Robert Winfield “Bob” Brown, who spent 35 years as the Baltimore Orioles’ public relations director, died Sunday at a hospice in Charlotte, North Carolina. The former Riderwood resident was 89.
His daughter, Carolyn Spencer Brown, said her father died in his sleep.
“”He had a long stretch with the Orioles and was a terrific PR man,” said Brooks Robinson, “He was the perfect guy for the Orioles. You could talk to Bob about anything and get an answer. I missed seeing him.”
Mr. Robinson also once said of his friend, “Bob was the first one at the park every day and the last one to leave.”
Mr. Brown said in 2000 that “the mezzanine press box [in the old Memorial Stadium] was the room where I spent more time than in any other place in the world.” He joined the club in 1957 and retired in 1993.
When Mr. Brown left Baltimore for Florida in 2000, the late Sun columnist John Steadman said, “Putting up with sportswriters for 35 years ought to be enough of a hell-on-earth experience to draw a future ticket to heaven; at least a designated seat in the press box. Bob Brown was far and away the best public relations/publicity director to serve any Baltimore team.”
Mr. Steadman also wrote, “His professionalism, reliability, historical knowledge of the subject — the Orioles — and willingness to deal with often ‘impossible’ individuals, made him the second coming of Dale Carnegie. ... Brown never tried to influence reporters to write fiction stories about the owners he worked for or to advance anyone’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame.”
Born in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, he was the son of Kenneth Rent Brown, a DuPont chemist, and his wife, Rae Horrobin, a homemaker. He later lived in West Chester and earned a bachelor’s degree at Amherst College. He once met Connie Mack in at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.
Mr. Brown served 30 months in Japan during the Korean War with the Army intelligence corps, tracking Soviet spies and picking up their signals.
He later attended Georgetown University and was a part-time CIA worker and, simultaneously, The Washington Post’s head copy boy.
Mr. Brown was offered a job as an assistant to John Lancaster, then the Orioles’ PR head.
With the Orioles, he served as road secretary for eight years, did public relations and produced annual press guides and magazines.
Phyllis Merhige, retired senior vice president of Major League Baseball, said, “There was the Oriole way of baseball and Brownie was the Oriole way of PR. He and Larry Shenk of the Phillies, Bob Fishel of the Yankees, and Bob Wirz of the commissioner’s office were the oracle.”
Jim Henneman, who covered the Orioles for The News American, Evening Sun and The Sun, said, “Brownie was well organized, and he was thorough. When Earl Weaver wanted statistics written on index cards made up on how a batter performed against a certain pitcher, he asked Brownie to do it. And that was in the days before computer statistics.”
Mr. Brown said of working with Orioles general managers: “I’d say Lee MacPhail and Frank Cashen gave me a lot of independence in the job,” he said. “Put it this way: They gave me a lot of rope to hang myself. Harry Dalton was another jewel. And Hank Peters and Roland Hemond. All men of integrity.”
When asked what was his first memory of Cal Ripken Jr., he said, “A big, gangling kid. When we drafted him, I figured it was out of courtesy to his father. We took three players in the draft ahead of him. If the Orioles would have missed on Cal, we never would have lived it down. “
Mr. Brown’s all-time Orioles moment had more to do with the fans than the players. It was the final day of the 1982 season, after the team won three straight over the Brewers and the division would be decided on the final day.
“When it was over, the fans didn’t want to leave, even though we lost. They stayed at least 45 minutes. Earl Weaver, who was managing his last game before he retired the first time, came out, and Harvey Kuenn, the Brewers’ manager, hugged him and it was a great scene. We had won pennants and World Series but, in my mind, what happened that day was something special.”
He also recalled when President Ronald Reagan threw out the first ball in 1984.
Mr. Brown said the Washington press corps engulfed the foul territory on the third-base side and he was trying to keep the group moving when a TV photographer became belligerent.
Mr. Brown threw a right-hand punch that connected, and the Secret Service promptly deposited the cameraman and his equipment on 33rd Street and told him not to come back, Mr. Steadman recalled in his 2000 article.
“When Brown came upstairs to the press box following the incident, the writers came to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. They put it down as a technical knockout,” Mr. Steadman wrote.
“When I joined the Orioles full time in 1970 as assistant PR director, there were only about six women in Major League Baseball front office posts, but Bob was really ahead of his time in hiring me and, later, other women. More important, he cared deeply about good writing, editing, and media relations,” said Fran Minakowski, senior adviser to the president, Maryland Public Television.
The Orioles press box is named in Mr. Brown’s honor.
A festival of remembrance for Mr. Brown will be held in late spring.
Survivors include two sons, Robert Winfield Brown Jr. of Kannapolis, North Carolina, and Scott Long Brown of Concord, North Carolina; three daughters, Pamela Stewart Szeliga of Highland, Virginia, Brown Campbell of San Antonio, Texas, and Carolyn Spencer Brown of Chestertown; and seven grandchildren. His wife of 57 years, Jessica M. “Jay” Long, membership director for the Baltimore County Medical Association, died in 2015.