Baseball players hit for high salary average


Big-league baseball players next season will have an average salary of $800,000, according to Mark Belanger, the ex-Oriole who works in New York for the players association.

"We'll know the figure in another month, but I'm sure it'll be $800,000," Belanger was saying over the weekend at a 65th birthday party on Middle River honoring Frank Cashen, the former Orioles general manager, now GM of the Mets.

Belanger thought for a moment about the 1992 salaries and broke into a smile.

"I remember when I got up to $175,000," he said. "I thought I was a millionaire."

Belanger, who played shortstop for the O's from 1965 to 1981, once received a great compliment from the late Johnny Neun, a big-league player, coach, manager and scout for more than 60 years. Neun said the two most brilliant performers he had ever seen on a day-in, day-out basis were Belanger and Joe DiMaggio.

* That was a nice bow the ex-Colts took at Blue and White Day ceremonies at Memorial Stadium yesterday before the Orioles-Cleveland game. When the Big Wheel spelled out C-O-L-T-S one final time on 33rd Street, the result was high nostalgia for the 35,326 present.

I felt sorry for Orioles announcer Ken Levine, though. He showed a lot of enthusiasm for the return of Johnny U. and Art Donovan and an era he never experienced. And then as he rattled off the names of ex-Colts who were on hand he mentioned Ordell Gray. Oops, sorry, Mr. Braase.

* As much as Gov. Schaefer might like to name the new ballpark at Crammed-In Yards, he can't. The contract specifies that the name be mutually agreed upon by the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Orioles, and the two parties are at an impasse.

The authority goofed when it created this decision-making process. It also goofed when it allowed the O's to sign a lease for only 15 years. It should have been for 30.

No owner in his right mind is going to take the Orioles out of Baltimore when they're drawing 3 million in a $208 million, state-of-the-art ballpark that has been handed to him at no charge.

But who knows what things might be like in 10 years? The longer lease might deter another city that would be willing to pay the damages in order to lure the team away from here.

* A familiar face toured the new ballpark the other day. It was Larry Sheets, the ex-Oriole and Tiger who still lives here. Larry has been playing a lot of golf and waiting for some club to call him. No one has to ask him if he would like to be part of the club moving into the fancy new digs in less than seven months.

* Brooks Robinson has bought a house in California and will divide his time between here and the Coast. But Hank Peters, the ex-Oriole GM who will retire Dec. 31 as general manager of the Indians, and his wife, Dot, will settle here. They really liked this town, obviously.

* Orioles vice president Calvin Hill told the luncheon group at J. Patrick's in Locust Point the other day that one of his old Yale classmates -- George Bush, son of the president and owner of the Texas Rangers -- watched a ballgame with him here last week and marveled at the Orioles' attendance. Hill told him: "George, I played football all over the country for Dallas, Cleveland and Washington and these Baltimore fans are the best in the United States."

Bush toured Camden Yards with the rest of the major-league owners who met here last week and told Hill: "We're building a new stadium in Texas. I just hope we can come close to what you've done here."

* George Chaump's words sounded a little empty when the Navy football coach said last week after his embarrassing 33-10 opening game loss to Ball State: "We got a poor game out of our system and there are a lot of things we can correct."

But after Navy's 17-10 close-call loss at Virginia Saturday night you have to think maybe Chaump had something. The 0-2 Middies have a good chance to get in the win column this Saturday when they host William & Mary at Annapolis. William & Mary lost to Delaware over the weekend, 28-21.

* I won't see a wilder football game all year than the one I saw Friday night -- Lebanon Valley at Johns Hopkins. The first half ended with the visitors picking up their blocked field goal attempt and passing into the end zone for a touchdown. The end of the game saw Hopkins tie the score at 19, have the extra point blocked, then get the ball back only to miss a 40-yard field goal. The tie was a just outcome for two nice, evenly matched Division III teams that played hard. Hopkins entertains Swarthmore Friday night.

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