MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

Monday night during the MASN broadcast of the Orioles-Padres game, paroled Angelosian prisoner Kevin Brown made a comment along the lines of since the NFL Chargers had left San Diego for Los Angeles the self-proclaimed America’s Finest City (which it may be) had become a Padres town.

Given the other professional sports options are the San Diego Wave FC, a National Women’s Soccer League expansion team, the San Diego Loyal SC, a men’s expansion team in the United Soccer League, the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League and the San Diego Legion of Major League Rugby, that seems to have been pretty profound thinking on Brown’s part.

Kind of like in 1984 when the NFL Colts left Baltimore in the dark of night 10 years after the NBA Bullets had left for Landover to become the Capital Bullets (they played in the newly-constructed Capital Centre … see what they did there?) that made Baltimore an Orioles town as the Orioles were the only team left that played in one of North America’s four major professional sports leagues. See how it works?

The decay of the Colts due to the spiteful and intoxicated mismanagement of Robert Irsay had clearly taken its toll on the franchise by the time the Mayflower vans had been loaded, and though the Orioles were coming off a world championship season and had made great strides in marketing Washington and its suburbs to build its attendance to new highs, the heart and soul of the Baltimore sports fan was first, last and foremost the Baltimore Colts.

For instance, it was laughable when former Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke and weasel commissioner Paul Tagliabue hatched their scheme to block Baltimore from the NFL once and for all. Even though Baltimore and Maryland had presented one of the two best expansion plans in 1995, the city was blocked and the bid went to Jacksonville because Cooke had plans to build his final monument to himself (a stadium) in Laurel, Maryland, which is halfway between Washington and Baltimore, so his Redskins could build a stronger regional market the way the Orioles had done.

Two problems with that plan: the nearly bankrupt Art Modell and the blind arrogance of Cooke to believe a single person who lived in Baltimore would ever root for the Washington Redskins. Even when the Redskins were the best team and organization in the NFL, nobody from Baltimore rooted for them. It would have been sacrilege. To a Baltimorean, it would have been a sin — like killing a mockingbird. Or, in this case a Raven.

On the other hand, Washington fans, particularly those who lived in the suburbs and many of the transient government workers, who had been without Major League Baseball since 1971, gradually adopted the Orioles as their team and the Orioles became a very strong regional franchise, which is why the Baltimore script disappeared from the Orioles’ road jerseys and the word was never uttered or written in any reference to the team by Orioles employees. When you called the Baltimore Orioles on the phone, the phone was answered, “Thank you for calling the Orioles.”

The night Baltimore likely became an Orioles town for good, at least until the Angelos voodoo took hold and the Ravens arrived, was May 2, 1988 on Fantastic Fans Night when an enthusiastic sellout crowd of over 50,000 fans welcomed home the 1-23 Orioles and Governor William Donald Schaefer announced that owner Edward Bennett Williams and the Maryland Stadium Authority had agreed on a 15-year lease for a new downtown park that would be ready for the 1992 season. That new downtown park, of course, became the ballpark that changed ballparks forever, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

It was the final game EBW would attend as he soon died of cancer and after the next owner, Eli Jacobs, had to sell the team at bankruptcy auction, the Angelos reign of terror would begin in 1993.

Now, sadly, it is Peter Angelos who is gravely ill and it’s his son John Angelos who is running the baseball team and the television network, even though MASN is supposed to be run separately. As it turns out, the son seems to be worse than the father was in getting in the way of the fanbase’s happiness, though the father was as small and thin-skinned as anybody could be.

That said, while I wouldn’t put something like the Kevin Brown embarrassment past Peter Angelos (see John Lowenstein, Jon Miller et al), I don’t believe he would try to hold up the state of Maryland the way John Angelos is trying to do over a new lease for Camden Yards. Of course, if Cas Taylor were still here, he might tell me I’m wrong about that, too.

A free $600 million in stadium upgrades isn’t enough for the silver-spooned John the way it was for the Orioles’ neighbors the Ravens, who are owned, by the way, by a self-made man. No, he wants an additional $300 million from the state, development rights for state-owned parking lots between Oriole Park and the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium, and doesn’t want to pay rent to the landlord, the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Orioles fans just want to enjoy one of the most remarkable baseball seasons in 40 years. The Angelos family chooses to remain the great cure for fun.

The lease expires in less than five months. Rob Manfred says the team isn’t going anywhere as long as he’s MLB commissioner. John Angelos says the team will remain in Baltimore for as long as Fort McHenry is standing watch over the Inner Harbor.

And the last time Baltimore fell for that it became an Orioles town.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT