Orioles take steps to return 'Baltimore' to road uniforms

After 36 years, it appears that the city's name will be returning to the Baltimore Orioles' road uniforms.

The Orioles are in the process of filing the required paperwork with Major League Baseball to add "Baltimore" to their road jerseys, replacing the nickname of the club that has been displayed on the away uniforms since 1973, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. The uniform change will be in effect for the 2009 season.

Several Orioles officials declined to comment the past couple of days when asked about the situation. Because of its potential effect on current jersey sales, the league encourages organizations to not discuss potential uniform changes until after the season.

However, teams are required to notify MLB of their plans to make changes by the end of May, and the Orioles have done that.

At this point, it appears to be little more than a formality, though an announcement won't come until after the World Series.

Owner Peter Angelos was the driving force behind the decision, according to one of the sources. The much-maligned Angelos, who bought the team two decades after "Baltimore" was removed from the uniform, had been sharply criticized for his inactivity on the issue. Angelos didn't return calls last week seeking comment on the team's uniform plans.

The organization has not had "Baltimore" stitched on its road jerseys since 1972, when then-owner Jerold Hoffberger had it removed in favor of the team's nickname.

The decision, which came about a year after the Washington Senators moved to Texas, leaving the nation's capital without a professional baseball team, was widely viewed as an attempt to cast the Orioles as a more regional entity and attract the Senators' fan base.

However, it has always been a hot button issue with fans, who use the Orioles' failure to make the change as proof that the club has lost touch with its most ardent and local supporters.

"It's overplayed a little I think, but it's common sense to me," said Jody Madron, a Sykesville resident who was at the Orioles- Boston Red Sox game at Camden Yards last night with his 7-year-old daughter, Kacie.

Wearing a gray Jim Palmer throwback jersey, Madron said he has had a partial season-ticket plan since 1990. "Just for marketing purposes, I would think they'd want to do it. It's refreshing to hear that it's going to happen," he said

John Eichhorn, a 49-year-old Towson resident who was at last night's game wearing an Adam Jones T-shirt, said it's important for the organization to embrace its winning past.

"I'd rather have Baltimore on the jerseys because that's the way it was back in the '60s and '70s," he said. "I still love the Orioles, but those were the teams that I really identified with."

Former Oriole Boog Powell, who was on four pennant-winning teams, was also excited to hear about the potential change, saying it's a long time coming.

"I think that's wonderful," Powell said while he signed autographs outside his barbecue stand before last night's game. "I assume they took it off because Washington didn't have a team. Now that Washington has a team, what the hell? These are Baltimore's Orioles."

The Orioles considered making the change last year, notifying MLB that April of their considerations.

However, they didn't file the necessary paperwork. MLB required advanced notice for licensing and marketing purposes.

The Orioles are one of five major league teams that don't have their city or state name on the front of their primary road jersey. The other four are the Los Angeles Angels, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays.

However, the Rays, who changed their uniforms for this season after removing "Devil" from their nickname, have already said publicly that plans are in motion to add "Tampa Bay" to one of their alternate road jerseys.

The Orioles haven't changed the design of their uniforms since 1999.

"I don't think some of us would mind a uniform change," said second baseman Brian Roberts, the second-longest-tenured member of the current club. "Whether it says 'Baltimore' or 'the Orioles,' I think some of the guys may not know the difference. But for what it means to the fans and the city because it may go so far back, I think the change can be good. It's not going to matter that much to us, but it helps the fan base, and that's what they want to do. Let's go for it."

Roberts said he hadn't heard much from fans about the uniform debate, but Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he gets e-mails on the topic.

"To be honest with you, I don't know the history of that, when it was on the uniforms, why it was taken off and what the significance was," Trembley said. "I would have to do my homework on it, but it sounds like something we should consider for sure."