When Jon Miller arrived in Baltimore in 1983 to call Orioles games on the radio, the city was thriving.
People packed restaurants and bars every night.
The Orioles served as the primary reason for that, and later that year — the beloved broadcaster's first — the team won the World Series. According to Miller, the team's success can help rejuvenate the city and its economy.
"It brings together people of all different races and backgrounds and brings the city together," said Miller, who was in town for an event hosted by the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation and Museum. "It brings people in, and creates a great atmosphere downtown. Hopefully some of that can be restored with the success of this team."
Miller returned to Baltimore on Tuesday for the first in a series of three events featuring some of the city's most highly regarded baseball personalities. A popular broadcaster in town, he called games on the radio then television from 1983 to 1996.
Entering Tuesday night's clash with the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles stood atop the American League East with a record of 27-16, two games ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles still rank 25th in the league in attendance, bringing in an average of 22,227 fans per night.
Miller said he understands why the park isn't filled. The Orioles haven't made the postseason since 1997, some remain skeptical about the team's current success in the grind of a 162-game regular season.
Miller said the Orioles don't need to give up valuable prospects at the trade deadline to try and make a run this season. Instead, the fifth youngest team in baseball needs to continue to build its farm system and develop talent in house.
"They don't want to give away part of the future for a two month rental," Miller said. "The Giants did that last year by getting Carlos Beltran for their best young pitcher [Zack Wheeler]…and it didn't put them over the top. Now they don't have [Wheeler]."
Miller's children all grew up in Baltimore and the family still owns a condo in the area. He said he and his wife return once or twice during the offseason to see old friends and spend a few weeks in the city he called home for nearly 15 years.
"I do miss it. I really enjoyed it here. I got married here, my kids all grew up here," Miller said. "They're real Baltimoreans."
Miller was controversially let go as the television play-by-play announcer by owner Peter Angelos in 1996 for not being as favorable toward the hometown team as Angelos would have liked. Miller moved on and became the voice behind ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, a position he held until last season, and now calls games for the San Francisco Giants.
Miller said his relationship with the Orioles is pretty much non-existent now, although he added that management asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday night. He had to decline because of his commitment to the Babe Ruth Museum.
Angelos said the relationship between he and Miller is fine right now, but the two have no plans to see each other. He wished Miller well at his appearance for the museum.
"A couple years ago when we were on a train to Baltimore," Angelos said. "I helped him with his luggage. So I guess that's a good sign of friendship, right?"Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun