Miller: O's can tell him goodbye At odds with Angelos, broadcaster says he's leaving after 14 years

Owner wanted 'advocate'

He preferred staying, but 'no offer is no offer'

November 03, 1996|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

The Jon Miller era is over.

The popular play-by-play announcer said last night that he will be leaving the Orioles' radio booth, ending a 14-year association with the club.

Miller, 44, believed by many to be the best at his craft, said that while his first choice was to stay in Baltimore, the combination of the absence of an offer from the Orioles, offers from three other teams and a change in the way the team wanted him to broadcast games, led him to the decision.

"I can only go where I'm wanted," Miller said. "The Orioles are not among those who have made offers. No offer is no offer."

Miller's agent, Ron Shapiro, said he is in "hard" negotiations with one of three clubs -- the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants or New York Yankees -- that have made direct offers to Miller, whose two-year deal with the Orioles ended at the conclusion of this season.

"We were given no choice but to go to other places," Shapiro said. "I told one of the Orioles officials that Jon does have to have a job next year."

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who met with Shapiro on Wednesday, said the club has not "decided to terminate the relationship with Jon Miller," though he acknowledged that he wanted Miller to take a clearer advocacy role for the club in his announcing.

"You have the detached observer, but that's the role of the journalist. I don't think that's the status of a team broadcaster. They should be an advocate for the team. They've got to bleed a little bit for the Orioles," Angelos said last night.

Miller said that style is not one he would be comfortable with.

"When I heard that and I realized that it was serious, I knew it was inevitable that I'd have to leave," Miller said. "You can't broadcast the games that way. The only way you can do this job is the way you do it."

Though Miller's last contract was settled in late December, he and Shapiro were interested in having the proceedings wrapped up soon so that they could give answers to the other clubs.

However, Michael Lehr, Orioles executive director of broadcasting and marketing, said the club let Shapiro know that it preferred to have its radio rights negotiations completed before it signed broadcasters. The team is negotiating with the current rights holder, WBAL (1090 AM), and Infinity Broadcasting, on a new contract.

"If that [Miller's leaving] is true, it's unfortunate that this decision has been made before we complete our radio deal, which we'd like to be done before we complete our talent deal," Lehr said.

The issue of partisanship in the broadcast booth is a touchy one. Announcers balance an interest in objectivity against the wishes of their respective club to use the game as a marketing tool.

In Angelos' ears, Miller's style, which included occasional criticisms of players and personnel moves, was a bit removed from what he sought in an announcer.

"He [Miller] has got to approach the task with a bit of a bias, not that he should diminish the opposition, but he's a part of the team," Angelos said. "I'm for the Orioles, I'm for Baltimore, because I'm part of the team. I'm not suggesting that Jon falls short technically, because he's one of the best in the business. But there's a certain detached air, and that's fine, but mix in a little orange and black."

Said Miller: "It all starts with having a passion for the game. I don't understand this stuff about bleeding orange and black. I'm sort of comforted by the knowledge that [Los Angeles Dodgers announcer] Vin Scully and [former Detroit Tigers announcer] Ernie Harwell also would have been shown the door. To me, it meant he wanted something that I wasn't, so what was the point of that?"

Shapiro said the matter of Miller's independence was never an issue for the two previous owners, Edward Bennett Williams or Eli Jacobs, that Miller has worked for in Baltimore. In fact, Larry Lucchino, former Orioles president, who now serves the same role in San Diego, is actively courting Miller, though the Giants -- based in the town where Miller grew up -- are perceived to be the favorites for his services.

Angelos said he has not had a conversation with Miller since he has owned the team, but said it wasn't unusual for him not to have spoken with Orioles employees beyond the front-office level. He said he didn't think the differences in what he wants and what Miller would want to deliver are as great as perceived and would have liked to have discussed it with him.

However, Miller, who also calls the Sunday night games for ESPN, said there was no need for a meeting, because he couldn't have announced games that way.

"There was no discussion about it because there was nothing to discuss. Peter Angelos came in [as owner] and probably had never heard my work, but he kept me on and paid me well and I appreciate that," said Miller, who worked in Oakland, Boston and Texas before coming to Baltimore.

"This was the first feedback I've had on this and I appreciate that he was nonintrusive and allowed me the freedom to do my work. It's his right. It's his team. I hope the next broadcaster has a long term here."

Miller, who is married and has two children, said he plans to maintain a home in the area, and will return here in the off-season.

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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