If you asked Joe Angel to put his four-decade broadcast career into perspective, I think we all know where he would put it.
“In the win column!”
Angel tweeted just that earlier this week to announce his retirement and reminisced in a telephone interview Friday about the origin of his signature postscript that punctuated each of the Orioles victories he called after it was created spontaneously in 1988.
Of course, every good Orioles fans knows what happened that year. The young O’s were Baltimore’s lovable losers and opened the season with a major league-record 21 consecutive defeats. When they finally won, well, another kind of history was made.
“That’s how ‘In the win column’ got started,’’ Angel said. “After all those losses, they finally won and I was recapping the game. I was giving the ‘lovely totals’ and I said, ‘The Orioles are finally … in the win column!’ The next day I heard a recording of it and to me it sounded real good. It sounded up, and told the story.
“I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to find a way to incorporate that every time they win,’ and from then on, that was it.”
Well, this is it for Angel, who decided a few months ago that he had finally had enough midnight charter flights and 5 a.m. hotel check-ins. He’ll soon celebrate his 72nd birthday, though you’d never know it by looking at him — or his golf handicap.
The Orioles, he said, offered him a variety of options to remain in a less-demanding role, but the high school quarterback who played alongside O.J. Simpson more than a half-century ago and dreamed of being a big league third baseman was just ready to move on after broadcasting more than 5,000 major league games.
“The Orioles have been great,’’ Angel said. “I just decided that, you know what, that was enough for me after 41 years of doing it. I didn’t feel like I would be able to start the season and give it everything I had just like I had the previous 41 years. And it just got to the point where I said, ‘You know, it’s really time to hang it up. That’s enough. That’s plenty of time. Give somebody else a chance.’ ”
Angel shared the broadcast booth with fellow Orioles broadcast legend Jon Miller both in Baltimore and San Francisco. He left the Orioles a total of three times, spending a season with the New York Yankees in 1991 and going south to head up the broadcast team for the expansion Florida Marlins in 1993. But he always came back, and Orioles fans were always happy to have him.
“I was real lucky,’’ Angel said. “My first year with the Orioles was 1988 and not only did I have a chance to work with Jon Miller — and I thought we were a pretty good twosome if I say so myself — but at the same time I got to do a bunch of games with Chuck Thompson. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that, to work with a couple of Hall of Famers like that.”
Like any great broadcaster, Angel can tick off his career highlights like they happened yesterday.
“That was the beginning of it for me,’’ he went on. “I was there when Ben McDonald made his major league debut. I was on the air when that happened and all of the sudden I’m working with Ben McDonald on the radio. I thought we jelled extremely well together. And I was there when Dave Johnson pitched that game in Toronto in 1989 during the ‘Why Not?’ season and we had a chance to win the division title right up to that moment.”
He had a similar experience with popular second baseman Brian Roberts and Orioles all-time saves leader Gregg Olson.
“Those are things that go through your mind,’’ Angel said. “In baseball, in particular, you don’t see what I did in Baltimore. I don’t think anybody has ever done that. To enter a market and leave that market and come back a couple of times like that.”
Angel was born in Colombia and emigrated with his family to Chicago before moving to the Bay Area, where he graduated from City College in San Francisco. He said his love affair with sports started with an obsession with the Chicago Cubs.
“Sports have always been a part of my life,’’ he said, “and as a youngster, I can remember in Chicago growing up a die-hard Cubs fan, listening to the games on the radio and turning the volume down and grabbing a hair brush and pretending it was a microphone and doing play-by-play right there in my living room.
“So I think it was in my blood from the very beginning.”