For Brady, playing here a love match

November 26, 1997|By Ken Rosenthal

"Sign the contract, Brady!" a fan at the Baltimore Arena shouted.

"Sign what?" Pam Shriver asked from the umpire's chair.

"Sign No. 9! Sign No. 9!" a group of fans chanted.

Shriver, an Orioles' investor, couldn't resist.

"We're passing the hat soon, ladies and gentlemen," she said.

Don't sweat it, Pam.

Don't sweat it, Baltimore.

Anderson is coming back.

"I'll do my best," he told the crowd last night after Shriver's 12th First Union/Signet Bank Tennis Challenge.

Before the event, he sounded more definite.

"The chances are great," Anderson said. "If you're making a bet, it's a safe bet."

Heck, some at the arena thought it might happen last night, especially after a cell phone started ringing during the Orioles Challenge match.

"Please answer that cell phone," Shriver cried.

"It's Peter on the phone!" a male fan screamed.

The crowd clapped and erupted in laughter.

Owner Peter Angelos never called, but he and Anderson are going to reach an agreement, most likely after Thanksgiving.

It's all hitting Anderson now.

He'll stay for all the fans who waved orange "Sign No. 9" placards at the arena. For all the Baltimore kids who wear his jersey. For all the people who keep telling him he should remain an Oriole -- including his grandmother.

And, oh yes, he'll stay for Angelos' millions, whether he receives them in a four-year deal though 2001 (A Brady Odyssey?) or five-year deal through 2002.

Come to think of it, it should be no surprise that the owner and center fielder are getting along so famously.

Anderson said the first time he saw Angelos, the owner was -- we kid you not -- diving for a ground ball at third base.

This was at spring training in 1994, just after Angelos had bought the team. At the time, the owner was a sprightly 64.

"I said, 'That's the owner?' " Anderson recalled. "I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen."

The two now dine together so frequently, Anderson can tell you Angelos' favorite meal -- "Greek salad," he said. "They make that special for him."

Sign Anderson? Angelos might adopt him.

The owner has spoken. And the fans have spoken, too.

The day Anderson remembers most is Oct. 19, when he attended the Ravens-Dolphins game with several teammates.

The Orioles had been eliminated only four days before, and Anderson said he was curious how the players would be received.

"When we walked onto the field, the fans gave us a standing ovation," he said. "And when we got introduced at halftime, we got another standing ovation."

The crowd last night was just as enthusiastic, shrieking at the sight of Anderson, calling his name, lining up for autographs long after the matches had ended.

Anderson and Amanda Coetzer were leading B. J. Surhoff and Chanda Rubin, 5-2, when Anderson asked to change partners.

"Don't let him change teams!" a fan shouted, rather perceptively.

Well, just this once, it happened.

Anderson joined with Surhoff to play against the women, and none other than the Ravens' Tony Siragusa ripped off his leather DTC jacket to coach them.

At one point, Anderson threw his racket in frustration, and Shriver warned him for "abuse of racket."

Anderson, never one for tennis etiquette, began banging his racket on the court in mock anger. Siragusa, waving a towel, tried to cool him down.

"That's OK. He's going to sign a big contract. He can afford another racket," Shriver cracked.

And so it went.

"I kind of would have liked to come in here with a deal done," Anderson said. "The perfect situation would have been to get the deal done last night and come in here with a lot of Orioles fans here.

"The one thing that has become clear to me while I've stayed around here is how important the fans actually are to me. Their response has been a lot greater than I expected. And my loyalty to them is even stronger than it was."

Powerful words, considering that Anderson is in a position to break millions of hearts.

"Including mine," he said. "I never wanted to get to the point where I was taking offers from other teams. It's a little dishonest to take 'em just to work up a negotiating position with the Orioles, which I'm not doing.

"They're making offers in good faith. You have to think about them in good faith."

His only offer, however, has come from the Atlanta Braves. Anderson said if he had taken it, the Braves would not have signed free-agent first baseman Andres Galarraga.

So, why didn't he go?

"I wanted to play with the Orioles," he said. "They made an offer before I really started talking to the Orioles."

The more he thinks about it, the more he recognizes the value of staying -- not just for Angelos, not just for the fans, but for his teammates, too.

He traveled to Italy with Scott Erickson after the season ended. He returned home for Mike Mussina's wedding. He played tennis last night with Surhoff.

"It's like a poker game when the agents and owners negotiate," Anderson said. "For me, it's not. It's real. It's my future for the next five years. It changes everything in your life.

"Sitting around at night, it's hard to imagine what it would be like to walk into another team's clubhouse, what it would be like to walk into Yankee Stadium as a home player."

So, can he imagine it?

"My imagination is good enough -- I know what the stands look like," Anderson said, smiling. "During the course of the day, there are probably 25 or 30 things that go through your mind.

"You think about how loyal you are to the Orioles. You go out and talk to the fans. Then your grandmother calls and says, 'You have to sign with the Orioles, honey.' "

It sure doesn't sound like he's close to leaving.

"I don't think it ever did," Brady Anderson said.

Pub Date: 11/26/97

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