Chuck Thompson's induction into the baseball Hall of Fame this month was the highest professional honor, but yesterday's hometown salute to the 71-year-old sportscaster had to be the ultimate personal tribute.
Several hundred ordinary citizens turned out on the steps of the Baltimore County Courts Building to cheer as a group of storied Baltimore athletes, including Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Johnny Unitas, Artie Donovan and Jim Parker, spoke of their respect and affection for the man who has been the voice of Baltimore baseball and football since 1949.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden honored the sportscaster as a longtime county resident and gave him a proclamation and a plaque with the county seal.
Asked if the legendary "Miss Agnes" was coming, Chuck said, "No, but Miss Betty is here."
"Go to war, Miss Agnes," a longtime Thompson catch-phrase, came from a golfing buddy who never swore, but called on Miss Agnes whenever he missed a short putt.
"I didn't know when I married him five years ago that I would have all this excitement, but it's fun and it's still going on," Betty Thompson said as scores of adults and children crowded around her husband, pleading for autographs.
Even as county officials grew concerned at the press around him, Chuck kept scribbling. "He wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings," Mrs. Thompson said.
"Chuck always had the right word for the right moment," saiBrooks Robinson, who showed the world how third base should be played before beginning his broadcasting career under Chuck Thompson's watchful eye.
"It was special, to be honored by the people where you live and where you know everyone," Mr. Robinson observed. "These guys really love him."
"There isn't a person here who hasn't grown up with Chuck Thompson as they sat on the back porch on a summer evening listening to him broadcast the Orioles. It was like a security blanket," said Boog Powell.
Colts Hall of Famer Jim Parker drew a huge laugh when he thanked Chuck Thompson "on behalf of the Baltimore Rhinos" -- the fan-rejected name proposed for Baltimore's if-we-get-one football team -- "for your encouraging words and all the great memories."
Brooks later said that Chuck was especially touched by the Parker appearance "because Jim never goes anywhere and he came to this."
Chuck Thompson told the crowd that his Hall of Fame induction would not have been possible without the great athletic performances he got to broadcast and "the special affinity the Baltimore audience has for their professional teams."
Many of those who surged up the steps after the ceremony for autographs were either very young or unborn when the guests starred for the Orioles and the Colts, but they knew the names.
"I got Chuck Thompson, and I know he's a good announcer for the Orioles, and Brooks was a good third baseman and Boog was a good first basemen," said Gary Burkhardt, 12, who came from Parkville. "I don't know much about Artie Donovan, though."
It was a great day for Suzanne Stromberg of Carney because longtime hero Brooks Robinson gave her a lifetime memory and the last laugh on her husband.
As the Hall of Famer was leaving, Mrs. Stromberg held up her camera and her son, John Randolph, 7 1/2 months, who wore an Orioles cap and shirt.
Brooks cradled the baby and smiled as momma snapped the picture.
"I really didn't think there would be a chance to get a picture with anyone," Mrs. Stromberg said.
"I just grabbed the camera when I ran out. I told my husband I
was coming today and he kind of laughed at me."