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Owners have long way to go


Both of Baltimore's major-league sports teams, in baseball and football, have problems.

These problems are not the quality of play on the field but pertain specifically to what the public wants and deserves from the organizations they are paying to support. The customers should not be ignored or slighted; they have earned the right to proper consideration.

On the basis of franchise seniority, let's deal first with the Orioles. Owner Peter Angelos is considering changing the oriole bird on the team's cap but, on another matter, has so far refused to return the name Baltimore to the road uniform. He ought to forget about altering the cap; it's as distinctive as any team could have.

However, in refusing to put Baltimore on the road uniforms he's getting bad advice from someplace. Last year, after buying the team, he explained it was too late to do anything about making such a switch because the deadline had passed with the American League. Now he has the chance to initiate such a move and, apparently, doesn't intend to do anything about it.

Angelos, on one hand, is proud to stand up at banquets and tell the audience he's from Highlandtown, a personal badge of honor. It's a statement that brings applause. There's the immediate realization, if you didn't know it, that he's a self-made man who came up the hard way, wasn't endowed with rich parents, didn't go to Harvard or Yale, and now owns the hometown Orioles.

But if he's truly elated -- and there's no doubt he is -- to be from Highlandtown, which is in Baltimore, then he ought to give the city the national recognition it deserves when playing in other American League parks.

Baltimore deserves that, unless he wants to carry out the wishes of two previous owners, Edward Bennett Williams and Eli Jacobs, by catering to the vastly overrated Washington audience.

Changing the Orioles hat would be a travesty, although the design hasn't always been used. The oriole bird that's atop the cap is a traditional link to the 1920s and 1930s. The 1920 era saw Baltimore win seven straight International League pennants and become the greatest dynasty, before or since, in the history of professional team sports.

Under a previous baseball ownership regime of Jerry Hoffberger, the Orioles changed caps because the advertising agency decided it would be making a "statement" by designing a bird that resembled more a caricature of Donald Duck than a true oriole. In fact, the son of Edwin Pope, sports editor of the Miami Herald, went to a game when the Orioles were wearing the duck-like bird and asked his father, "What are the duckies doing on the field?"

Obviously a similar version of such twisted thinking is causing Angelos to refrain from putting Baltimore across the shirts of the road uniforms of the hometown team he owns. Either way, it amounts to zero influence at the box office because the traveling gray uniforms, with Baltimore on the front, are worn exclusively for away games. Of course, that wouldn't offend Washington, if that's to be considered important.

Attempting to appease Washington with the road uniform name is total baloney. It counts for nothing in selling tickets. Angelos needs Baltimore. This is where his loyalty should be. If he wants to show his regard for Washington, then help get it a team, which it truly deserves.

On another point, a woman caller to The Evening Sun decried the fact the Orioles didn't announce the score of Baltimore's CFL team to the baseball crowd when it was playing in Toronto last Thursday. She wondered if the decision was dictated by Angelos, since he has been hostile to the CFL, or an unintended slight.

Certainly the CFL team wouldn't ignore giving Orioles scores on the PA system at Memorial Stadium. To do otherwise would be petty, plus showing lack of consideration to the spectators.

As for the CFL franchise, it has reason to be encouraged over its early acceptance but shouldn't be too happy with itself. Would-be customers are complaining about unreturned telephone calls to the front office. Some members of the Colt Corrals, who want to befriend the club, also are upset over the way they have been treated and shunted aside. The CFL team can't afford to offend a single prospective follower.

The public address system for the exhibition game was poor, not in sound quality but in supplying important information to a crowd trying to understand a slightly different sport. We don't mean verbal clutter. Those in attendance need to be informed about the rules. The opening player introductions also should include the player's name and his college or university, as used to happen in the National Football League before it became so rich and independent.

The CFL needs to give this kind of attention to the player introductions. It provides an informative touch and also emphasizes their football backgrounds. The visiting media also needs to be accommodated with the opportunity to have decent press box food because in coming here they expect major-league treatment and this is a way to demonstrate proper hospitality.

CFL team owner Jim Speros wants to do the right thing. But he's constantly going to be measured by the way the Colts, when they were here, handled themselves from an organizational standpoint for 35 years.

Speros is wrong in asking for donations to fight the NFL in court for the right to the name Colts. That's bush. He has enormous moral support for keeping the name, but the legal charges are his and should not be passed on to the fans.

Angelos with the Orioles and Speros with the CFL team deserve applause for their leadership in bringing the franchises this far. But that doesn't mean everything they're doing, or, in some cases, not doing, qualifies them for instant inclusion in the hall of fame. They have a way to go.

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