Going, going, gone Broadcaster Jon Miller: Replacing 'voice of the Orioles' a tall order.

November 11, 1996

SINCE BUYING the Orioles three years ago, Peter G. Angelos has seemed driven to act in the interests of Baltimore (local investors) and the fans (anti-management stance in baseball stoppage, push to win the pennant). He's a mega-millionaire local attorney who reacts emotionally like someone in the bleacher seats.

How, then, could he fail to grasp what broadcaster Jon Miller meant to Orioles' fans? Though only 45 years old, Mr. Miller was typically mentioned with the giants of his craft: Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell and his occasional colleague, Chuck Thompson. Nationally, he was judged by many aficionados as the best; locally, his baritone pipes had become the sound track to a Chesapeake Bay summer. But next year, he will be plying his craft at another stadium on the edge of a different bay -- in San Francisco as the voice of that city's baseball Giants.

Mr. Angelos believed that Mr. Miller's play-by-play was too critical. But the broadcaster was never excessive or harsh. In fact, fans felt affirmed when he would flag a player for failing to hustle or for a mental lapse, as if they were signing the million-dollar paychecks.

In an era of free agency when rosters are barely recognizable from season to season, Jon Miller was a stabilizing force, a pillar for fans to hold onto. Cal Ripken playing third base seems less unsettling by comparison.

Like Chuck Thompson before him, Jon Miller's voice represented for Marylanders the sound of wood smacking horsehide, the vendor's bark and the umpire's cry. Tens of thousands of fans re-created baseball games in their minds through the image-making magic of his radio commentary. No one else came close to matching his brilliance. Now he is gone.

"He's a first-rate entertainer. I don't think he's a first-rate broadcaster," the owner opined. But Mr. Angelos could discover that it is easier to buy good players than find another "voice" that fans so admire and appreciate.

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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