Orioles won't invite Nixon to pitch'91 opener

The unlikeliest controversy of the Baltimore Orioles season is over.

Yesterday, the team released a statement in which it said that it has "no intention" of inviting former President Nixon to throw out the ceremonial first ball on Opening Day 1991 and that there was "no substance at all" to a report in Tuesday's Sun that Nixon might be offered the honor.


Nixon threw out the first ball of the first major-league Orioles game played at Memorial Stadium, on April 15, 1954. The Orioles expect to leave Memorial Stadium after the 1991 season and are planning a series of promotions to say goodbye to their home of 37 years, including an idea to recreate the '54 opener next April.

In an interview last week, Martin B. Conway, Orioles vice president for marketing, discussed how that might be done.


Conway said: "You do know that Richard Nixon threw out the first pitch in 1954? . . . The other interesting thing is we play the Chicago White Sox [next year] on Opening Day, which is who we opened against in '54."

Asked whether the team would consider inviting Nixon to return next season, Conway said: "I would think so. I think we'll do as much as we can to bring back the 1954 situation -- players, dignitaries, families of certain players who have passed away."

Reaction was swift to news that Nixon, who resigned as president in 1974, might be making an Opening Day comeback in Baltimore. The Orioles received about 100 phone calls Tuesday and yesterday, most from fans vigorously opposed to the idea, according to a team official.

In a statement that was released yesterday, Orioles president Larry Lucchino sought to downplay newspaper accounts of the entire Nixon affair, saying: "There is no substance at all to these reports. What was said to the news media by a spokesman from our marketing department is that no firm decisions on the 1991 events at Memorial Stadium have been reached."