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As John Schuerholz becomes Hall of Famer, legendary GM cherishes his Baltimore roots

John Schuerholz talks about being chosen for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
John Schuerholz talks about being chosen for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Eduardo A. Encina)

NATIONAL HARBOR – John Schuerholz became one of baseball's most successful general managers of this generation building the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves into contenders, but the Baltimore-born Schuerholz – who was selected for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday – will always hold his first job in the game with his hometown Orioles close to his heart.

Schuerholz, now 76, was a junior high teacher in Dundalk when he wrote a letter to Orioles owner Jerold Hoffberger that eventually netted a job as a front office assistant. He grew up attending City College, staring through his classroom window across 33rd Street at Memorial Stadium, daydreaming that he'd play there one day.

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He played soccer and baseball for all four years at Towson University, even participated in a few musicals, at the school. Being busy was a byproduct of a college that had a 4-to-1 female-to-male ratio, Schuerholz said. He dreamed of being a professional baseball player, but found success as an executive.

John Schuerholz, the Baltimore native who became the architect of World Series title teams in Atlanta and Kansas City, was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

His first job – a result of the letter he sent to Hoffberger – was as an assistant to Orioles farm director Lou Gorman. Schuerholz learned from Gorman, as well as team president Frank Cashen and general manager Harry Dalton, who all played a part in building the Orioles into one of the most successful franchises from the mid-'60s through the '70s.

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"To me, it was a dream," Schuerholz said Monday following a press conference to introduce him and former commissioner Bud Selig as the newest members of the Hall of Fame. "I grew up, I went to high school right across the street at Baltimore City College High School and looked out the window, too often I think, and dreaming about someday maybe playing in that stadium. And to have a chance to go to work with your hometown team, and to have Frank Cashen, Harry Dalton and Lou Gorman form you into a young executive, you couldn't ask for anything better than that."

The last time the winter meetings passed this close to Baltimore was in 1958, when the convention was held at the Statler Hotel in Washington.

"[The Orioles] were one of the great organizations, maybe the best organization in the game at the time as it relates to scouting and player development and that's what Lou Gorman and I then took to Kansas City with us for an expansion franchise out there and set the foundation in place as a result of many of those principles we learned with the Orioles."

Schuerholz was with the Orioles for just four years before moving to the expansion Royals in 1969. As GM, he went on to win a World Series in Kansas City in 1985 and oversaw the emergence of the Braves into one of the NL's premier teams in the '90s and into the 2000s.

"I have Oriole blood in me," Schuerholz said. "I was born and raised in Baltimore. I had my first job with the Orioles, so Baltimore Orioles blood runs somewhere in my veins, as does Kansas City Royal as does Atlanta Braves."

The Orioles will arrive in Washington this week with plenty of business to do.

Asked about the letter that netted his first job in the industry, Schuerholz said he often gets letters from job seekers hoping a letter to Schuerholz, who later became Braves team president and is currently the team's vice chairman, could lead to an opportunity in the game. The teacher in him still exists, and Schuerholz often advises them to remain committed to getting an education.

"I've received hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of [letters] starting off with, 'Well, you started with a letter, so I'm writing you a letter cold turkey hoping that you'll give me the same opportunity that you received,'" he said. "Well, it's more technical [now]. It's more advanced. It's more strategic. It's just different. And I keep reminding kids to get the most education you can, undergrad, graduate school. Get yourself more prepared intellectually and then try your way with baseball."

eencina@baltsun.com
twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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