Thursday, June 28, 2007


We had a lot of Major League baseballs around growing up. My grandfather, Dino Bartoli would take me to Memorial Stadium for batting practice and he would hustle down balls in the left field bleachers. Sometimes, he'd get as many as three of them. During one game against the Yankees, he dove three rows down to get a Paul Blair home run ball, and he came back with splinters. I kept those batting practice balls on my dresser and occasionally I would take one of them down and pound it into my glove. I caught a foul ball in 1974 during a game against the Tigers. We were sitting along the third base line and a high foul pop headed towards us. The ball carried over our heads and appeared to be headed to the upper deck. I turned to follow its path and watched it slam against the facade. The ricochet angled toward me and landed in my glove. Most people had turned back around to watch the game. That almost made up for the fact that my brother and his friend played catch one day with my 1970 ball autographed by the World Champion team. Most of the names had been scuffed away.

Once my grandfather explained the names on the baseballs to me. He pointed to the machine-generated signature of Lee MacPhail. "Mr. MacPhail was the general manager of the Orioles years ago," he explained. It was a name I always remembered. Now, his son Andy MacPhail is the new general manager. My grandfather isn't doing very well these days. He is in a nursing home in Florida, unable to walk, without his family and wasting away. The worst part about it: he can't watch the Orioles.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dave Trembley is Here to Stay

It's been a rollercoaster week in Birdland. At one point we had Andy MacPhail poised to name Joe Girardi as manager but things didn't work out. Girardi wanted to have an opt out clause to allow him to take either the Cubs or Yankees jobs should they become available. Guthrie pitched a gem against the Padres. Tejada's on the DL. Bedard may follow. The Orioles played tremendous defense last night behind two-hit ball from Daniel Cabrera. My wife wants me to come to bed instead of watching the west coast games, but I'm a kid again staying up late to see the outcome. It's okay, because I do the dishes, clean the kitchen, etc.

Rising out of the ashes is a seasoned "interim" manager from the Orioles minor league system named Dave Trembley. "Respect the game," he told his lethargic millionaire charges before Tuesday's tilt against the Padres and they have responded thus far. I tuned in to see what I thought looked like William Shatner in an Orioles uniform. "Play one inning at a time. Win one inning at a time," Trembley preaches. He's not afraid to get into anyone's face. The clearest distinction between Trembley and Perlozzo is this. Trembley manages. Perlozzo coached.

It's summertime in the land of pleasant living and that means steamed crabs, sno-balls, sweetcorn and baseball at the Yard. It's a whole new ballgame.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Bird Will Fly

H.L. Mencken wrote, "I hate sports as much as sports fans hate common sense." If you are an Oriole fan then today was a groundbreaking one. Late this morning word traveled across the wires that manager Sam Perlozzo had been fired. But that was not all. Andy MacPhail had been hired as Chief Operating Officer, and they weren't stopping there. The main target for manager is former Marlins skipper, Yankee catcher, Northwestern grad, and industrial engineer, Joe Girardi. Tomorrow, a delegation will attempt to hammer out a deal with him to lead the team., the online community dedicated the Orioles, crashed when I went to check in late this morning and I knew something had happened. Another piece of the new approach is a reported back seat role for Mr. Angelos. The baseball people will be allowed to do what is necessary to win games. It's as though the season has begun anew. It appears we may have a future. I have followed this team since 1969, when I can vividly remember watching the last out of the World Series by myself alone in a room. Everyone else had left and fans were pouring onto the field at Shea stadium. A year later, a devastating thing happened. My parents divorced but the Orioles won the World Series--all was not lost. I have stuck with the Birds over the last decade, even moved to DC to be close to my team, showing a complete lack of common sense.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Swept Away

Swept by the Nationals and the Diamondbacks. I actually think that the Orioles would make a great Harvard Business School case study. Peter Angelos as the despotic owner who micromanages everything and his approach spreads like a cancer throughout the organization. The manager plays it not to lose. The players second guess themselves. There is a malaise, a bad luck schleprock cloud over the team's head. There is a nasty steroid controversy surrounding some of the players who just happen to be underperforming this year. A "once-proud" franchise sinks to new depths. Many of the best free agents refuse to even consider Baltimore as an option. What is needed to turn things around? An intervention? What is a franchise? It's the players, the organization, and the brand. It's also the fans--without the paying customers the franchise goes under. The most important asset of any organization is the fan base. There are Yankee fans replicating by the second in their pink caps and Jeter jerseys. They have a product on the field. There are Dice K fans wearing garb at my neighborhood pool because there are players in Fenway Park who win basbeall games. My ownership won't put the name of the city on the away jerseys because it is a feudal dictatorship. What is needed is a revolt, a revolution, a coup d'etat. Hundreds of thousands of fans surrounding the warehouse demanding change. We need to stand up to this ineptitude or move on. If change doesn't come, the only people attending Oriole games will be the owner and his friends.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Tony Soprano didn't go out with a bang or a whimper, he just went. He was in the moment enjoying an onion ring at a local diner with his family. There wasn't anybody capable of taking him out. The Feds were moving in, but that's not an interesting ending. The season was about what didn't happen. Tony was on the verge of killing Bobby and Paulie in the first few episodes. Instead, he ended Christopher's life who had increasingly become a liability. Christopher unexpectedly and senselessly killed his altar ego JT. There was promise. Many incredible scenes such as AJ's truck exploding as Dylan's "It's Alright Ma" melted into the dashboard. There was the bullet from Bobby's first killing that entered the dryer and kept spinning. There was a peyote trip. In the end, Tony experienced an epiphany over a stack of onion rings. It's hard to say what motivates my Orioles these days, not a bang or a whimper, a plate of onion rings, nothing.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I happened to be in San Francisco on business when Schilling mastered the A's for eight and two/thirds innings. I'd been following the game from the sports ticker on ESPN. Then I went to my room and listened on the radio. Two outs came quickly and the warhorse and former Oriole went to work on Shannon Stewart. The Oakland crowd was boisterous, filled with Bosox fans. He left one up and Stewart drove it into right field for a hit. Then Francona was faced with a dilemma. Mark Ellis was at the plate, the winning run in a one-run ballgame. He doesn't dare take out Schilling, a veteran. Doesn't even think about it. It is still Curt's game to win and he gets the out. Schilling is the John Wayne of baseball: true grit. Perlozzo micromanages the Oriole pitchers as if they are precious gems. It's a push-button staff, driven by a mechanical approach, and more often than not, the process malfunctions. Balls start flying out of the park. Nobody is allowed to thrive off emotion or gut instinct. The Orioles have invested $42M in last year's technology. I can't believe I'm still following the Orioles as passionately as I ever have, living off fumes from 1983.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wake-Up Call

As the Oriole bullpen continues to implode night after night leaving a trail of gut-wrenching losses in their wake, I feel fortunate not to have invested hours of time watching this hapless collection continue to flagellate themselves. I did attend the opening address of the Special Libraries Association given by Al Gore on Sunday night. I bought his new book, Assault on Reason, somewhat on a whim at the meeting, and had him sign it. "Wish you were in the White House," I said as I approached. "Me too," he said. I haven't seen the movie yet but I get the gist of it. His speech was entertaining and clearly revealed a new, less wooden orator capable of effective self-deprecating humor. Three thousand people listened as he recalled his days as an investigative reporter using information tools to find "needles in haystacks." He did his best to illuminate the importance of getting the right information against the backdrop of 9/11, Iraq, his new book, and global warming and nearly succeeded. Information is important to him and he shared that 2006 was the hottest year in history and that the country could be in serious trouble with the environment in 34 years (Read McCarthy's THE ROAD). The talk was somewhere between lecture and stump speech. And then, a person asked THE QUESTION. He actually sounded pretty certain he wasn't going to run for President at first. "Right now, I'm on a book tour," he said. He told us his time would be better spent on the Global Warming crusade. "I haven't ruled out running again in the future," he said. Curiously, this was the most impassioned part of the speech. "Don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to be President," he said. He just doesn't think that the government cares about the issues and too many people think Saddam caused 9/11 and are uninformed and mesmerized by Anna Nicole for him to make a difference. It was book tour schtick. "I will be in Russia giving my slide show in Russian, In Turkey in Turkish, In Athens in Greek--All next week!" He screamed. "I don't want my grandchildren asking the question thirty years from now, 'What were they thinking?'" After I got back to my hotel I pondered what I had just heard. Here is a man at the height of his popularity, vested in the future of our country, with an opportunity to make a difference. So, if I am getting this right, he would rather take the role of a doomsday prophet and carry his slide show or "side show" around the world. I don't buy it. I just don't.
Locations of visitors to this page