- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2014

I’ve seen a lot of managers over the years for the Baltimore Orioles humiliate themselves while working for owner Peter Angelos. I’ve seen them grovel. I’ve seen them shamed. But I’ve never seen one plant his lips firmly on the wallet of the owner like Buck Showalter did this week during the Battle of the Beltways series against the Washington Nationals.

“You realize how big an area this was for the Orioles before our owner was kind enough to let them have a team here,” Showalter told reporters.

Buck, you’ve got the job. You took a franchise that was a laughing stock, with 15 straight losing seasons, and turned them into a pennant contender. Don’t embarrass yourself by licking your owner’s Florsheims.

Buck and Angelos may just be that close — joined at the hip of desperation.

When Buck took the Baltimore job, it was considered one of the worst in baseball, a dysfunctional organization with a meddling, high-maintenance owner. Managers with credibility weren’t lining up at the door at the B&O Warehouse to work for Peter Angelos. He needed Buck Showalter.

Buck had been through three major league organizations — New York, Arizona and Texas, the baseball genius who wore out his welcome at every stop. There’s a good chance he might still be in Bristol, Connecticut, eating hot dogs with John Kruk if Angelos didn’t need him so desperately.

So maybe it was Buck’s sense of loyalty that prompted his foolish insult to Washington baseball. What’s next — “There are no real baseball fans in Washington?”

If he is as brilliant as everyone says, then maybe he can comprehend this history lesson.

Buck, the reason for the very existence of the franchise you work for now is because the owner of the Washington Senators was kind enough to let them have a team in Baltimore. And the reason you have this wonderful ballpark to play in is because of Washington and its baseball fans.

The St. Louis Browns don’t move to Baltimore in 1954 if the Senators owners — the Griffith family — stand in the way. As it was, the Griffiths worked out their own version of a MASN deal to allow the Orioles to set up shop in what was considered Washington’s market. New Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger agreed to buy advertising for his National Brewery on Senators broadcasts, and make a $300,000 payment for encroaching on Washington’s market.

I don’t think the Griffith family viewed their act as one of “kindness.” And to describe the money-printing operation of the existence of MASN — the reward for Angelos for baseball in Washington — as an act of “kindness” is laughable.

There are ballparks all over the country built because of the thirst for the return of the major league game to Washington. There’s one in Houston. Another in Seattle, Pittsburgh as well.

And the crown jewel of the ballpark era, Camden Yards? It owes its very existence to the absence of baseball in Washington.

When Washington lawyer Edward Bennett Williams purchased the Orioles in 1979, the clock started ticking for the Orioles to move down the road to Washington. Williams declared that the team would stay in Baltimore as long as the team was well supported by the fans.

Newspapers in Baltimore went on high-alert. The News-American headlines read, “Baltimore to Williams: The Orioles Belong to Us.” The Washington Post reported that sources close to Williams said the new owner would move the team to Washington within three years.

Their concerns were well founded. Williams also owned the Washington Redskins with Jack Kent Cooke, and the two men were looking at sites halfway between the two cities for a new multi-purpose stadium for both franchises — sites in Columbia and Laurel, Maryland, along Interstate 95 and another location at the intersection of Route 175 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

The Orioles’ fan base grew, though, thanks to Williams wooing Washington baseball fans, and the franchise grew strong in Baltimore. However, the fear of the lawyer moving the team to the District was very much in play when he lobbied Maryland officials for a new ballpark — which wound up being Camden Yards.

Baseball in Baltimore, Buck, exists because of Washington, D.C., and its baseball fans.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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