Clinton competes with the O's as star

April 06, 1993|By Sylvia Badger and Jean Marbella | Sylvia Badger and Jean Marbella,Staff Writers

There may have been thousands of serious baseball fans attending the Orioles opener against the Texas Rangers, but most of them were there to see and be seen.

The star attraction was, of course, President Bill Clinton, who arrived via train from Union Station. He was right in style, wearing an O's baseball hat and jacket.

The president watched the game from O's owner Eli Jacobs' box, which was filled with guests who took turns sitting for three innings with the president. They included Mayor Kurt Schmoke and wife, Pat; state Senate President Mike Miller; House Speaker Clay Mitchell; state Sen. Clarence Blount; and state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, who even managed to call his wife, Pat, from the box and have the president to say "hi" to her.


It's true: President Clinton never forgets a face.

"We happened to be standing by the dugout when he went by, and he said, 'Hello, Max,' " said Channel 45 sports anchor Max Morgan, who worked at two television stations in Little Rock, Ark., from 1981 to 1991, when the president was the governor. "He asked me how I liked Baltimore, and I congratulated him [on winning the election]."

Mr. Morgan said he had met then-Governor Clinton at sports banquets and other functions in Little Rock, but hadn't seen him since he became president. "I was surprised he remembered me," Mr. Morgan said. "He seems like the same, energetic person he was back then."

And, no, Mr. Morgan added, he never met that other former Little Rock TV personality, Gennifer Flowers.

* It was opening day for Fred Manfra as well; he stepped up to the mike rather than the plate yesterday as WBAL radio's newest broadcaster of Orioles games. The Baltimore native is the latest in the revolving door to the play-by-play booth, but he says that spinning will stop now.

"I'm here to end that," declared Mr. Manfra, broadcaster Jon Miller's fifth partner in six years (if you count Joe Angel's two stints). "We're going to be together for a long time."

While his fellow play-by-play announcers were busy elsewhere -- Mr. Miller was doing a TV broadcast and Chuck Thompson was being honored on the field for his entry to the Hall of Fame -- Mr. Manfra opened the broadcast at 1:05 p.m. and went solo through two innings. The former ABC radio broadcaster was battling a cold with hot tea and honey, but otherwise was thrilled to be back home.

"I was born and raised here. I grew up listening to Chuck Thompson, and it's great to be here and know my family is listening to me," he said.

Mr. Thompson said he had very simple advice for the new kid in the booth: "It's like athletes. Athletes have to play within themselves, and the same thing is true for broadcasters. I told him don't try to be Jon Miller; don't try to be Chuck Thompson. Be Fred Manfra -- that's good enough for anybody."

* More than 600 people got the nod for what may be Eli Jacobs' last Opening Day party. ARA caterers outdid themselves, lining the brick walls of the sixth floor with food stations so guests could graze on crab cakes, fried chicken, hot dogs, nachos, tenderloin, blackened turkey, fajitas, burritos and smoked salmon.

Guests included George Will and his twin sons; Eunice and Sergeant Shriver; Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Bank; George Bush Jr., Texas Rangers co-owner; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; Bubba Smith; Ted and Lynn Venetoulis; and Alan Rifkin, attorney/lobbyist.

* On the club level there was an air of excitement and a party in every sky box. Bill DeWitt, who might be the next Orioles owner, was sitting with Mercantile Bank board chairman Furlong Baldwin. Nearby,Crown Central Petroleum CEO Henry Rosenberg was entertaining an assortment of past and present politicians, including former Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes. Tom Matte made an appearance at the Budweiser/Winner Distributors box and said business had been great at his rib stand.

* Jim Palmer was at the ballpark yesterday as neither a player nor broadcaster but a spectator. He slipped away before the game ended, but found the path to his car blocked by the president's motorcade.

"My attention span is about five innings," Mr. Palmer said. "Plus, I have yard work to do."

Mr. Palmer actually put a full day in the park -- he was there at 5:30 a.m. to do a TV interview. His wife, Joni, got Mayor Schmoke to introduce them to President Clinton, and they talked about a mutual friend who had once jogged with him.

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