Jerold Hoffberger

Philanthropist: Through charity, business and Oriole baseball, he left an enormous mark on Baltimore.

April 13, 1999

IN A TIME that seemed much different, in a Baltimore that seemed smaller, Jerold Charles Hoffberger made an enormous mark.

He was a generous philanthropist, donating millions to hospitals, universities and Jewish charities. He ran the National Brewing Co., producer of National Bohemian beer. And he owned an Orioles team that was so successful and beloved, its memory alone is partly responsible for filling up the ballpark 20 years later.

He was part of the civic group that in 1954 brought the Orioles to Baltimore from St. Louis, where they were the Browns. He helped diffuse opposition from the Senators in Washington when he offered his brewing company to sponsor its broadcasts. Indirectly, too, he was partly responsible for Camden Yards: He long argued the need for a nicer stadium and his 1979 sale of the team to Washington power-broker Edward Bennett Williams, after he failed to find a local buyer, scared politicians into realizing they would lose the Orioles if they didn't act. Mr. Hoffberger sold the team for $12 million, about what Orioles outfielder Albert Belle will make this year.

Mr. Hoffberger epitomized an era when team owners may have carried big sticks within their organizations but walked softly. But the best measure of the man is that when he died last Friday, two days after his 80th birthday, his heartfelt concern and commitment to others were remembered more than baseball or other business interests.

Maybe Baltimore just seemed smaller because Jerry Hoffberger could wrap his arms around it.

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