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Believe it or not, there was a time when the Orioles could swing a mean trade. Somebody out on 33rd Street would snap his fingers and, voila, out of the sky (or the National League) terrific ballplayers would tumble.
It all seemed to start with Frank Robinson, who showed up here as "an old 30," but just in time to win the Triple Crown and lead the O's to a World Series sweep of the Dodgers. Frank cost the Birds a couple of easily replaced pitchers and an outfielder who probably has forgotten his own name by now.
Later came Mike Cuellar, who ended up winning about 10 dozen games for Baltimore; underrated Pat Dobson, who had two big years here; and Don Buford, merely the league's best leadoff man. In each case, the cost was hardly prohibitive.
The good times rolled, four pennants topped by two world championships, and the final tally should have been better. Then suddenly, it seems, every other deal proved a bummer. There must have been a change in the front office.
Robinson, for instance, went to the Dodgers for Sergio Robles, Royle Stillman, Bobby O'Brien and Doyle Alexander.
With Frank, chances are the club would have ruled the A.L. East in 1972 because, as it was, no one seemed to want the thing. A very bad, old, slow Detroit team edged the Red Sox.
Perhaps convinced that getting four players for one wasn't in their best interests, the O's switched the process and gave four to get one, Dave Johnson, Dobson, Roric Harrison and Johnny Oates going to Atlanta for Earl Williams. Earl, Earl, wherefore art thou, Big Money?
The Birds won the division a couple of times, but lacked the ace of trumps, F. Robby, and surrendered pennants to Oakland.
Ken Singleton's coming here was a steal and some lesser-light deals proved OK before it was time to go big time a few years back. By popular demand, his and ours, Eddie Murray wanted out and he was accommodated to the tune of Brian Holton, Ken Howell and Juan Bell.
Howell lasted 72 hours before being dispatched to the Phillies for Phil Bradley, subsequently hurting his arm every fifth time pitching, and Holton had similar impact before departing. Bell had his moments in the minors, but failed to do much in the bigs and just yesterday was cast adrift by the Camden Yards nine.
So . . . for Robinson, for Murray, for all those guys shipped to Atlanta, including current manager Oates, the Orioles got what amounts to a Zippo lighter. No matter what happens from here on out, the eventual outcome of the Glenn Davis maneuver a few seasons back won't be the biggest plus or biggest minus in O's trading history.
That should take the pressure off ol' Glenn. As for Juan Bell: Write if you get work, buddy.
* When Billy Hunter was the hyperkinetic third-base coach of the Orioles (circa mid-'60s-'70s), all he had to do is direct runners to his right (their left) toward home plate 90 feet away. It takes a little more than that running the athletic department at Towson State.
For openers, deep-sixing the swimming/diving and indoor track for both men and women seems a strange way to foster a good, all-around athletic program. Especially when, historically, these are teams comprised of true student-athletes, emphasis on the student.
"Presidential decree" are the words showing up in most of the explanations being handed out and everyone understands there's not enough money to go around. So how come indoor track, which costs about $3,400 to conduct, departs while women's soccer comes aboard carrying a price tag of $50,000 or so?
* Despite turning in his sixth stage win in a row yesterday, Swiss runner Milan Milanovich still trails leader David Warady of the United States by 18 hours and 33 minutes in the Runner's World Trans America Footrace with "just" 600 miles to go. Tom Rogozinski of Hagerstown has been among the leaders since the race kicked off in California June 20, giving up the runner-up spot to Milanovich's surge. Rogozinski appears to be the cutup in the 20-man field, earlier coming upon a dead rattlesnake out west, which he left coiled by an aid station as a surprise for unsuspecting European competitors.
* This leftover from an Olympic notebook: It was 1964 and flying out of New York bound for the Games in Tokyo was many-times equestrian competitor Mike Plumb. He was down in the cargo hold with the livestock when his horse started making a fuss. "He broke his chains and came out of his box," said Plumb. "Then he started throwing a real fit, kicking out one of the windows. The plane was losing pressure. I knew I had just one choice. He had to be put down, so we shot him."
* The only guy to make the cut in every PGA event he has entered this year is Ray Floyd, the gent who's about 15 minutes away from qualifying for the 50-and-over Seniors Tour. Floyd's last event before he becomes eligible for the senior circuit will be in the Three-Tour Challenge wherein he, Fred Couples and Tom Kite take on teams composed of Jack Nicklaus, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Larry Laoretti and Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan and Dottie Mochrie. It's one of those made-for-TV numbers in December.
* Sen. Bill Roth of Delaware has written the Professional Boxing Corporation Act of 1992 and he says, "This legislation [if it is passed] will help protect the health and safety of boxers and improve the credibility of the sport as a whole."
Only drawback is, the windy 4,500-word bill will not supplant current state boxing regulators nor will it micromanage professional boxing. "The nuts and bolts of running the sport will be left to boxing itself, as it should be," says Roth. Tilt!