Hemond finds ending positively depressing

September 17, 1994|By KEN ROSENTHAL

His window looks out onto Eutaw Street, and the field at Camden Yards. On game days, it's the best view in baseball.

Sitting at his desk, Roland Hemond can see the smoke rising from Boog's barbecue, the crowds gathering on Eutaw Street, the players stretching on the field below.

The window is his clock, his mirror to the game's soul.

Yesterday, Hemond searched for a reflection of the Orioles preparing to play the New York Yankees in the opener of a three-game series.

All he saw was a groundskeeper mowing the lawn.

"Look how beautiful the field looks," the Orioles general manager says, gazing out at an empty Camden Yards from his office on the third floor of the B&O warehouse.

In ordinary times, he's the happiest man in baseball, shaking hands, slapping backs, savoring every moment.

Remember when Scott Klingenbeck won his major-league debut? Hemond has been in the game 44 years, but he was practically shaking with joy.

This is a man who stayed positive even when the Orioles went 0-21 in 1988, a man who says he was happy standing lookout in the North Atlantic for the U.S. Coast Guard on Christmas Eve.

But these days, Hemond sits in his office, catching up on correspondence, poring over minor-league reports, trying -- and failing -- to remain upbeat.

People ask, "How ya doin', Roland?"

He answers, "OK, I guess."

The strike is killing him, but not for the reasons you might think.

Not because his job might be in jeopardy at the age of 64. And not because he had a chance to reach the World Series for the first time in 22 years as a GM.

No, it goes far beyond that.

Hemond is a radical in the world according to Donald Fehr and Richard Ravitch.

He loves the game.

"I'm usually never down," Hemond says. "But right now, it's hard to be positive."

The 1994 season is canceled, and the '95 season is hardly guaranteed. For a while, Hemond got his fix watching Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. Now, their seasons are over, too.

In the past 40 years, he has attended every World Series but one. But the only sporting event he plans to see in October is -- gasp -- a Maryland football game.

The other day, he bought a fishing rod -- a fishing rod! Baseball lifer that he is, Hemond's only previous fishing experience was trolling the waiver wire for Florida Marlins.

Roland Hemond, gone fishin'.

Make it the epitaph of the '94 season.

He's fishing, and he's reading -- four books since the strike started, including "Lords of the Realm" by John Helyar and "Regrets Only" by Sally Quinn. He even listened to the cassette version of "A Memoir" by Barbara Bush on his drives to Frederick and Bowie.

Let's just say he has time on his hands.

During the season, Hemond arrives at his office by 8:30 a.m. and, on most game days, stays past midnight. His pace is so frenzied, his only relaxation is watching the game.

Now?

"Nine to five seems longer than nine to midnight," he says.

During the season, the phone never stops ringing -- doctors and dTC agents, scouts and minor-league managers, rival executives, old friends. These days, he barely needs to check his voice mail.

At least when Frederick and Bowie were playing, Hemond and assistant general manager Doug Melvin could bolt out of the offices at 3:30 or 4, arriving in time for batting practice.

"I couldn't stand the idleness, the quietness, the dullness," Hemond says. "That was therapy."

Hemond would get charged up watching Curtis Goodwin beat out a bunt, or seeing Alex Ochoa throw out a runner at second.

Still, he couldn't get far enough away.

It was better during the '81 strike, when he hit the road with White Sox manager Tony La Russa, signing Salome Barojas after a scouting trip to Mexico, then visiting Single-A phenoms Ron Kittle, Greg Walker and Tim Hulett in Glens Falls, N.Y.

The thing Hemond remembers about that strike is the first night, when he drove two of his former players -- the Yankees' Rich Gossage and Aurelio Rodriguez -- back to their hotel in Chicago.

"I might have violated something there," he says, smiling.

During the '76 lockout, the late Bill Veeck asked him to put together a team of minor-leaguers for the opening of spring training.

"It was probably the worst major-league club ever assembled," Hemond says. "But the best-covered club in the history of spring training."

The Atlanta Braves pulled the same trick, and when the lockout ended, Hemond was in West Palm Beach, Fla., for an exhibition game between the two clubs.

He recalls speeding back through the Everglades to the White Sox's training camp in Sarasota, clapping his hands in excitement and terrifying his manager, Paul Richards.

"Roland, I think it would be safer if you had one hand on the wheel," Richards said.

This strike carries no such charm. Hemond's only warm memory will be going home at night and playing with his 8-month-old grandson, Zane.

He looks out his window, and sees nothing.

How fitting that in a world of adults gone mad, a baby brings him joy.

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