Keys don't need presidential proclamations to attract crowds


The Orioles' farm team in Frederick is enjoying another great year at the gate -- and not just because of President Bush's endorsement last week.

The Keys were packing them in long before the president told the national TV audience watching the All-Star Game that he had had "almost as much fun" watching the minor leaguers in Maryland as he was having watching the cream of the major leaguers in Toronto.

Says Keith Lupton, general manager of the Single A Keys:

"We outdrew nine Triple A teams last year and all 26 Double A teams. This year we've drawn 192,254. We're running just about even with last year [when the team drew 277,802]. Our goal this year is 300,000."

Curiously, Frederick outdrew Hagerstown last year by 110,000, even though the Suns, also an Orioles' farm team, play in a higher classification (Double A). Frederick benefits from a handsome new ballpark and proximity to populous Baltimore, Washington, Montgomery County, Columbia and Westminster.

The largest crowd in Frederick this year was 8,700 on July 13. The attraction was Morganna the Kissing Bandit.

Tickets are still available, Lupton said yesterday, for the Carolina League All-Star Game in Frederick on July 24.

* You have to wonder about the judgment of the Phillies' front office. I mean, here's a guy, Lenny Dykstra, whose broken collarbone from his alcohol-related car accident in May is only 85 percent knit, and they let him go back out this week and play -- and with his headfirst diving style.

What's the big hurry, Phils? Your club is hopelessly out of the race. You're not going anywhere. And you only have a few players who are bona fide big leaguers, of which Dykstra certainly is one. Why not wait until he's 100 percent healed, even if that's next year? And don't tell us Lenny simply wanted to play. It's not his call. It's yours.

By the way, the lukewarm greeting Dykstra received from the Veterans Stadium fans on his return to the lineup shows how people today have been sensitized to drunk driving. Certainly we're all better off because of it.

* In all of baseball there's no better role model for the kids than the Orioles' Cal Ripken Jr. As great a player as he is, he never puts himself ahead of the team.

If you're wondering if any other big leaguers are worth looking up to for their personal traits, try Kirby Puckett of the Twins. Not only is he a fine player who always gives 100 percent, but listen to what a players' agent says about him:

"Kirby Puckett is one player who will never take a penny for his autograph. He just doesn't believe it's right to take a kid's money for that. Kirby is that way in everything he does. He's almost too good to be true."

* Stormin' Norman Scherr -- he had that nickname before anybody ever heard of the Desert Storm general -- is one of the many Baltimoreans who know Boogie Weinglass and want to see him buy the Orioles. He's getting the impression, however, that the baseball establishment will not approve Boogie. Says Scherr: "What a mistake that would be. Boogie loves Baltimore, he loves baseball, and he has the money. I hope the owners don't rule him out because he might have made a few bets when he was younger."

All I can add to that is that if pro football checked out potential owners as meticulously as baseball does, Baltimore would still be in the NFL. Robert Irsay would never have been approved.

One man who works in the NFL tells me that what bothers the owners most about Irsay is that he ruined two cities -- Baltimore, which was a great NFL city before he got here, and Indianapolis, which would have been a great one if he hadn't come along first and dampened the town's enthusiasm.

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