Deal gives WBAL Radio Orioles rights through '93

September 25, 1990|By Ray Frager Kent Baker and Mark Hyman of The Sun's sports staff contributed to this article.

No need to reset your radio dial, Baltimore Orioles fans, your favorite baseball team is staying right where it is.

Under an agreement announced yesterday, WBAL Radio was awarded rights to broadcast Orioles games for the next three seasons.

Unlike the deal that expires this season, in which WBAL (1090 AM) basically has leased the rights from holder WTOP of Washington -- that arrangement came after former flagship WCBM sank in a sea of owner Ellek Seymour's red ink -- WBAL will be the flagship and primary rights holder, station general manager David Barrett said yesterday.

"WTOP will have their own rights agreement with the Orioles," Barrett said.

No dollar figures were announced in the deal.

"It was a spirited negotiation that involved a number of stations both in Baltimore and Washington," Orioles president Larry Lucchino said. He declined to name other stations involved in the bidding.

WBAL is Baltimore's top-rated AM station and has the most powerful signal in the area.

As part of the agreement, Barrett said, radio announcer Jon Miller has signed a new, three-year contract with the team that includes a to-be-determined number of play-by-play assignments on Channel 2's Orioles telecasts.

"I'm very pleased the Orioles wanted me to stay and pleased to sign long-term," Miller said. "I've made my home in Baltimore, my kids are growing up there and I'm very happy there."

Neither Barrett nor Channel 2 general manager Arnold J. Kleiner would say how many of WMAR's scheduled 53 games Miller would work next season, though Barrett said Miller was expected to be on radio for 80 to 100 of the Orioles' 162 games. Miller's radio partner, Joe Angel -- whom WBAL now is looking to sign to a new contract, Barrett said -- guessed yesterday that Miller would be on Channel 2 for about 30 games.

In any case, the WMAR assignments will add to the games Miller misses to work ESPN baseball telecasts, principally Sunday night games. That means more fill-in spots on radio, and WBAL wants to go with just one backup voice next season, Barrett said, and that voice may be Chuck Thompson's.

Thompson has been one of the substitutes used this season alongside Angel -- others have included Washington Bullets announcer Charlie Slowes and ABC Radio's Fred Manfra.

"Chuck Thompson has indicated a willingness to do more games than this year," Barrett said.

Said Thompson: "We've just talked about the possibilities. We haven't definitely said yes or no. My feeling is it would be a one-time shot, just one year."

Still, working 60-plus Orioles games -- Miller's ESPN's assignments alone account for 35 missed radio games -- means more travel, one of the reasons Thompson retired from his Channel 2 play-by-play job three years ago.

"Traveling is not one of my strong points," Thompson said.

It also is unclear how the Channel 2 announcing rotation will work.

Jim Palmer, play-by-play man for the past two seasons, recently said that he had not signed a new broadcasting contract and was exploring other options for next year, one of which, presumably, may be more games on ESPN, for whom he has been an analyst this season.

Palmer's partner, Brooks Robinson, said yesterday: "My preference is to do half the games. We're still talking [with Channel 2 and the Orioles]."

Scott Garceau, the WMAR sports anchor who has filled in for Palmer and Robinson on Orioles telecasts, said: "All I was told was that I would be involved to the extent that I have been in the past few years."

Said Lucchino, "We very much want to use Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson and have them back. They'll work together as they have this year and work in conjunction with Jon Miller."

Working in conjunction could mean sometimes using Miller in combination with Robinson or Palmer as analyst, other times returning to the Palmer-Robinson team and plugging in Garceau when someone is not available.

On the extent of his TV duties, Miller said: "That's up to the TV people and the Orioles. I'm obligated to TV if the Orioles ask, but nothing is definite until the lineup of other announcers is set."

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