By Stan "The Fan" Charles
During the nearly six years leading up to a civic celebration for Brooks Robinson, namely the unveiling of the statue of No. 5 that took place Saturday, Oct. 22, Orioles owner Peter Angelos has had many a chance to do the right thing. His last real chance was at the actual ceremony -- and all he had to do was simply show up. What could the owner of the Orioles have been so busy with on the day when a statue of his team's greatest star and greatest ambassador was being unveiled?
|Speeches | Robinson Emotional At Dedication | Henry Rosenberg on "Inside PressBox"|
That would be like the president of the United States not showing up to award the Purple Heart to a war hero. Doesn't he see how unseemly his lack of any acknowledgment of the event sits with those whose support is the lifeblood of the team he purchased? I remember when his group won the auction in a New York bankruptcy court, and Angelos cited the importance of putting the team back in the hands of local ownership.
Why, Angelos? So, those local hands could snub one of the greatest players and greatest men who has ever graced us in an Orioles uniform?
The good news is the lack of any tangible support by the team for this initiative did nothing to diminish the event. But, that is an aside, and it does nothing to take away from observing and listening to others' responses to a slight of epic proportions. Could you imagine Jerry Hoffberger, Edward Bennett Williams or Larry Lucchino not being on hand for such an event, not to mention never offering the team's stadium grounds to house the statue?
But, let me get back to the event itself. Normally at such civic sessions, the politicians are prone to self-serving puffery. That was not the case this time. Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Barbara Mikulski were both properly deferential to No. 5, and more importantly, both struck the correct chord of heartfelt affection -- the kind Robinson seems to engender in all he comes in contact with.
Henry Rosenberg; sculptor Joseph Sheppard; a city official representing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; and Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, all did fine jobs with their comments as the moment neared when we would all finally get to see the statue of Brooks.
But, in the middle of it all came a Baltimore-born actor and sports enthusiast (who just happens to be my nephew), Josh Charles. He was asked to speak on behalf of the fans and, despite a generational gap, did a wonderful job talking about the mythic proportions of the man of the hour. Most of the information Josh garnered was from years of hearing the legends, and where he resonated most was when he shared personal recollections of a budding friendship with one of his heroes.
Then came Robinson, clearly weakened from the overwhelming emotions of the day. Earlier during the week, he was hospitalized for continuing treatments for a serious health situation. Brooks is making slow, but steady progress, but he is clearly weakened from the battle. Starting to try to speak, Brooks broke down sobbing.
He talked about how we were not just fans, but friends. He talked about the two best decisions he ever made -- signing with the Baltimore Orioles and marrying the love of his life, Connie, 51 years ago. Connie stood by and made sure Brooks stayed strong enough to finish. He and Connie then walked down for the black sheets to be removed from the statue.
When the moment arrived, emcee Scott Garceau counted down from, you guessed it, No. 5. And as the countdown went 5-4-3-2-1, the confetti rained down on all of us who stood and applauded. Everyone there soaked up one of our great civic moments, a moment that was part celebration, part statue dedication and also, in part, the end of an era that began long ago.
And then it was over. The crowd began to disperse, as a new fixture was firmly rooted across from Camden Yards, in between where the Orioles of today play and where fans gather at Pickles Pub. It may seem only slightly odd that it does not sit on Camden Yards proper.
Nobody asked the question, nobody spoke of the ironically absentee local owner, a man who prides himself so much on his civic philanthropy. Angelos has now owned the Orioles since August 1993. Starting with the first full season of his tenure running the O's, Angelos and his management have a record that is pretty dismal at 1,310-1,536. They have had just two winning seasons during all that time, 1996 and 1997.
That's a pretty sad record, but that's not what defines Peter Angelos. What's even more sad is that he didn't see fit to celebrate this great moment of his team's history and the history of the city he professes to love so much. That is his loss, and it's why he has become such an increasingly lonely and isolated figure.
Posted Oct. 23, 2011