Three recent feel-good stories have come out of Baltimore since we last met, dear readers, with the first one being a lovely surprise. Veteran sportswriter Jim Henneman, 88, a life-long Baltimorean, was honored with the naming of the Camden Yards press box after him.
I've known Jim for almost 50 years. He was a guest speaker in one of my classes in Sports in American Culture at UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County). As the Orioles went through their World Series drought in the last 40 years, Jim provided wise and realistic counsel as I despaired that the Birds would ever truly contend for a world title.
Jim recently dubbed me "The Prince of Paranoia" as I often expressed doubt that the current regime even with a 101-win 2023 regular season under their belt could pull the trigger on a trade to get us over the hump towards another World Series. I admit to being paranoid not just about baseball but about politics and society in general.
I was honored that at least he dubbed me a prince and not a false pretender, a knave, or worse.And lo and behold, in the second recent big news from Charm City, the regime of Mike Elias just made a trade that will bring onetime Cy Young award-winning righthander Corbin Burnes, 29, from Milwaukee. Burnes hails from Bakersfield, CA and was signed in 4th round of 2016 draft out of St. Mary's College in Moraga in northern California.
Burnes can be a free agent after the 2024 season and his agent Scott Boras likes to get top dollar for his clients. But the addition of Burnes certainly is a
major addition to the rotation. And loving name play, I sure hope we get a Corbin-Corbin matchup in a game against the Washington Nats: Corbin
Burnes versus LHP Patrick Corbin.
Going to the Brewers will be LHP DL Hall, a 2017 #1 draft pick under the previous Dan Duquette regime. At the age of 25, Hall is on the cusp of becoming an outstanding pitcher. He supposedly wants to be a starter, but I think Hall could be the kind of solid closer that can make Brewers fans forget Josh Hader, a former Orioles draft pick who recently signed a multi-year deal with the Houston Astros.
Hall was signed after high school in Valdosta, Georgia, the home town of the late great scout Ellis Clary. The colorful Clary once told me that the area was so football crazy that "they wouldn't know a baseball player from a crate of pineapples."
It says here that Dayton Lane (DL) Hall has a chance to put Valdosta on the baseball map and I wish him the best in his new home. He is only 25 and after recovering from injuries early in his minor league career, he contributed stellar work in the latter part of the 2023 season. He also was very effective in the Birds' disappointing sweep by the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.
In addition to a first round compensation pick in the 2024 draft, the Brewers will receive Joey Ortiz, 25, a brilliant defensive shortstop who can play several infield positions and whose bat has picked up lately. From Garden Grove CA, Ortiz was a 2019 fourth-round draft choice from New Mexico State U., the same school as Orioles pitcher Kyle Bradish who likely slots to number 2 in the 2024 starting rotation behind Burnes.
The third major news from Orioleland is the proposed sale of the team to David Rubenstein, 74, a key member of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group. He is a lifelong Baltimorean who has always yearned to own his local team. He also had been rumored to be interested in buying the nearby Washington Nationals which are still for sale.
To my knowledge, no owner has ever had more cultural credentials than Rubenstein who has been chairman of the board at the Kennedy Center in DC and has a David Rubenstein Atrium named for him near Lincoln Center in NYC. It regularly hosts forums and concerts. He also is the host of interview shows for PBS and Bloomberg News.
Members of his ownership group include another financial equity financier Michael Arougheti from Ares Capital; Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City; Kurt Schmoke, former Mayor of Baltimore and Rubenstein's City College high school classmate; and Oriole legend Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. MLB owners will be meeting this week - the first full week of February - but it is doubtful that immediate approval will come. It is likely sometime later this season.
The general mood in Baltimore for the imminent departure of the Peter Angelos family from majority ownership is relief, to put it mildly. My only hesitation is to remember when the Angeloses bought the team in 1993 from prior owner Eli Jacobs, a New York financier who had gone bankrupt, local feeling was euphoric.
That mood changed sour in a hurry when patriarch Peter Angelos hired Davey Johnson as manager and Pat Gillick as general manager. Both had deep roots in the Orioles glory years from 1960 through 1983 but Angelos ran them off when they didn't bring immediate championships.
He also ran off popular broadcaster Jon Miller after the 1996 Jeffrey Maier playoff when Angelos claimed that Miller wasn't sufficiently indignant on air when the 12-year-old Yankee fan seated in Yankee Stadium's right field stands interfered with Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco's attempt catch of Derek Jeter's fly ball that was ruled a home run by right field ump Rich Garcia who was too close in the play IMO.
(It's an ongoing pet peeve of mine those extra umps in post-season games - if we must have them, they should be positioned as in Japan, under the foul poles to judge fair or foul home runs.)
Peter Angelos' sons, John and Louis, grew to have more power and less success. The most recent embarrassment was with Peter incapicated for over 10 years, a suit was brought by younger son Louis against both John and his mother Georgia claiming that he had been illegally cut out of decisions by the ownership group. It was finally settled out of court and now new ownership blood is heading to Charm City.
My only caveat - being of course the Prince of Paranoia - is the old saying, "An owner comes into baseball and says he knows nothing about the business of baseball. In six months he announces he knows everything." I do have the cautious hope that David Rubenstein will act with more discretion and calmness than Steve Cohen, a fellow private equity mogul who has turned the Mets into another soap opera in their long history of dysfunction.
And now here are some TCM tips for the next couple of weeks:
Wed Feb 7 8p EST "Antonia: A Portrait of The Woman" (1974) It is a re-release of a 58 minute documentary that I saw when it first opened. The film was the brainstorm of Judy Collins who took piano lessons from Antonia Brico in her home town of Denver. She discovered the remarkable story of a woman conductor who trained in Holland and Germany and had a regrettably brief but remarkable career as a rare woman conductor in the all-male
sanctuary of classical music.
I was blessed to see "Antonia" again this past Sat night Feb 3 at Museum of Modern Art with both Judy Collins and director Jill Godmilow in attendance.
Also on the bill was the equally poignant 28 minute new documentary "The Only Woman in the Orchestra" - the story of Erin O'Brien, the double bassist in the New York Philharmonic who retired recently after joining the NY Phil in 1966.
The film was the idea of Molly O'Brien, Orin's niece and a documentary film producer. She knew that the story of an self-effacing only child of early Hollywood screen stars Marguerite Churchill and George O'Brien was worth telling. Orin spoke briefly before the showing, making a heartfelt plea for those of us who love classical music to keep it alive.
Here are just a few TCM highlights with sports themes:
Tu Feb 6 11:30A "The Jackie Robinson Story" (1950) with Jack playing himself and Ruby Dee as Rachel
Tu Feb 13 11:15A "Woman of the Year" (1942) the first Tracy-Hepburn film with Spencer as sportswriter and Kate as social justice activist
F Feb 16 for the night owls
130A "The Stratton Story" (1949) Jimmy Stewart as the injured pitcher trying to make a comeback and June Allyson as his wife
Later on Feb 16 for early risers:
745A "Crazylegs" (1953) with U of Wisconsin football star Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch playing himself & Lloyd Nolan as his coach
10:15p "Pride of the Yankees" (1942) the Gehrig classic with Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright
Happy to report that Columbia women's basketball keeps rolling in Ivy League play since losing their only league game
at perennial power Princeton last month. The rematch is Sa Feb 24 at 2p at Columbia but they know they cannot look too far ahead.
Wisconsin blew a big lead at Nebraska for second year in a row last Thursday and Sunday Feb 4 lost a home game to Purdue despite great
effort by the lively home crowd. Purdue looks like a possible Final Four team but Badgers have a chance to rebound this week at subpar
Michigan on Wed and Sat noon at Rutgers.
I plan to attend the game at Rutgers despite being 0-5 in seeing the Badgers live in recent years. More about that experience in next blog.
That's all for now. Keep remembering: Take it easy but take it, and stay positive, test negative.