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Live from Indy: Former Terps QB Zolak dishes on Brady, Boston & Flacco

Posted on 30 January 2012 by WNSTV

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Orioles non-tender OF Luke Scott, now a free agent

Posted on 14 December 2011 by WNST Staff

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I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

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I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

Posted on 24 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been an emotional week for me on many levels with more big news forthcoming about WNST.net and its future, so please allow me a little space today to write a very personal blog that comes from the heart.

Kevin Eck – you probably know him as the “Ring Post” guy at The Baltimore Sun — has been in my life since 1979 and for large swaths of time we were as close as any brothers could be. We met at the Games store at Eastpoint Mall (remember that place?) at an autograph signing for Billy Smith. We also both met Al Bumbry, Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan and Rich Dauer (his favorite) there on the north end of the mall during that “Magical” summer. I was a legitimate “mall rat” at Eastpoint Mall in the early 1980’s – PacMan, soaping the fountains, that sorta thing.

As Bruce Springsteen once wrote so eloquently in the E Street Band classic, Bobby Jean: “We liked the same music, we liked the same bands, we like the same clothes.” That could’ve been the story of Nestor and Kevin. Except we liked the same girls, baseball, football, basketball, rock bands and, of course, professional wrestling of the WWWF and the land of Bob Backlund and George “The Animal” Steele.

This isn’t just a story about my lifelong best pal from Holabird Junior High and Dundalk Senior High. It’s not just a media or journalist story.

It’s really about a kid from Dundalk who dreamed of working in professional wrestling and next week is embarking on a journey of a lifetime.

I can say with all of the conviction in my being that Kevin Eck ate, slept, talked, walked, learned, researched, watched, critiqued, worked in and worked out of nothing but the world of professional wrestling.

The genesis of our friendship wasn’t born of the Orioles or Colts or any rock music band like Rush — and they’re all closer to the heart of our friendship. The truth: Kevin was the only other WWWF wrestling aficionado and wrestling magazine nut when I was in the 7th grade. It was our special bond – a love of the squared circle and the work of Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham, Greg Valentine and Andre The Giant.

So, this isn’t just about another “Dundalk boy did well” story, it’s more like a Willy Wonka kind of story with imagination .

Look, I could tell Kevin Eck stories all night. Chasing girls in the 8th grade. Attending every middle school and high school dance. Girlfriends, births, deaths, jobs, journalism, careers, wives…we’ve done it all.  Crazy weeks in Jamaica. Long weekends in Ocean City. All-night benders in Las Vegas and San Diego. You name it. World Series games, crazy cab rides that I chronicled in “Purple Reign” when Eck was the first person in Baltimore to hear the news that the Browns/Modells were moving their NFL franchise to Baltimore.

Eck and I have been around the world together and have shared our lives together. If you want to see a bunch of crazy old, embarrassing pictures I posted them all on my Facebook page here. Please feel free to fan me and I’ll try to make you laugh more often.

And there’s nothing better in life than when your friends do well. Nothing!

Especially when your oldest friends succeed and thrive and live their dreams.

Kevin Eck’s life and dream came full-circle and into the squared circle a few weeks ago when he accepted a job to work on the WWE creative team with Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and Dusty Rhodes in Greenwich, Ct. He’s packing up his family and moving to take a job a lifetime at Titan Tower.

In baseball, we’d say he got the call to “go to the show.”

And this must be what it feels like when your brother or best friend or son makes his first big-league start.

You almost want to pinch yourself for them, you know?

Our lives and our career paths have followed a similar, strange path – we’ve worked directly in the same industry as competitors for the better part of two decades and somehow have managed to keep our friendship (and that’s not always easy with two fiery personalities).

I got a job at The News American in September 1984. He soon followed.

I got a job at The Evening Sun in January 1986. He soon followed at The Sun.

I left The Sun in January 1992. He left a few years later to go to work for Ted Turner and WCW as a magazine editor in the last 1990’s and was there during a turbulent corporate time when Vince McMahon’s then-WWF empire usurped the entire industry and my pal came back from Atlanta having to start his local journalism life all over again.

Because of his immense talent and deep depth of knowledge of local sports, Kevin got his job back on the editing desk at The Sun, right back in the sports department. He began writing his passion – a little blog called “Ring Posts” a few years ago and it quickly became a viral hit. (As I told him it would be…)

So many times I talk about expertise in journalism, integrity in reporting and fairness in news judgment and I’m proud to say Kevin Eck has all of that and has for the most part been a “behind the scenes” guy at The Sun, who never had a high profile beat but has been a rock star in his department on the high schools and the dirty work that so many don’t want to do in the journalism business — editing, planning, managing people.

He’s kind of like that lunch pail rock star football player – a Jarret Johnson, Kelly Gregg kinda underrated guy. But a guy you’d never want to lose. And he’ll be the first guy in the clubhouse and the last to leave.

The Sun is taking a major hit losing a guy like Kevin Eck, especially given his deep knowledge of Baltimore sports, which I sadly never put to better use. I always thought Kevin would’ve been a star doing local sports talk radio and I told him that. But he already had a gig and one that both of us dreamed of having as kids, which is what took us into the newspaper business back in 1984.

We both watched “The Odd Couple” as kids and wanted to be Oscar Madison, truth be told.

Meanwhile, the WWE is getting a rock star – someone who is so dedicated to wrestling that it honestly baffled all of our friends, especially when it became apparent through his mom taping every single episode of every single match on VHS tapes for the better part of 25 years.

Kevin Eck has watched as much wrestling as Mel Kiper Jr. has watched college football tape.

Seriously…

This summer, as a hobby, I took it upon myself to work on one project outside of direct WNST sales and development business and that’s been collecting all of my pictures, memorabilia and boxes o’memories to use on my Facebook page and in an upcoming reality TV show I’m participating in with a friend. (I can’t tell you more about it until they let me.)

Two weeks ago, at the bottom of a box, I found this gem of a memory.

And even though it happened on July 25, 1981, I remember it pretty well. Kevin and I were crashing at his Mom’s house and we began working on a project to quietly unseat Vince McMahon from his kingdom by publishing our own Pro Wrestling magazine. We were gonna make millions with this partnership venture.

His mom Shirley, who has struggled with her health lately and was like a second mother to me, was the only person we knew who could type so she was our typesetter and we had to go to the library to make copies and we planned to sell them for 25 cents.

Kevin and I worked all night to make the inaugural (and only) edition of Wrestling, Inc. with Dusty Rhodes on the cover.

That was 30 years ago last month. I don’t think Kevin has missed a WWE wrestling match since 1981.

Other than Dave Meltzer and perhaps Alex Marvez, my pal Kevin Eck is as expert about all things professional wrestling as anyone on the planet outside of Vince McMahon himself.

There’s not much Kevin Eck doesn’t know about pro wrestling, except now he’ll be on the inside of the WWE kingdom helping put on the show and make it better.

He’s off to the WWE to make a difference to follow his dream.

He loved The Baltimore Sun. He loves Baltimore sports and has quietly dedicated his life to it the way I did.

I was the loud boisterous pal. He was always the quiet one in the shadows.

I traveled the world, got syndicated, did my thing and he was always so supportive – like a brother – through all of my victories and challenges.

Kevin did the family thing, came back home to Baltimore to be a factor at his dream job in The Sun sports department and now he’s gotten the job of a lifetime at WWE and one that he’s richly deserving of and one where he’ll thrive and be the best in the world.

You should follow him. You should root for him.

I’m so proud of him and so happy for him that I could explode.

I just wanted to brag on my pal, spread his great news and tell him “good luck” in the most public way that I can because I’m proud of how his hard work has paid off for him.

And I have a feeling I’ll be watching a lot more WWE and SmackDown in 2012 and pining away for the days of Lord Alfred Hayes and Captain Lou Albano.

And if somehow they could only bring Bruno Sammartino back into the ring for one night at the old Civic Center!

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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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Where did it all go?

Posted on 15 August 2010 by gwampler

Intensity, drive, passion, and confidence.

Everything that went into the Baltimore Orioles 9-2 run under new skipper Buck Showalter has seemingly come to a complete halt. Buck’s Birds’ have lost 3 of their last four but more importantly it looks as if the pitchers and hitters alike have lost the swagger that began this immense streak.

I know you might be thinking about the team the Birds’ just lost the series to was none other than the second place Rays’, but can you really just chalk it up to that. This team just finished sweeping the Angels, knocked the White Socks out of the AL central lead, and took 2 of 3 from the Indians. This team was hot, it didn’t matter if the Yankees were next on the list.

Of course though in usual Oriole fashion, the team that rose to the occasion and might have sparked some excitement for the first time since opening day, found a way to blunder it all.

I understand that this is a young team but here are three things I learned from the Rays’-O’s series:

1.) The pitching staff needs a lot of developement. First off, did anyone else take notice to how fast Brian Matusz was coming out of the stretch between pitches? This young gun wasn’t even taking the time for a much needed breath in between pitches. As soon as Wieters would deliver the ball back to the mound he would have to turn around and catch again. This approach may work for some veterans, but when you start sending every third pitch into the dirt it’s time to stop and inhale.

2.) The pitching staff still needs a lot of development. I know this guy may be a fan favorite but when Jake Arrieta throws the ball 114 times over six innings with only 63 balls for strikes, your not going to be able to capitalize for any type of long term success. This guy needs to be a more deliberate pitcher with a little bit more control when he comes out to pitch. That is what will get him further along into games and truly sustain a team all season long.

3.) Why is Julio Lugo leading off when he is only batting .252, while you have other members of the team more deserving of the at-bats? Lugo isn’t even an everyday man and when you take Brian Roberts out of the line up, I think you need to give Felix Pie some more looks at the top of the order. This guy entered the Rays’ series hitting a few points below .300 at .294. Pie dropped a few points but he is tied for the team lead with Luke Scott at .288. I just think with as hot and aggressive as this guy has been at the plate, the O’s need to take advantage of him.

Hopefully Buck’s Birds’ can get back on track with their upcoming homestand against the Seattle Mariners and the power hitting Texas Rangers. The Mariners should give the Birds a chance to regroup just in time for Vlad and the Rangers to come to town. If Baltimore hopes to regain confidence it begins tomorrow with driving in base runners and some more consistant pitching.

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Orioles circa 2010: We know they’ll lie, but will they lie down again?

Posted on 06 April 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

I know, I’m like a freaking broken record. Every year I write about how I’ve wrongfully had my media pass revoked and every year the Orioles make up some more lies to justify all of their mean-spiritedness and lack of professionalism. It’s Opening Day, I’ve again been deemed “not a media member” but that’s just the “off the field” stuff.

On the field, the word “improvement” has been thrown around all offseason in regard to the Orioles. As I’ve said many times, when you lose 98 games it’s hard NOT to improve the following season. It can’t get much worse, really.

As sickening as it is that I’ve taken a myriad of phone calls, emails and correspondence wondering “if the Orioles can win 78 games” – as though this disgracefully low bar somehow passes for “improvement” – I am officially one of the optimistic orange Kool Aid drinkers circa April 5th regarding the 2010 season.

It is my belief that this is the best team the Orioles have fielded this century. In 2004, the Orioles “best” performance was indeed 78 wins. Las Vegas has the 2010 Orioles over/under at 74 ½. If I were a betting man, I’d honestly take the “over” for the 2010 Orioles.

But this might be the year they finally prove they were right all along over these past 13 years of “rebuilding” and buying the bats and growing the arms.

Apparently, 78 wins will get a number of people here in Baltimore excited. At least that’s what people think until they realize that even that lofty “goal” would still be 25 games out of first place in AL East and the season would once again be effectively over right around June 20.

People have asked me every day for a month: “What do you think of the Orioles?”

My answer: “It begins with Kevin Millwood.”

Millwood is an unwitting victim of the wrong end of a big contract and the overlooking of putting Baltimore on his “not to visit” list when he inked his last contract in Texas. But, alas, he’s here now and needs to selfishly pitch well, even in MLB’s version of Siberia. He can set the tone with a big effort tonight in Tampa Bay.

It was different when guys like Scott Erickson and Sidney Ponson were poisoning the next generation of Erik Bedard’s with their antics of bush-league, lack of professionalism. Millwood needs to be the “anti-aging” Orioles starting pitcher. He needs to be more like Rick Sutcliffe and less like the aforementioned bunch of vermin who spread their foul temperament and antics through the franchise like baseball’s version of a clubhouse cancer.

I’m not sure what kind of guy Millwood is – and again, therein lies the Orioles ability to unlawfully deny me a chance to do my job after all of these years – but I hope he acclimates, pitches well and leads by example for kids like Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman, who seem like the real thing.

Matusz might win 15 games this year if he stays healthy. And while that certainly IS progress, it’s not really much different than what Rodrigo Lopez and Eric Bedard both did twice in orange en route to meaningless, forgettable seasons for the Orioles.

But, as stated before, I’m bullish on the Orioles in 2010 in regard to “progress.” I think they might be OK and quite competitive against teams not named New York and Boston — if pieces fall into place and if good health can be found.

If the starting pitching can get them to the 6th or 7th inning five nights a week, that will allow for a more rested bullpen and a real chance for .500.

I’m sold on Miguel Tejada as a relevant third baseman in the AL East. I think he’ll hit .300 and be an RBI machine like he’s always been. He might be 50 years old for all we know, but I think he’ll be the least of the Orioles concerns at this point in his career. He’s coming as a complimentary player not the leader and “franchise” guy he was counted on to be six years ago. His lies, transgressions and B-12 shots will not even be a factor this summer in Baltimore.

Of course, this would be a good year for SOMEONE to step up and be the REAL franchise player.

Is it Nick Markakis, who is quietly putting together a nice Orioles career?

Or could it be Adam Jones, whose Tweets are fun to follow when he’s not up all night in San Diego?

Or will it be Matt Wieters, whose hype seemed justified over the final two months of 2009 when it appeared he was ready to become a star?

At least there are several All Star Game candidates in orange this summer. It’s not another summer of David Segui, B.J. Surhoff and Gregg Zaun playing out their late 30’s at Camden Yards.

I’m not a Dave Trembley fan – the team tanked and quit down the stretch last year and each of those 98 losses were well-earned late last summer. Again, when the owner is the cheapest in the game and when Trembley will manage for 1/10th of what the best managers in MLB yield for a salary, I get what the team is doing.

They’re making money. They’re hoping these kids pan out and selling it to what’s left of a tortured fan base and using their media moles to “plant the seed” of hope. At least they can say they “were patient” while Andy MacPhail built what this cake turns out to be circa 2013, when it allegedly will mature. (They’re always two years away from competing with the Yankees and Red Sox, aren’t they?)

So, are the baby Birds ready to fly? Can the team be relevant enough to compete through the All Star break without falling 15 games behind Boston and/or New York?

We’ll see. But for the first time in a long time, they can legitimately threaten to be a .500 team if they stay healthy and have some key young prospects step up the way the insider pundits around the sport believe they will.

If Matusz is real?

If Wieters is real?

If Adam Jones can improve?

If Nick Markakis can remain consistent?

If Brian Roberts’ back can stay healthy?

If all of the young starters can get to the 7th inning with consistency?

If Tejada still has it?

And this is before we start projecting the likes of Jeremy Guthrie, Garrett Atkins, Luke Scott, Felix Pie and Nolan Reimond, who are all a literal box of chocolates. Does anyone really know what any of these guys will wind up doing come mid-summer? And what does anyone know about the bullpen, led by Mike Gonzalez?

Again – it’s the worst run franchise in professional sports. It’s not even close. That much has been borne out in living color over the past 13 summers. That will never change, even if Brooks Robinson is throwing out the first pitch on Friday. They are the worst group of people I’ve met in my 42 years on the planet — pure evil in their deeds, intents and actions.

But, perhaps this is the summer that all of their bloody deeds since 1997 are justified and they get people in Baltimore truly excited and energized about baseball.

If Tampa Bay could do it two years ago there’s no reason to believe the likes of Matusz, Wieters, Reimold, Bergesen, Tillman and company can’t step up to become very productive, young major leaguers and all hit their stride this summer.

It’s certainly a lot more possible than during the era of Omar Daal, Marty Cordova and Kevin Millar or any of the past sins of Peter Angelos’ ugly stewardship as the suddenly disappearing owner.

My real prediction: 78 wins.

I don’t think they can be above .500 with 54 games coming in the division against New York, Boston and Tampa Bay. But I think they will certainly be far better and more interesting on the field than we’ve seen here in Baltimore over the last 13 years.

But given the history, let’s all sip the orange Kool Aid one ounce at a time…

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Happy 91st Birthday to the “real” creator of WNST

Posted on 05 March 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

Dear Pop:

Happy 91st birthday!!! I know you might be used to me doing the radio show dedicated to you every year here on March 5th but this year I’m “off” the radio (the listeners call it “retirement” and I call it “sabbatical”) so I’m just gonna write you this letter and hope it gets to you. And instead of taking calls all afternoon, I’m gonna take comments from folks on this space-aged thing called the internet. (I’ll explain it to you later but there’s a lot of stuff in the world here in 2010 you wouldn’t really understand without seeing it!)

A lot has changed since you left us back in July 1992 and I just thought I’d check in and update you a little with this letter – just kind of catch you up a little bit because every single day I think “What would Pop think of this crazy place now?”

And I know how much you love to read, so I thought I’d put it in writing for your birthday – how much different this place is in 2010!

Yes, I still write “for the paper” occasionally, but they just don’t call it a newspaper anymore. The words kinda live on a little television set and you don’t have to print them. You just “click” and you can get almost any information in the world. It’s kinda like the radio, TV and newspaper worlds have all gone into one place, if you can understand that. It’s called the “internet” – and really, I’d probably have a helluva time trying to make you understand it but I’m gonna try.

These days I’m so freaking busy building this sports media business I’ve created that I don’t even get to write about sports or talk about sports as much as I’d like but I’ll be doing more this baseball season for you and keep you in the loop on the Orioles and stuff. I’m also doing a book that I’m gonna send you a copy of later this year. It’s about coaching and leadership – I think you’ll dig it because it’s a lot of the stuff that you were always trying to teach me only put into words and kinda organized with words of wisdom from all of the coaches that I’ve met since 1984 who’ve taught me about life through sports.

Pop, a LOT of these people really helped make me the person I am since you’ve been gone. You remember Gene Ubriaco from the Skipjacks? Well he kinda gave me the idea since he was the first coach I talked to back in the day and he visited me recently and inspired me. I remember introducing him to you back at the Civic Center when I first covered the team for The News American.

Anyway, I remember that summer back in 1986 when we coached that Little League baseball team at Eastwood together. (One of those kids is now my Facebook friend, but I’ll save explaining that for next year’s letter, OK?)

I think a lot about you managing the 1973 Colgate Pirates, when I was the batboy, and we won the championship. I’m gonna write a little bit about it in the book. Gus Kaplanges still calls me and I ran into Teddy Boccia at Pizza John’s in Essex a few weeks ago. Tom Duni always sends along his best when I see him on the mornings when I take Mom to the IHOP over on Merritt Boulevard. It’s the “International House of Pancakes” – right in Dundalk. I know how much you love pancakes. They even have all of the fancy syrups!

So when I heard they just got email up there where you are I thought I’d send you a birthday card with some updates here from Planet Earth instead of doing the radio show. (Wait’ll you get a load of these “smart” phones when they get there with the “internet” on them. And wait’ll you see this thing called “texting”!)

Look, some of this stuff you’re not gonna understand. You’re just not, no matter what I do or how I try to explain it. Lemme just start with this – we have a black President of the United States, so you KNOW things are little different but the changes these last 18 or so years have been incredible – especially the last few years. You wouldn’t believe what’s happened in Baltimore with sports media and sports in general.

You were right about ESPN – they’re still around and they have a monopoly on virtually every sport and they have this 24-hour a day newspaper that people read all the time. You can even listen to the radio and watch videos on a screen without an antenna! (It’s all on that “internet” thing I told you about. And it’s all in the palm of your hand on this thing that’s like a phone. I’d try to compare it to a “cell” phone but even that would be hard.)

You know me, I still love hockey and the NHL is fun. The Capitals are really good and I think you’d even get on this bandwagon, even though you always hated hockey and Washington, D.C. The Caps have this Russian kid named Ovechkin – he’s like Gretzky, only bigger and meaner. It’s a fun time and the Caps SUCKED big time for a long time, kinda like they did when back when I started dragging you down there to the Capital Centre in 1981. I’m really sorry you never liked hockey, but I really do appreciate you taking me down to those Clippers games back in the day! You have no idea how great those memories are for me and how much hockey still means to me!

The Terps are having a great year – they even won a BIG one against Duke the other night and they play in this shiny new building and Gary Williams is STILL the coach! They finally won the National Championship back in 2002 and it was a lot of fun. I know how much you loved March Madness around the house and it’s still pretty much the same although they wear these long pants these days. And people don’t play bracket pools on paper – they do it on this “internet” thing!

The NBA kinda sucks these days and nobody watches. I know you saw Abe Pollin up there a few weeks ago. I hope you guys made up – he really did do some good things, though that would be hard for me to explain to you. The new guy here who owns the old Bullets (they call them the “Wizards” now — again, don’t ask…really some of this s&%t is too crazy to even try to explain!) is a guy named Ted Leonsis. Good dude and now he owns the Caps. I know him a little through the radio show. They moved outta the Capital Centre into downtown D.C. back in 1998 and they play in this place that kinda looks like a mall with windows. It’s wild, man, the way the stadiums and the arenas have changed. It’s all about business now with sports – lots of money, but still a lot of fun most of the time. And people love it more than ever!

But there’s even these new sports like this “mixed martial arts” — where guys literally beat the s&*t outta each other like something in one of those weekend Roman gladiator movies on Channel 45. It’s crazy. It’s like boxing, kinda, without gloves. It’s kinda like WWF only it’s REAL. Swear to God! But people love it!

Oh, about “rassling,” one of your favorites. It’s now called World Wrestling “ENTERTAINMENT” these days. Vince McMahon is still running it and making money but they’ve admitted what you said along: “It’s fake.” But nobody seems to mind and they still sell a lot of tickets.

Stock car racing (they just call it NASCAR these days) is this HUGE thing – these fancy cars, crowds of over 100,000 and big TV ratings. They moved the Olympics into every two years – summer and winter alternate – and they have these skateboard kids who surf on the snow getting medals. It’s exciting – you might even like it!

The Preakness is a mess. They took the beer away last year and now nobody goes but no one here seems to care too much about horse racing. Kinda sad. I know you never liked it too much but it’s tough to see it die like this, especially in May when Baltimore used to rock for the Preakness. They’re doing this new thing this year – “Get Your Preak On” – we’ll see how it goes.

I know I haven’t mentioned the Orioles because, well, you really don’t want to know. I know when you left us back in July of ’92 you were sorta losing it a little for life and sports and I know you thought Camden Yards looked nice on TV. Sorry I never took you down there before you left but honestly you haven’t really missed much down there, Pop.

This guy from Highlandtown named Peter Angelos bought the team about a year after you left us. Hotshot lawyer, got involved with some union guys who died from asbestos and made a zillion dollars, bought the team in 1994 and, well, they’ve turned into the worst franchise in sports.

They lose every year. They lie every year. They’re really rather disgraceful! And nobody goes to the games anymore. Mom still watches – we all kinda do – but no one goes to the games and the owner is the biggest heel since Bob Irsay.

Pop, some people hate him even MORE than Irsay and I’m not kidding!

I know it sounds crazy, but he’s kinda at war with me personally because I have had the balls and the voice to do what you’d have done if you were me – I tell the truth about the losing and the sad state of the city on summer night. But you’d dig it that some of the old Orioles from when we were taking the No. 22 outta Highlandtown are still around and are really cool to me. Those old Orioles come up to me and tell me to continue to fight with him but, really, Pop, it’s not the same and I’m tired of fighting with these lunatics.

I don’t even wanna bore you with it. (I’d tell you to “Google it” but you’d have no idea what the hell that means but I think you’d really think it’s cool. Imagine one of those World Book encyclopedias you bought me combined with every library in the world and all available in one place and you’ll begin to grasp it. Yeah, I know, you’re a little confused…so is Mom, don’t worry.)

But more than ANYONE, you’d be the proudest of how I’ve stood up and fought for what’s right. I take a lot of heat. People write me hate mail, threaten my life on occasion – but I know I’m right. This Angelos guy can’t even get along with Brooks Robinson, who’s still alive and has battled some illnesses recently.

This spring, I’m going to get behind a big civic movement to get a statue built for No. 5. I’ve sorta gotten to know Brooks since you left us and he’s just as great of a guy as you always thought he was and he deserves it. So I’m gonna help these guys who want to do this and I want to do it in your honor, if you’ll let me. I always tell Brooks about how you took me to “Thanks, Brooks Day” way back in 1977 and how we spent the day together out in left field like we always did in those days on 33rd Street.

By the way – I’ve got some more bad news. They tore down Memorial Stadium about 10 years ago. It really PISSED me off. I drive by there, think of you and get all pissed off again. I can’t even turn the corner up by Lake Montebello without getting depressed. The old site was turned into a YMCA. You’d hate it — trust me! Some days, I think you’re better off where you are and I can’t wait to join you!

I’m writing you this letter from a plane tonight and I’m going to spring training – but it’s not Florida, it’s Arizona. I’m doing some research work on this book on coaching and leadership. I’m going to be interviewing over 100 coaches with Baltimore ties and writing about their feelings on life, leadership and sports. I’m in Arizona and because the Orioles don’t let me come to their spring training games (or any games, really) because I did this protest of their ownership back in 2006. I had a press pass for all those years after you left but they took my pass away for telling the truth. I know, it’s kinda what you’d expect in Cuba or Russia, but that’s the way it is these days in America when you tell the truth – people hate you, abuse you and fail to be accountable. Especially when they’re rich and they threaten people with lawsuits every day. It’s a sick world. The more I know, the less I want to know about a lot of this stuff.

But that’s OK. I’m happy standing for what’s right and not falling for anything. Like I said, I know you’d be proud of me!

So anyway, I’m on this flight to Phoenix and I’m writing to you (we do it on these fancy computers that are kinda like typewriters that sit on your lap) and there’s a guy from the Ravens sitting behind me. His name is Justin Green – he’s a running back who used to play on the NFL team we have now in Baltimore.

I’m sorry it took me so long to tell you about the Ravens. But I wanted to save the good news for the end!

The Ravens are our new NFL team!

I know, I know. You said we’d NEVER get another NFL team but we did. It was something like a miracle, Pop, this team that Art Modell brought to Baltimore from Cleveland back in 1996. No, the Browns colors and logos stayed in Cleveland where they replaced the team but those people are STILL pissed, kinda like you were with Irsay until you left us.

(I’m assuming if you’ve ever run into Irsay up there you’re in the WRONG place…so I’ll just tell you that he died a few years ago!)

But Modell was great for Baltimore! He even hired Ted Marchibroda to be the first coach! It’s been a LOT of fun since this football team came to town.

We have a young local owner named Steve Bisciotti, who does his best to not be the jerk that Angelos is and Irsay was. He’s interested in winning and making the team fun every year and Baltimore appreciates that!

The Ravens have the best defensive player I’ve ever seen – a guy like Butkus and Curtis and Singletary but only better! His name is Ray Lewis and he’s fun to watch. He was a rookie on the first team back in 1996 and he’s still playing but the Ravens have really had a lot of good players and they win most years and the games are fun and it kinda reminds everyone here of those fun days you had with the Colts back in the ’50s and ’60s with Mom and Johnny Unitas. (I hope you said hi to No. 19 when he dropped by a few years ago. He stood on the sidelines here for the Ravens on game days and people thought it was cool! I talked to him a few days before he came to be with you…)

I miss you the most on those Ravens game days in the fall because you’d LOVE this football team. They wear purple, your favorite color. The band still plays, they’re just called “The Ravens Marching Band.” People come to the games really early and have picnics and drink beer. They call it “tailgating” because they sit on the trunk of the car and dine on swine and wait for the game and play catch. We’ve got this new stadium down where the railroad tracks used to be on the other side of the harbor, right next to the baseball stadium. It’s wild driving into downtown now and seeing those giant stadiums and all of the purple.

But I really miss you on those days when the team plays. I think of you every Sunday. I really do!

Because of what I do for work, I even get to go to all of the road games and sometimes we even take people who listen to the radio station and read my columns (we call ‘em “blogs” now) on the internet with us and it makes it more fun. Beer drinking, good food, football cheers – Pop, you’d LOVE it!

So, even though I did the radio show for a long time, I’m still here doing my media thing on this “internet” contraption and some of the people haven’t really changed. You remember Tom Davis and Scott Garceau – they work for my competitor. Stan The Fan still does this magazine every month. And Phil Jackman is still my friend and he’s gotten even older and even crankier. It’s fun to watch!

But I turned the old radio station into this 24-hour-a-day “internet” sports place with radio, television and news all in one place. We even have all of the box scores and standings for you! I wish you could see it!!! It’s like the Sporting News back in the day only even more in depth. You’d be really proud, Pop!

I have these awesome business partners – led by a guy named Brian Billick. He was the Ravens coach back when they won the Super Bowl in 2001. (I’ll tell you more about that later!)

Billick is sorta like Earl Weaver was to the Orioles – only taller, but he does cuss just as much! I’d pay a lot of money to see you and Billick have a conversation about sports. You’d make him laugh for sure!

Billick is just a fabulous guy and I really wish you two would’ve gotten a chance to meet. He joined me about 18 months ago as a business partner but all of the money we ever make on his behalf goes directly back to the community through this charity called “Living Classrooms” which helps the kids in the city who are trying to stay out of trouble, learn and get jobs. One day, we’ll make a lot of money for the people of Baltimore together! You always taught me to give something back and that’s what I’m trying to do because people have really been great to me as I’ve gotten older and you’ve left us.

I just wish you could see it – even for one day, what my life has been like! The travel. The roadtrips. The time I’ve spent in Europe, South America and Asia. I went to China with Cal Ripken Jr., who just like you told me, wound up in the Hall of Fame. We even went to Cooperstown for the induction!

But I’ve done World Cups, a bunch of World Series, All Star Games, Stanley Cups, Final Fours, Kentucky Derbies, Super Bowls — you name it! I’ve really had a great life – a great time since you left me!

Oh – that’s right – I almost forgot. The Super Bowl!

Yep, Baltimore WON the Super Bowl back in 2001. I sorta forgot that you didn’t know that…

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Mom happier than she was when the Ravens beat the Giants that night. I was at the game that night in Tampa under the stars but she called me, bawling like a baby – she really loves the Ravens, Pop. I wish you could be there to watch those games with her on Sunday.

I took her to a game back in August to see the guys in purple play. I’m not sure if you get You Tube up where you are, but if you do here’s what it looked like:

She calls me every weekend and a lot of times I’m there at the games in all these far-flung places like Minnesota or Green Bay or New England and she wants updates. We have this tall quarterback named Joe Flacco who is her favorite. He wears No. 5 – just like Brooksie!

But sports and radio and Baltimore have been good to me all these years. All those things you taught me – fairness, integrity, working hard, practicing hard, being a good teammate, running out every groundball, looking for the cutoff man, playing by the rules – that’s all really helped me in the business world. Some days I feel like a success, some days I feel like the world’s biggest failure but I never give up. I never, ever give up!

And I always try to do the right thing…

And even though things are kinda crappy – the economy is worse than it was back in 1979, when you came home every day scared to death that you were gonna lose your job at ‘The Point – I’m in a good spot. I have a really good product and it’s growing every day but it’s hard work. Nothing I’m allergic to though. (Don’t worry…I never take a “scratch” either!)

But there’s lots of stuff you’d really like about the world in 2010 and stuff that reminds me of you every day.

They have Chick-Fil-A’s now where you don’t have to go into the mall. These computers have kinda taken over the world and you wouldn’t have to wait for The Sporting News or the Baseball Digest anymore. Heck, you wouldn’t even be pissed every morning at 5 a.m. because The Sun came late and you didn’t get to read it before work. You can read it ANYTIME on this device! Sounds kinda like a “dream,” doesn’t it?

You could even take your phone into the bathroom and READ on it while seated instead of taking the newspaper up there when you stink up the joint!

Ha!!! (Made you laugh!!!)

But we’re cool down here. Mom is fine, still feisty and nagging the hell outta me the way I like it. Barry is 25 now and helps me at WNST and is good guy. You two would be hell together watching Orioles games in high definition TV. (They call it HD – it’s kinda like 3D, just a little different. It’s just a really, really clear TV – everybody has them now and it’s kinda neat, makes you feel like you’re right on the field!)

I have an awesome wife that I met at a hockey game who likes sports even more than I do — most days anyway. She’s a Red Sox fan and she gets to have all of the fun in baseball season because the Orioles haven’t played a meaningful game since 1997. They stink every stinking year! It’s awful, really…but like I told you, google it!

Maybe I really just wish you were here from August through January every year — but you’re really not missing much from April through the summer…

So, I just wanted to say hi and share this letter. I’m gonna share it with the people who read my “internet column” and hope that they write me some neat stories about their lives and memories and emotions with their Pop. You wouldn’t believe what a big “celeb” I turn you into every March 5th!

People write me every year and ask me about my “radio show for my Pop.” Well, this year for your 91st birthday, I thought I’d do something extra special and write you a letter instead. Maybe this will be the new format every year, who knows?

But I hope you’re resting comfortably and that someone is watching over me down here.

Life is good. Times are tough. The world is changing. Sports is in a weird place in Baltimore but I have a good feeling about things and I’m even optimistic that one day the Orioles will be good and kind and honorable again and the games will be fun for me.

Give Steady my best if you see him. Tell all of my friends like Clem Florio and the other fellas that “Nasty loves ‘em and misses ‘em!” (OH…I almost forgot! I really hope you got to say hello to Ted Williams a few years ago. I know how much you loved him!)

In the meantime, I’m sure the Ravens will give me plenty to write you about and the business stuff and building this company has been a lot of fun and keeps me plenty busy.

And if you ever bump into Howard Cosell, you should apologize, Pop! You were really wrong about him! He really DID know what the hell he was talking about!

Have a great birthday, Mr. Pisces! I’ll have some strawberry shortcake out in Phoenix in your honor!

Strangely enough, I’m having breakfast with Frank Kush today at his office at Arizona State and lunch with a bunch of the San Diego Padres front office folks. (Aunt Jane would really dig it!)

I have a feeling your name will come up!

Happy Birthday, you old fart!

Ninety one would’ve been fun but, hopefully, you’re getting satellite up there so you can watch the Terps game this weekend.

And if the MASN feed doesn’t come in, don’t feel so bad. You’re better off with the VHS tapes you left with from 1983…

Love,

Me

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Yikes!!! Bears are stuck in Chicago…

Posted on 19 December 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I just got off the phone with Bears PR director Scott Hagel who confirmed that the Chicago Bears are still in Chicago and conducting business as usual in preparation to get Baltimore for tomorrow’s 4:15 p.m. game.

Here’s the link to their official website blog, which confirms that the Bears’ flight last night was canceled.

“The Bears tried to beat the snow in Baltimore, but they got sacked by Mother Nature.

With 10-20 inches of snow expected to fall this weekend, the team moved its flight from Saturday afternoon to Friday night. But the Bears never made it to Baltimore.

They boarded their charter at O’Hare at 10:30 p.m., and then sat on the plane before the flight was canceled at 12:30 a.m. because the snowstorm had arrived earlier than expected. The Bears bused back to Halas Hall, arriving at 1:15 a.m., and will attempt to fly to Baltimore late Saturday.”

WNST will update you if/when the Bears get off of the ground at O’Hare in north Chicago, where it’s not snowing. The biggest issue will clearly be whether the BWI runway stays open.

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Trembley tossed, Luke Scott muscles up as the “forgotten man”

Posted on 08 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

On a day when ESPN.com ran a gigantic story about the great future of the Orioles’ outfield of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold, it was Luke Scott who looked the present tense in Seattle as he devoured Mariners’ pitching for three hits and seven RBIs last night at Safeco Field in a 12-4 win.

Dave Trembley got tossed in the first inning after a Scott double and apparently told Scott “hit one out for me” and Cool Hand Luke answered with the biggest game of his career and the biggest individual effort since Ramon Hernandez’s 7-RBI night in Seattle back in 2006.

The video of Trembley’s ejection is here. It almost looks like he was trying to “stir it up” and get thrown out early in this one, even though he was clearly right on the call. After Scott’s double, the throw from the outfield toward the plate nicked the pitcher’s mound and took a wild bounce into the stands at Safeco. The lead runner should’ve been awarded home but wasn’t. Trembley went nuts!

Meanwhile, starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was lifted in the 3rd inning with a bout of dizziness.

Here’s the full game story and box score at WNST.

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Ohhhhh what a comeback: Oriole Magic percolates at The Yard after the rain…

Posted on 30 June 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It isn’t hype to say that a miracle happened at Camden Yards tonight. It isn’t hyperbole to say that this was truly the greatest comeback in Orioles history. It really was.

I’m sure this morning many of you will awake to read this and say what most of the city (or the few who were watching to begin with will say): “They were losing 9-1 when the rain came. How the hell did they win that game?”

Well, the box score will tell you all about the comeback — an amazing display of perserverance that saw them get five runs in the 7th inning and five more in the 8th to overcome the Red Sox in an 11-10 win before a stunned contingent of mostly Red Sox fans, who stayed to celebrate what looked to be a rout at 10:45 p.m. after a lengthy and wet rain delay that came in the fifth inning.

In the 7th, Aubrey Huff, Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott heroics were all upstaged by Oscar Salazar’s big home run off of Hideki Okajima.

In the 8th, it was Nick Markakis’ big two-out shot off the left field wall that highlighted a firestorm offensive display against Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Everyone got in on the act. They managed 13 hits and 10 runs in two innings against the best bullpen in the game and on a night when all but a handful of their fans walked out of the ballpark during a rain delay.

Afterward Dave Trembley said (without joy): “That’s about the best ballgame I’ve ever been involved in. You play all 27 outs. It was calm. But every time we scored it got a little bit more wild. I guess the word would be: believable. Very impressive.”

Well, for all of Trembley’s relative lack of enthusiasm, at least the MASN boys were in great spirits. Jim Hunter looked like he was going to pee himself. Rick Dempsey couldn’t stop smiling. The remaining Red Sox fans were looking for more cold beer. Jim Palmer looked stunned. Gary Thorne was screaming like it was Game 7 Avalanche-Red Wings on ESPN circa 1998. (I love Gary Thorne!)

Former Baltimore Sun writer David Steele commented on my Facebook thread with this amazing observation: With the biggest win in Orioles history “they quieted their own ballpark.”

That’s a scary thought — but it’s true. The more the comeback came, the fewer the people who were cheering in the stands in red shirts. There was one rowdy group of orange over the O’s dugout, the heartiest of hearty souls after 11 p.m. I’m sure they have some great stories to tell. MASN had one cutaway of a Red Sox fan jawwing with an O’s supporter in the box seats and it looked like a fight was about to throw down.

What a night! These crazy kids are so up and down it’s impossible to know what you’re getting. Lost in this amazing win will be the dreadful start of Rich Hill, who managed to give up 9 runs in less than four innings before the magical rain that changed the O’s fortunes tonight.

You gotta admit that what happened tonight takes a certain amount of chutzpah and stones. It was a comeback for the ages. Like Bills-Oilers. Or Maryland-Miami. Or Len Bias at the Dean Dome. (Or sadly, Duke-Maryland 2001!) That Flacco effort in Cleveland last year didn’t suck either.

It was memorable and hopeful. Like Jimmy V, these guys never gave up. You have to respect that. It makes them likable and heroic in many ways. The Markakis at bat could be a “defining moment.”

The Orioles and Sox have a quick turnaround. They play the cap of the three-game series at 1:35 p.m. with Josh Beckett facing Brad Bergesen.

11:26 p.m. — If you are watching the Orioles game right now, you’re one of the few lost souls who have returned. After trailing the Red Sox 9-1 when a brutal rainstorm entered the city early in the evening, the Orioles have come back in the “second half” and brutalized Boston pitching in various ways to take an amazing 11-10 lead in the 8th inning.

There appear to be about 10,000 Red Sox fans still in the ballpark and a handful of rowdy Orioles fans who are truly the last rats on the ship.

A longer blog will follow, but we’re up and we’re paying attention and we’re stunned in amazement at the greatest comeback in Orioles history.

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