away from a tie game and a gapper away from potentially winning the game. Markakis — the team’s “franchise” player — clipped the ball about 45 feet down the first base line to end a rally.

I’m a Nick Markakis fan. He’s quiet, he’s professional, he’s Greek, he lives in Baltimore, he’s not a Twitter jackass and last-place loudmouth like his outfield mate. But, he’s also making $12 million per year to win baseball games and put up a better fight in that baseball circumstance. It’s fair to say, his career has been a disappointment vs. the salary and the expectations that he would be the “face” of the Orioles. Like when they put him six stories high on the Warehouse wall a few years ago.

Of course, seeing the Orioles kick the ball around and bring in the likes of overpaid Kevin Gregg in the 9th inning to give up a grand slam to Vernon Wells in an eventual 6-1 loss makes it all seem trivial.

They’re the Orioles. They can’t win, anyway. So what difference does a few outs with RISP mean or a few more blown saves and missed chances by a bunch of arsonists who no one else wanted but the Orioles were forced to over pay.

I opine often about the sins of Angelos and they are more than warranted. But in the few rare instances when he’s done the “right” thing by the franchise, it then becomes incumbent upon the players to produce or face tough questions.

There’s no doubt that fans always want a “fall guy” — a horse to beat when the team loses. Every Monday morning in every fall the players and coaches in the Ravens organization take the weight or the world onto their backs like a civic grand piano.

In some ways, playing for the worst franchise in the history of modern sports in the toughest division in sports and given the lack of financial balance in MLB it somehow seems to exonerate the actual Orioles players.

I’m not willing to make that concession.

Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and the rest of the well-paid professional baseball players need a mirror for their last-place woes as well.

But I have a feeling, in the end, this will get blamed on MacPhail and Showalter.

But then again, the fans seem to put the blame everywhere but where it belongs.

If you want to find the Orioles’ REAL magic — the meaningful games, the community activism, the late-summer wins, the memories and a potential World Series parade — you really need look no further than Angelos’ pockets.

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