Preseason was Twins' springboard, Orioles' anchor

Bill Tanton

October 15, 1991|By Bill Tanton

When manager Tom Kelly says his Minnesota Twins won because they got off to a great start in spring training, he is, without realizing it, explaining one reason why the Orioles didn't win.

The O's had a horrible spring training. No home games. Constant bus trips to far-away exhibition games, each one consuming time that might have been spent on drills. The players were worn out and disgusted by the time they hit Baltimore.

All that was the fault of the front office. It failed to arrange for a workable spring training regimen as it prepares to switch Florida headquarters from Miami to Naples.

To be sure, the Orioles finished sixth because they need better players. But they were well on their way to that lowly finish by Opening Day, thanks to the screwed-up spring.

* Baltimore may have only one major-league sport -- baseball -- but at least it has the right one. Big-league baseball is hot everywhere, with another new major-league single-season attendance record set this year (56,888,512).

The Orioles (2,552,261) were one of eight teams setting club records. Toronto, of course, was highest with 4,001,526.

* The Blast has gone through a horrendous offseason, the worst of it the tragic death of Mike Reynolds. So it's good to hear something positive from assistant general manager Drew Forrester: the advance sale for Saturday night's opening game with Dallas at the Arena is the best the team has had for an opener in seven years.

There were only 2,500 tickets left as of yesterday. It seems certain that those will be sold by game time and the Blast will open to a sellout crowd of 12,392, as it did in the good old days.

* CBS can't do anything right when it comes to baseball. Not only did it overpay for the rights to major-league telecasts. When the current playoffs rolled around, America was mesmerized not by baseball but by the televised Thomas nomination hearings.

* Robert Irsay's Indy Colts still have a shot at 0-16. If they sink to that depth it won't break any hearts in Baltimore.

The worse things get with that farcical franchise, the more I realize how smart John Elway was in getting himself traded to Denver after being drafted No. 1 by the then Baltimore Colts.

People here thought Elway had some beef with this city. His dad, Jack, is a football coach (San Jose and Stanford) and knew the Colts would never be any good under Irsay. With the Broncos, Elway has been in three Super Bowls.

* This was a tough season on many of the Orioles' former front-office stalwarts now general managers in other cities. Hank Peters couldn't get anything going in Cleveland and retired. Harry Dalton was demoted in Milwaukee. Jim Frey had to fire his best friend, Don Zimmer, with the Cubs. After the disastrous Mets season, Frank Cashen stepped aside as GM in favor of Al Harazin.

The notable exception is John Schuerholz, the Braves' GM. In his first year in Atlanta, Schuerholz is going to win the National League Executive of the Year Award.

The irony is that Schuerholz probably never would have landed a job in any club's front office if it hadn't been for Cashen and Cashen's knowledge of the sports scene in Baltimore.

After graduating from City College and Towson State, Schuerholz taught in the Baltimore public school system for a year. He applied for a job with the Orioles. Any job, just to get into baseball. Cashen, then the O's GM, hired him, saying: "I know you know sports because you're a Schuerholz, and I know what great amateur athletes the Schuerholzes have been around South Baltimore for a lot of years."

* Orioles vice president Calvin Hill, the former Dallas running back, asked for and received a copy of the Cowboys' highlight films of '70-'74, his years. He wanted his son, Grant, the Duke basketball sophomore, to see his dad in action, which he did. Calvin had one surprise, however. Says he: "I had forgotten what a great player Roger Staubach was until I watched those films."

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