Working behind a desk in a baseball office is a new role for Ernie Accorsi, yet it's a perfect fit in all aspects. It may seem odd for a man with 23 years in the National Football League to be working for the Baltimore Orioles, where the only fundamental difference is the shape of the ball.
Accorsi made a switch that has only rare precedent. He talks the sports language, knows how to handle himself in diverse environments and will continue to make friends for the organization he represents. The Orioles and Accorsi will make for a winning combination.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos was attracted to Accorsi because of the scouting reports that came from varied sources in the Baltimore business community, especially from a man he held in high personal and professional esteem who insisted Accorsi was one of the most proficient and well-versed individuals he had encountered in his lifetime.
Angelos has appointed Accorsi to the role of executive director of business affairs, which means he will supervise community and public relations, promotions, marketing, advertising and radio/television contracts. Accorsi will work under Joe Foss, who is in control of all operations apart from the major- and minor-league baseball departments.
"I'm really happy," Accorsi said. "I love being here. There's probably not a professional sports team with the tradition of the Orioles, names like John McGraw, Ned Hanlon, Wee Willie Keeler, Jack Dunn, Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove and so many others. You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to this opportunity."
It's difficult to ascertain all the men who may have made the same trip, from football to baseball in executive capacities. Jim Finks, Jack White and Bing Devine, to name only three, made similar transitions, holding influential jobs in both sports.
Accorsi looks on his NFL relationships with fond memories. In the 23 seasons he was identified with pro football, he served as an assistant to the retired commissioner, Pete Rozelle, and was general manager of both the Colts and Cleveland Browns. There is speculation if Angelos is able to acquire a football team for Baltimore, he would have Accorsi as general manager.
But that never came into play in his hiring. Angelos was interested in Accorsi for the Orioles months before he embarked on pursuit of buying a NFL franchise. Angelos has remade the Orioles' front office and Accorsi now will play an integral part in the business phase of the ballclub.
Accorsi, a native of Hershey, Pa., grew up a baseball fan. He remembers how much his late father admired the New York Yankees, which was not unusual for those of Italian-American ancestry. since because There were so many sons of fellow countrymen with similar backgrounds that ignited a rooting interest in Tony Lazzeri, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Frank Crosetti, Marius Russo and Yogi Berra, among others.
"I remember my first major-league game, in 1950, as if it happened yesterday," Accorsi said. "We left on a chartered bus from DeAngelis' Restaurant in Hershey to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play the Philadelphia Phils in a doubleheader. The Phils won the first game, 6-4, and then Curt Simmons made his last appearance in the second game before he reported to the Army.
"The Phils built a 8-0 lead. But in the late innings, the Dodgers caught up, and Pee Wee Reese hooked a home run around the left-field foul pole to tie it. I can still see the ball. Duke Snider hit a homer and Jackie Robinson stole home. Then Jackie was called out on strikes and hollered at the umpire from the dugout to such an extent he was ejected.
"It was the era when players left their gloves on the field between innings. I remember Jackie walking out to short right field to get his glove. The umpires were trying to hurry him, but he still took his time. Oh, yes, Dan Bankhead pitched that day, too."
Ernie was accompanied by townspeople on the visit to Shibe Park, but, more importantly, he was with his father to see that first major-league game, which remains one of the most joyous moments of his youth. That's the way it's supposed to be, in any generation, a dad taking his son to a ballpark to live the baseball experience together.
It's Ernie Accorsi's hope he can make a contribution to the Orioles and please Angelos, the man who hired him for a vital behind-the-scenes role in helping move the team to an even higher level of respect, acceptability and success.