Brewers used to be on $ame page with O's


August 05, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

There was a time when the Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers had just about everything in common.

The cities were of comparable size, the citizens from diverse ethnic backgrounds. A lot of churches and more than a few breweries.

Each had seen a major professional sports team leave town (the Braves went to Atlanta 18 years before the NFLers fled to Indianapolis) -- and both had successful, working-class baseball teams. Edward Bennett Williams and Bud Selig compared notes and bank accounts.

The Brewers and Orioles had a natural rivalry that had more to do with their similarities than geography. When the 1982 division race went to the last game, it was probably the most agonizing period of the Williams-Selig stewardships.

The Brewers won their only American League pennant in 1982, and the next year the Orioles won their first World Series since 1970. The two organizations were almost identical and reveled in outperforming and outclassing the high-powered and higher-profile Yankees.

But times change, and the Brewers and Orioles have gone in drastically different directions in the past 10 years. The Orioles now are considered one of the high-powered, higher-profile, "big-market" teams, and the Brewers are struggling merely to remain in existence.

And Selig is charged not only with running the Milwaukee franchise, but Major League Baseball as well. He is getting hammered on both ends -- blamed for the Brewers' demise and baseball's labor issue.

Selig says that Milwaukee's big-league future is tied to efforts to build a new stadium. The "Camden Yards influence" is widespread throughout baseball.

Meanwhile, as head of the game's Executive Council, Selig has been one of the architects of baseball's plan for revenue sharing and the salary cap that goes with it. He also is hearing complaints that the absence of a commissioner is a major reason why there is an impending strike.

The insinuation apparently infuriates Selig. "All I will say about that is that there has been a commissioner every time there has been a work stoppage," he said earlier this week.

These are not the best of times for Selig, whose first priority is to assure that "small-market teams," such as the Brewers, can co-exist with baseball's big boys. There was a time when the Orioles were aligned with him, the two teams having so much in common.

But, temporarily at least, the Baltimore franchise is awash with corporate dollars generated by luxury suites in an intimate new playpen. The only apparent link between Milwaukee and Baltimore these days is the fact that beer goes well with bratwurst and steamed crabs.

The Orioles are lined up with the big boys now -- and somehow it just doesn't seem right.

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