O's changes uniformly draw cheers at fan rally

As modeled by players new, old, 'Baltimore' jersey hits home

November 13, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

The look was a new one to Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Jeremy Guthrie, a trio Orioles fans hope will eventually make up the nucleus of a championship-caliber club.

But as Boog Powell, the burly slugger who was an Oriole from 1961 to 1974, pulled on the team's new road batting practice uniform with "Baltimore" stretched across the front, he couldn't help but feel that this is how the jerseys should have looked all along.

"It's a really special moment," Powell told the estimated crowd of 2,500 yesterday at an Orioles fan rally at The Gallery at Harborplace. "Even though I put it on for [all those] years, I get just as much of a thrill putting it on this morning."

The rally was highlighted by the unveiling of the Orioles' new uniforms for the 2009 season. There were several changes to all three of the Orioles' main uniforms - some more subtle than others - but the change that clearly garnered the most attention was the addition of "Baltimore" across the team's road jerseys, replacing the "Orioles" that had been on the jerseys since 1973.

"I hope it works some magic for them, just like it did us," Powell said. "We went to four World Series with these things on. We won ... division championships. If it works, that's terrific. I've always thought that something was remiss just having 'Orioles' on the shirts. On the road, you should be Baltimore. And it felt pretty good to be Baltimore."

Powell and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer represented the Orioles' past at the rally. Markakis, Jones, Guthrie, Dennis Sarfate, Chris Waters, Melvin Mora, Brian Burres, George Sherrill, manager Dave Trembley and club president Andy MacPhail represented the team's present and future.

The past and present players, who did their best to imitate runway models - though many were unshaven, as the team's ban of most facial hair doesn't apply in the offseason - were ushered down an escalator from the third to the second floor at The Gallery. On their way down, they took their Orioles jackets off and threw them into the crowd as fans got their first look at the team's new uniforms.

The main changes include the addition of a round patch on the left sleeves, featuring the Maryland flag, and orange and black striping on each sleeve and down the pants. And, of course, there is "Baltimore" adorning the front of the road grays.

"I like them," said Markakis, who postponed a hunting trip so he could take part in the event. "It has Baltimore written across it, so it's something that is good for the fans and good for us. You look back at all the guys that have worn the jerseys like Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson, and it's something special."

Markakis and Sherrill said they were pleasantly surprised by the turnout at the event. Fans gathered along the railings of the top three levels of The Gallery to get a look at the Orioles and the new uniforms. Orioles banners surrounded the entrance of The Gallery, and the team's mascot also was outside, welcoming fans.

Wearing a gray hooded Orioles sweatshirt, long-time fan Larry Dalton, 35, described the new uniforms as "awesome" and said he felt it was important for "Baltimore" to return to the road jerseys. The York, Pa., resident took the day off from work and allowed his 13-year-old daughter, Brittani, to miss school so they could both go to the rally.

"I think you look at the [Tampa Bay] Rays and their new uniforms and what it did for them," Dalton said. "Hopefully, it does the same for us."

Paul Thompson, who was born in Philadelphia but moved to Baltimore in 1971 and adopted the Orioles as his team, brought a seatback from Memorial Stadium for Palmer to autograph.

"I feel like [Baltimore] should have stayed on the jersey," he said. "I remember back to the glory days of Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer and Boog Powell. It should never have been taken off, and I'm so glad they're finally putting it back on."

When the rally ended, Guthrie took the microphone and started a "Baltimore" chant, which was aided by Burres and Powell. Among other highlights of the event was hearing Mora, who had shoulder surgery last week, proclaim he'll drive in 130 runs in the coming season and Palmer saying he's "very proud that this was the only uniform that he wore in his career."

By 12:30 yesterday afternoon, new Orioles merchandise was already on sale on the fourth floor of The Gallery. The prized item was an authentic Markakis road jersey - with "Baltimore" across the front - which was selling for $229.

"I always wondered why Baltimore wasn't on the [road] jersey," Sarfate said. "I'm not from Baltimore, I'm not from Maryland, but I represent this city now. I love it. To see Baltimore across your chest is special, and it's special to these fans. They haven't seen it in a while. Hopefully, we can put wins with the new uniform."

Baltimore Sun columnist David Steele contributed to this article.

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