Sports history fills Ted Patterson's head, memorabilia fills his Towson home
By By Nelson Coffin
Mar 26, 2014 at 12:00 PM
Ted Patterson is looking forward to attending his 41st consecutive Baltimore Orioles opening day March 31 when the hometown team hosts the Boston Red Sox.
Of the previous 40 openers since the Ohio native relocated here, he said the most memorable of the bunch was the first one, on April 6, 1973.
That, he remembered, was a 10-0 drubbing of the Milwaukee Brewers in which Orioles icon Brooks Robinson blasted two home runs, Don Baylor drove in three runs and left-handed pitcher Dave McNally tossed a three-hitter.
Patterson, 69, had no need to research the particulars of the 1973 game, because when it comes to having total recall of a slew of esoteric sports facts and figures, the former WBAL television and radio broadcaster has few peers.
"There were only about 26,000 fans there," Patterson said about the game. "They were coming off the first strike year, and a lot of people were still mad about it."
Those are the kind of details that seem to be forever lodged in his memory while at least one of the participants, Robinson, is less certain about what transpired.
"I really don't remember that much about it," the Orioles icon said. "I didn't hit two home runs in a game very often. I usually needed help from a strong wind to do something like that, and it was breezy that day."
Patterson, though, is different.
Ask the University of Dayton alum a question about almost any legendary figure from American sports history, and he's more than likely to have the answer.
It's not by accident that he's so well versed on the subject.
After all, Patterson's entire life has been consumed by sports — and that goes for his Towson residence, too, which is overflowing with baseball, football and boxing memorabilia — some of which dates back to the 19th century.
Posters, photos, media guides, pins, figurines, programs, game boards, buttons, uniforms and hats are strewn about in every room of the house, with the possible exception of the kitchen.
Even though Patterson said his penchant for collecting has "slowed down," don't be surprised if that room also becomes a destination for his keepsakes.
His collection is so vast and impressive, that a rare 1946 International League Orioles cap almost goes unnoticed amid other treasures that include a mint-condition 1888 baseball card issued by a cigarette company and a program from the 1884 National League Baltimore Orioles.
"I've known him for many years," said former Baltimore Sun columnist Kevin Cowherd. "And I've never seen a guy more passionate about sports than Ted."
He boasts dozens of recorded conversations with the aforementioned baseball greats that he plans to turn into a series for WCBM (680 AM), his most recent employer other than stints as a correspondent at Baltimore Ravens home games for ESPN radio.
Befitting a man who reveres history, the cherished interviews are preserved on his throwback technology — vintage cassettes straight out of the 1980s.
"I started collecting in 1952," said Patterson, who moved to Baltimore in 1973 to take over as the WBAL sports director, a position he held until moving to WMAR Channel 2 seven years later.. He held a similer post at WPOC for many years and broadcast Orioles games on Super TV for several years in the early-to-mid-1980s.
The former Navy officer had been working in Boston for Curt Gowdy, a popular national sports broadcaster and one of the original voices of the upstart American Football League on television. Patterson's wife, Diana, who died in 2007, was then working for the British Consulate in the Massachusetts capitol.
While completing numerous tasks behind the scene for Gowdy, Patterson set up interviews with the top names in sports.
After moving to Baltimore at the urging of another celebrated broadcaster, Ernie Harwell, Patterson's love for chatting with notables continued. And like the avid collector he is, Patterson saved most of the conversations and anything else of value he could find.
Meanwhile, as his broadcasting career blossomed, the father of two landed a variety of play-by-play gigs with Navy football, the Orioles and the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team. He hosted one of the first sports talk shows in the area as well.
"The guy can do any sport," Cowherd said. "I mean, he has this great voice. and he's so versatile."
"I was bawling like a baby," Patterson said about the emotional event.
Through the years, the two have become very friendly. Robinson said that he thought Patterson was sometimes treated unfairly, especially when it came to doing play-by-play for the Orioles.
"Ted is a great guy," Robinson said. "He was a very good announcer, but he always seemed to be the guy who got left out. It seemed like they were always trying to find someone to replace him, and I never understood why."
Patterson certainly holds no grudges. He says that Adam Jones "has let me into his world" after educating the All-Star center fielder about Jackie Robinson's epic story of breaking the color barrier in 1947.