Tony the Oriole? Something about it just doesn't sound gr-r-reat.
But there he is, the veteran designated hitter for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, sporting an Orioles jersey and cap and grinning from his cereal box as if he had just bounced one off the warehouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
If you saw the way Detroit dropped four to the Birds here last weekend, you'd understand why he's so glad to have been traded away from the Tigers. It's harder to see what's in it for the Orioles, who need left-handed pitching more than a switch-hitting power hitter.
But Orioles press spokesman Bob Miller indicated that the team didn't give up much to get the striped spokes-creature. "We would never look a gift tiger in the mouth," he said. "If this guy can help us, we'll take him."
In fact, Tony is donning an Oriole uniform as part of a new promotional campaign for Frosted Flakes, the "official cereal of Major League Baseball." Special-edition boxes of the Kellogg's cereal will be appearing on Baltimore-area grocery store shelves late this month and will remain on sale while supplies last.
"These commemorative packages are our way of celebrating the baseball season and showing our support for the Baltimore Orioles," Carlos Gutierrez, executive vice president of Kellogg's USA, said in a press release.
Actually, Tony is less than a loyal Oriole. He's really the ultimate free agent, showing his support for 24 teams simultaneously as part of a national Kellogg's promotion.
The only teams he hasn't signed with are the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays. Karen MacLeod, a Kellogg's spokeswoman, denied any prejudice was involved. "Tony the Tiger loves Canadians," she said, explaining that Canada comes under a separate corporate division.
Although Tony has had a longer and more distinguished career than most players on major-league rosters today, his teams haven't had to give him a big-bucks contract for his services. David Cope, the Orioles marketing director, said Kellogg's will be paying a promotional fee to Major League Baseball, which will divide the money among the teams.
Each limited-edition promotional package of Frosted Flakes portrays Tony in uniform and has a set of team decals from the hometown club's division -- in Baltimore's case, the American League East -- in the box.
On the back of each box is a relentlessly upbeat historical sketch of the hometown team. For instance, the Orioles' history devotes a full paragraph to the American League champion 1969 team without ever mentioning the Birds' unfortunate encounter with the Mets in the World Series that year.
"Tony's a very positive character," Ms. MacLeod said.