Oral History of Orioles Definitely Worth a Look

By Heller, Dick | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 12, 2001 | Go to article overview

Oral History of Orioles Definitely Worth a Look


Heller, Dick, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Dick Heller

Three for the road, beach, mountains, whatever:

"From 33rd Street to Camden Yards" by John Eisenberg ($24.95, Contemporary Books, 509 pages, illus.) - The Baltimore Sun sports columnist interviewed more than 80 persons for his comprehensive oral history of the Baltimore Orioles. It's pretty sad reading, too, because the book relates every stumble and bumble of the club's descent from one of baseball's premier franchises to today's much diminished status under the imperial ownership of Peter Angelos.

Eisenberg's effort is particularly informative for area fans who adopted the Orioles after the expansion Senators left Washington in 1971 and therefore aren't familiar with how the long dormant St. Louis Browns metamorphosed into the constantly strong Orioles after moving to Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street in 1954. (The O's won six pennants and had baseball's best record from 1966 through 1983 but haven't won since.)

Eisenberg introduces us, often by their own words, to such key figures as owners Jerry Hoffberger, Edward Bennett Williams and Angelos; executives Hank Peters, Pat Gillick and Frank Wren; and managers Paul Richards, Hank Bauer and Earl Weaver. We also hear from dozens of former and current players, including Frank and Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripken and Mike Mussina.

As many know, the Orioles broke through to their first pennant (and World Series sweep of the Dodgers) in 1966 after acquiring F. Robby from the Reds for pitcher Milt Pappas and a couple of other guys. All Robinson did, after

being termed "an old 30" by Reds owner Bill DeWitt, was have a Triple Crown, MVP season. As he recalls, "What made [the trade] easy was the way I was accepted. . . . The first time I walked onto the field . . . I got in the cage, popped everything up, and [the other players] went, `Is this all we got for Pappas?' "

Palmer remembers it this way: "One day in spring training . . . Frank hit a rocket down the third-base line, bringing up chalk. I turned to [Davey] Johnson and said, `We just won the pennant.' [Robinson] made everybody believe they could win."

Eisenberg relates, sorrowfully but honestly, the Orioles' decline in recent years under Angelos, who seems unable to keep a manager or general manager more than a year or two after buying the club in 1993. Writes Eisenberg: "It was fair to wonder if the Orioles wouldn't be in better shape with a seasoned, successful baseball operative making the decisions - without serious input from the owner. …

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