Brown deserves some good PR Front-office worker was a superstar

BASEBALL

February 07, 1993|By JIM HENNEMAN

Bob Brown always has seemed to have the uncanny ability of making his presence felt while remaining in the background. That's why his 35-year career in baseball has gone relatively undocumented.

It's also the reason business seemed as usual while Brown made subtle career changes the past few years.

The public knows little about the man who was the Orioles' director of public relations during most of his tenure with the club. Which, he would be the first to insist, is the way it should be.

The vast majority of front-office workers are foot soldiers. The rewards are more professional and personal than financial.

Over the years, the Orioles have had a lot of on-field success. Only rarely does that happen without an efficient, well-run organization, and the Orioles most definitely weren't an exception.

The number of successful executives who started with the Orioles is staggering. They are scattered at every level throughout baseball.

Brown is one who stayed throughout his career. Not because he didn't have opportunities to leave, but because he opted for the lifestyle of his adopted home, Baltimore, rather than material rewards. And because he had a fierce sense of loyalty and pride for the Orioles and their high standards of excellence.

Simply put, Brown was the best in his profession. That's more than opinion -- it's a fact none of his peers would dispute.

As he gradually eased out of the Orioles' front office, Brown moved so gracefully it went almost unnoticed. There were no news releases announcing the changes and citing his contributions. And there were no testimonials.

Until last week. The Oriole Advocates, a volunteer group that spent a lot of time in the background with Brown, held a surprise dinner in his honor. They didn't have to worry about nobody showing up.

Phylis Mehrige and Katy Feeney came from the American League and National League offices. Bob Wirz, who worked in the commissioner's office under Bowie Kuhn, was there.

Contemporaries Larry Shenk and John Blake came from Philadelphia and Texas. Former Orioles scout Jim Russo came from his home in St. Louis. Jerry Sachs, president of the Capital Centre (who broke into sports as an intern under Brown), was in attendance, as were former players Dick Hall and Frank Robinson.

There were more than 150 people present, each of whom had close associations with Brown over the years. It was fitting that the Oriole Advocates threw the party because Brown's association with that group is one he cherishes.

But "Brownie," as he was known to those of us in the media, deserves more than a private dinner as a tribute for his contributions to the Orioles. For most of his professional life, his job was to bring attention to others.

His efforts demand that he, finally, get some recognition of his own. To those of us who worked closely with him, Brown served equally as a friend, confidant and critic.

His pursuit of excellence was relentless. He hired people with exceptional skills. Blake and Rick Vaughn, Brown's successor with the Orioles who also participated in the testimonial, are evidence to that fact. They have the same qualities as their mentor and are already recognized among the elite of their profession.

Out of respect for the man, I'm not going to suggest that he was as good in his field as Frank and Brooks Robinson or Jim Palmer were in theirs. But he was close. Real close.

This was, and is, a class act. Thanks, Brownie.

Yankee gyrations

A year ago, the Yankees gave Mike Gallego, heretofore a utility type, a $5.1 million, three-year contract to be their regular shortstop. They also traded Steve Sax to make room for Pat Kelly at second base.

Gallego spent most of last year on the disabled list, but played long enough to convince the Yankees he couldn't play shortstop on a daily basis. So, the Yankees went out and signed Spike Owen.

Now they are hoping they can trade Gallego, who's better suited to play second base, so they can again make room for Kelly. Because he got a $1.5 million signing bonus, Gallego has only $2.15 million left on his contract for the next two years.

The Yankees are hoping that will enhance his trade value, but they're likely to find a small market for a 32-year-old who has yet to establish himself as a regular.

Rochester's strange move

The Rochester Red Wings, the Orioles' Triple-A farm club, made an interesting move last week when they announced that general manager Joe Altobelli also would serve as a coach. The ex-Orioles manager's experience no doubt will help 34-year-old Bob Miscik, who is moving from Single-A Frederick to Rochester.

But you have to wonder about the overall effect if the Red Wings falter this season. Altobelli is the most popular manager in Rochester history, and once he's in uniform, it will be natural for fans to clamor for his return if Miscik's club struggles.

Double surgery for Gullickson

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