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Fred Manfra Says Goodbye To Generations Of Orioles Fans

June 4, 2017
BALTIMORE -- For 24 years, Fred Manfra has been an important part of Baltimore Orioles' fans lives, and on June 4, he's scheduled to call his final game.

For the past two seasons, Manfra has called a reduced schedule, and after hip replacement surgery, the 70-year-old Baltimore native needs two knee replacements.

Traveling has been difficult for Manfra, and now he'll move from Harford County to Tampa, Fla., to be near his grandchildren and away from the snow.

Manfra is the only Baltimorean to call Orioles games, and it's something he's aspired to his entire life. As a youngster in East Baltimore, Manfra played baseball and wanted to be a catcher. His favorite player was Gus Triandos.

"I was a slow footed catcher with power," Manfra said.

"Off the field, we'd listen to Chuck Thompson, and Chuck was my idol as a broadcaster," Manfra said, "I would hear Chuck do the Colts. I would hear Chuck do the Orioles, and when we were playing curb ball on Gusryan Street in East Baltimore or in the alley on Kane Street, I would be broadcasting the ballgame in the manner of Chuck Thompson." 

In the military, Manfra played baseball in Hawaii, and in the second games of doubleheaders, the catcher would broadcast games in the bullpen to the pitchers. They quickly grew annoyed not knowing the man who was talking would call Olympics, NBA Finals, Triple Crown races and 24 years of major league baseball for his hometown team.

"One day I'm going to do this," Manfra would tell his fellow soldiers. "I lived up to what I wanted to do."

He's at peace with his decision to call it a career.

"The road trips were becoming very tedious, and that's why I couldn't continue with those," Manfra said. "Getting around is not the easiest. I try not to allow that to overtake everything in life, but it had to here."

A year ago, with Manfra cutting back dramatically on his schedule, he found he enjoyed life. He missed working with longtime broadcasting partner Joe Angel, but otherwise, it was fine.

"Last year, I got a taste of what summertime was like, sitting on the back deck, grilling hamburgers, listening to Joe on the radio, and I thought: 'This is pretty comfortable.'"

Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who obviously doesn't get a chance to listen to Manfra, has enjoyed his personal interactions with him.

"If they're on that long, they have to be really good at what they do," Showalter said. "A lot of people have grown up listening to Fred. I know how seriously he takes it about being organized and prepared."

Manfra still enjoys the work. "I think I can still do the job, at least play-by-play-wise, but all the other things become very tedious."

As an Orioles broadcaster, Manfra got to see Cal Ripken's greatest accomplishments. Two years after Manfra joined the Orioles broadcast in 1993, Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak.

"I know 2131 was a special night, sitting in the broadcast booth with Jon Miller and the President, President Clinton, and Clinton there when he hit the home run, calling the shot," Manfra said. "2130 was special because that was the night when the players really showed their gratitude to what Cal was all about."

Manfra remembered the players presenting Ripken with a boulder and former Oriole Brady Anderson reading a poem.

"That was really kind of one of those heartfelt things where the guys who wouldn’t ordinarily come to the microphone to say something, did, and they did it eloquently," Manfra said.

His biggest regret is obvious. No World Series.

"If there's one thing I would like to do in my career, and I've done a lot of things, that would be to call the Orioles in the World Series. Maybe this year," Manfra said. "That's the one void I've had in my broadcasting career."

Angel announced on Twitter June 2 that this was Manfra's final series.

"A good relationship, a special relationship with Joe and me as we sit there and talk," Manfra said. "We talk baseball. I think we make it a comfortable listen for people." 

The native Baltimorean is ready to sign off for now knowing he's meant so much for several generations of Orioles fans.

"I enjoy Baltimore. I enjoy Maryland. I don't enjoy the snow in the winter, and that's one of the reasons we're moving south to Tampa," Manfra said, "I gave my brother-in-law my snow blower." 

"When you're a Baltimorean, this is a big, small town. You go to a restaurant, and my wife and I could be talking about ordering something on the menu, and somebody will come over, and say 'excuse me,' with this, let's just say, very timid look on their face, 'Are you Fred Manfra?' I say, 'Yes, I am.' They say, 'I knew it. I knew your voice. I've listened to you since I was a kid.'

"And they have grey hair now. Baltimoreans are people that don't like pretense, and I think that's what you have to be to live here in Baltimore and be part of the fabric of this city."