During the past two years, John Lowenstein has been seen all over the western United States and Canada. From cigar festivals in Arizona to Alaskan cruises to trips through British Columbia, the iconoclastic former Orioles outfielder-turned television analyst has been in more places than Waldo.
Where he hasn't been, since the end of the 1996 season, is the Orioles' broadcast booth, and from just outside the hot tub at his Las Vegas home yesterday, Lowenstein said he's tanned, rested and ready to get back to calling the action.
"I'm available. I've done all the cruises I'm going to do. It would be entirely up to Peter," Lowenstein said.
That "Peter" refers to team owner Peter Angelos, whom, many around town believe, was instrumental in Lowenstein's removal from the Home Team Sports broadcast booth after the 1995 season, believing him to be too critical of the club and its moves, thus ending his 11 1/2 -year tenure as analyst.
HTS officials have denied that Angelos was involved, saying they simply decided to go in a different direction with Mike Flanagan, who came to the booth after spending the 1995 season as pitching coach.
"I was never told the story. Quite frankly, after a while I gave up. It was like pulling teeth," said Lowenstein, who said he attempted to contact Angelos on a number of occasions, but never received a return call.
With Flanagan returning to become new manager Ray Miller's pitching coach, the analyst job is open, and Lowenstein would like to be considered.
"The game is totally consuming, and it was really refreshing to be away for a while. It [the time away] allows you to regain your passion for it. I didn't lose touch with the game. I've maintained my contacts, by reading the newspaper, like everyone else," Lowenstein said.
As for the charge that he was too critical of the team, Lowenstein said he was "supportive of the mission of the club," but also "fair.
"I don't think any announcer should be hamstrung. Otherwise, you've left it up to the whims of those in power," said Lowenstein. "I don't think there was a greater supporter of what the team was trying to do than I was. I thought I was getting that over on the broadcast. Apparently, I didn't. Sometimes, you have a way of antagonizing people and you can't do anything about it."
HTS has a number of options at its disposal, including increasing the workload of Jim Palmer, though one wonders if he'll face fallout from publicly supporting former manager Davey Johnson. The channel should also consider bringing in Ken Singleton, whom it passed over last spring for its play-by-play slot.
However, the revolving door that has sent Flanagan from the dugout to the booth and back should be closed permanently. The left-hander is a fine talent with interesting insights and a dry wit, but two forays in a uniform would make viewers wonder if he could be objective and critical if he returned to the booth.
Back for more, baby
ESPN has announced that college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who joined the channel at its inception in 1979, has reached agreement on a seven-year contract extension that will keep him with the channel through 2004.
Vitale will work tomorrow's Maryland-South Carolina game, which will also mark the return to the air of studio host/reporter Gary Miller, who has not been seen since he was arrested last month on charges that he allegedly urinated onto off-duty police officers from the second-story window of a Cleveland nightclub.
Miller, who was in Cleveland covering the American League Championship Series, pleaded innocent to the charges last month and faces a jury trial on Dec. 11.
There's good news for Comcast subscribers in fiber-optic upgraded areas in Baltimore and Howard counties. The cable operator has arranged to place 27 Washington Wizards and Capitals games that air on Washington over-the-air outlets on channel 69 in those counties.
The first Wizards game will air at 8 o'clock tonight from Minnesota, while the first Capitals telecast is on Thanksgiving night from Ottawa.
Truth Squad, Week 11
The alleged tampering between former Browns coach and current Jets assistant Bill Belichick and Ravens players drew attention on Sunday's pre-game shows.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who broke the story the week before, noted that the Ravens have decided not to pursue the matter, claiming it would be a distraction, though noting that owner Art Modell is still angry and that the league may investigate. Meanwhile, Fox reported that the focus of the investigation had shifted from Belichick to another Jets employee.
Meanwhile, Fox took the big flier of the day, claiming that the owners of the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL have offered to buy the Minnesota Vikings and move them to Los Angeles, a story that has been denied by the Kings' owners.
Pub Date: 11/13/97