Dear John Vidalin: Welcome to Birdland where baseball ain’t great and beer ain’t so cold anymore

July 08, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

region than anyone.

Luke Jones has covered the Orioles for decade for WNST and is the person I hold in the highest esteem for his integrity, knowledge, passion and ongoing education in baseball, sabermetrics, loving the team and the sport and its history and meaning for local fans.

WNST loves and covers the Baltimore Orioles better than anyone – including your partners because we have the unique ability to criticize your team. And we care a lot.

You certainly won’t be getting any intelligent #DearOrioles letters from anyone else in the media in Baltimore caring as much as I do about your baseball franchise.

How a small AM radio station in Towson has become an iconic area brand was built around the premise of a few concepts: local, sports, education, inclusion, honesty, mutual respect, community, conversation and feedback. And despite the devolution of our society on the whole on a political level, I’d like to think I’m personally getting older and wiser and more intelligent every day in how I handle interpersonal relationships and communication and emotional intelligence.

As I said, The Peter Principles covers virtually every notable aspect of the Angelos regime in the early years but by 2001 things had really started to sag and the sky boxes were up for 10-year renewals. It had been four straight years of really awful baseball in every measurable way after the Davey Johnson fiasco. That chapter is a must read! You were working for the Caps around then so I’m sure you witnessed some of it because the battle drums for D.C. baseball were circling at that point as MLB paraded the Montreal Expos all over the continent trying to raffle them off.

In late 2002, when the Orioles brand was suffering, I received a semi-frantic call from a key sales member in your front office who wanted to create a unique partnership with my radio station at WNST-AM 1570. It was the week before Christmas, the Ravens were 7-7 and very relevant and coming off a Super Bowl win in Tampa and a disappointing playoff loss with Elvis Grbac the previous January.

Earlier that year, I volunteered to help the Orioles sell tickets and create mojo – with literally no intent of even pitching them real “business” because they had never spent a nickel on advertising in their existence. They had 3.6 million people in a sold out ballpark with Cal Ripken in 1993. By 2002, the fans had begun to evaporate at Camden Yards.

I did the whole promotion as an improv piece of ad-lib radio schtick. I called Wild Bill Hagy on the air. I called some friends. I asked fans if they would come. And finally, I called my contact at the Orioles and said: “I want to help you sell tickets. Let’s set this up.”

Six weeks later, when we did Orioles-Phillies game on Friday, June 28, 2002, it was the biggest single group sale in the history of the franchise. It might still be – unless some UMBC night or a Naval Academy night sold more tickets since then. We sold 1,800 tickets and it took up the entire left field upper deck.

Little WNST radio with a 0.0 Arbitron rating managed to do this with a phone number and whatever the earliest remnants of the internet were at that point.

Other than Wild Bill Hagy getting too hammered to make it to the dugout to spell O-R-I-O-L-E-S and me getting some cool pictures with the Oriole Bird and the Phillie Phanatic (who smelled icky), I got a nice memory and a pat on the back. I think Bill Stetka brought me a free hot dog or something that night?

The Baltimore Orioles easily made over $75,000 in profit on a promotion that I didn’t even view as a promotion. I did it as a community service because the ballpark being empty was a pathetic sight to a kid from Dundalk. I had just left my national gig at Sporting News Radio after three years and was doing all local radio again and wanted to try to have as much fun as you could with a team that was headed toward 98 losses in a season after 95 losses. The Yankees and Red Sox fans taking over Camden Yards was a disgraceful sight. So, with the Phillies in town, it was my way of “rallying the troops” in my audience and hosting a fun night of old-school, 33rd Street Memorial Stadium Section 34 baseball.

It was a 1983 World Series reunion matchup dreamed up a promotion in 30 seconds on the radio on a slow day in March that made your baseball franchise a lot of money.

I asked for nothing.

Now, six months later, your organization had a dilemma that I have kept quiet for 15 years.

The same guy from the Orioles front office (I would use his name but he’s not allowed to be my friend any longer) called me and said: “We have a problem selling a promotion and I need your help. We’re trying to restart a Junior Orioles program and I know you were a member as a kid and we need to sell some of these packages.”

It was literally December 17, 2002 and the Orioles were trying to entice parents and grandparents to gift their kids a really awesome baseball package for the holidays. It was a baseball, a bobblehead, a hat and tickets to a handful of 2003 games for $20. The team would even overnight the entire package so your child had it under the tree for Christmas morning. Not incidentally, then-flagship WBAL-AM 1090 had a major Monday night hot stove baseball radio show and the team hired extra help at The Warehouse to take all the phone calls they were expecting a week before Christmas. But the phone never