Herbert J. Belgrad has no trouble recalling the moment when Gov. Harry Hughes asked him to consider serving as oe of the charter members of the Maryland Stadium Authority.
It was June 1986. It was in the governor's State House office. And, for Belgrad, a Baltimore lawyer with little knowledge of professional sports, it was a slightly unbelievable moment.
"In the first place, I wasn't even familiar with the legislation [creating the authority]," Belgrad recalled. "And second, as I stated then, there were any number of highly qualified persons with an interest in sports who would have given their right arms to serve the state in that capacity."
Belgrad, 57, still is not an expert on Ben McDonald's pitching motion. But in the past six years, he has become the state's leading authority on topics ranging from Baltimore's chances to regain an NFL franchise to the fine points in the Orioles' stadium lease.
Belgrad came to the post with a reputation for honest and ethical dealing.
He has served as president of both the Bar Association of Baltimore City and the Maryland State Bar Association. For five years before heading the stadium authority, he was chairman of the State Ethics Commission.
Those credentials have been useful as Belgrad has negotiated with the Orioles, rallied support for Baltimore's NFL expansion bid and explained the authority's budgets to skeptical members of the General Assembly.
It is a highly visible job, but the pay isn't anything to shout about. For six years, Belgrad has worked for free.