Old story: Rebuilding the Orioles

July 02, 1998|By Kevin Cowherd

News item: The disappointing Orioles, baseball's oldest and richest team, say they're headed in a new direction.

JULY 3 -- CITING a renewed commitment to youth, the Orioles today signed 12-year-old left-hander Josh Matteburn of Ridgely Middle School in Lutherville.

Brushing aside concerns about Matteburn's inexperience and 48-mph fastball, manager Ray Miller said: "I'm excited. He gives us another arm out of the bullpen. We worked him out yesterday and lots of his throws reached the plate."

Matteburn was unavailable for comment. A woman who answered the phone at the Matteburn residence and claimed to be "his mother" said the boy was on an overnight camping trip with his Boy Scout troop.

July 4 -- In a fax to American League offices, Orioles owner Peter Angelos today inquired whether the team's current three-game series with the red-hot Yankees could be played for "funsies."

"Why does everything have to be so serious?" Angelos said. "Why can't we put a keg out at second base and just have a good time? Where does it say that every single game has to count in the standings?"

AL President Gene Budig called the request "highly unusual." He is expected to decide on the matter today.

July 10 -- The Orioles announced today that Friday's game against the Oakland A's would be "Take a Whack at Terry Night." Before the game, recently released reliever Terry Matthews (0-1 6.27 ERA) will be held down by members of the grounds crew while the first 1,000 fans through the gates each get one swing at him with an Orioles seat cushion.

July 24 -- The Orioles admitted today that Josh Matteburn, the 12-year-old counted on to anchor its bullpen, is not having an easy time of it in the major leagues.

In five relief appearances, Matteburn has walked 42 and surrendered 61 runs. At least a dozen screaming line drives by opposing batters have narrowly missed his head.

Although Matteburn has confessed to being terrified of playing against men two and three times his age, an Orioles front office said: "His stuff just isn't what we thought it was. Plus his head doesn't seem to be in the game."

Aug. 2 -- O's owner Peter Angelos confirmed that he's been sending "I'm Sorry!" Hallmark cards and a dozen long-stem roses daily to Davey Johnson, the former manager who led the Orioles to the playoffs in 1996 and 1997 before being fired by Angelos.

"I'm not too big to admit I made a mistake," said Angelos, who says he's also made frequent flights to Florida to wash Johnson's cars and shine his shoes in an effort to lure him back to the O's helm.

Aug. 9 -- The Orioles announced today that struggling reliever fTC Norm Charlton (35 walks in 40 innings, 8.41 ERA) will no longer sit with the other players on the team charter, but will travel instead in one of the overhead baggage compartments.

Aug. 16 -- The Orioles and pitcher Scott Erickson remain "significantly apart" in contract negotiations, according to Erickson's agent. The veteran right-hander is seeking a three-year $21 million deal. The Orioles, meanwhile, are offering a salary of $47.50 a week.

"Obviously, we're not throwing around money like we used to," said general manager Pat Gillick. "We're committed to younger, hungrier players. And when we say hungrier, we mean that literally."

Gillick added that the Orioles' offer includes several incentive clauses that could raise Erickson's salary to $62.75 a week, in line with Josh Matteburn's contract.

Aug. 25 -- Complaining that his last-place team "needs some pizazz," Orioles owner Peter Angelos said manager Ray Miller will wear an Elvis costume and wig at games for the rest of the season.

"Ray's a baseball traditionalist," Angelos said. "But he realizes we have to do something to keep the fans engaged. This might loosen the players up, too, get them going in the right direction."

Sept. 10 -- With the Orioles 42 games out of first place and interest waning, manager Ray Miller will climb atop the O's dugout and lead the fans in singing the Elvis standard "All Shook Up" in the fifth inning of every home game, owner Peter Angelos announced.

"A lot of people don't know it, but Ray has a terrific voice," Angelos said. "We figured as long as he's wearing the Elvis get-up, he might as well go all the way. Whatever it takes, we want to get the fans talking Orioles baseball again."

Sept. 19 -- In a last-ditch effort to bolster attendance, the Orioles announced that tomorrow's final home game of the season against the Yankees would be "Fan Appreciation Night," with all fans 21 and older receiving a 31-inch Sony color TV. Manager Ray Miller will hand out the TVs immediately after the game.

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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