Bird back in its nest at Sun

April 06, 2009|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,

Seventeen years after he flew the coop, the Oriole bird has returned to The Baltimore Sun.

Starting tomorrow, the whimsical cartoon - a stamp-sized favorite of Sun readers during the team's heyday 40 years ago - will regularly grace the sports pages.

"Hopefully, in that one inch of space, this classic little Oriole can capture the essence of last night's game," said Mike Ricigliano, the cartoonist who will draw it. Ricigliano's oddball work has appeared in The Sun (and, previously, The Evening Sun) for more than 20 years.

The original caricature first appeared in the paper in June 1966, during the Orioles' championship season, and quickly became a beacon for readers "who looked for it as eagerly as they did the daily weather forecast," The Sun once wrote.

Created by the late Jim Hartzell, a longtime staff artist, the bird caught on quickly. When Hartzell retired in 1979, his cartoon friend went with him. When readers complained, the paper resurrected the bird, employing a number of artists to draw him. By 1992, the Oriole was gone.

Until now.

"The Oriole bird cartoon represents a memorable time in the history of Baltimore, the Orioles and The Baltimore Sun," said Tim Wheatley, assistant managing editor for sports. "It symbolizes Baltimore's sense of humor, love of sports and optimism. The new cartoon continues that feeling of fun and hope.

"The old cartoon was something that readers looked forward to every day because each one was unique, and we think the new [one] will have the same effect."

Hartzell, who died in 2003, would embrace the Oriole bird's revival, said his daughter, Marylyn Vogt of Westport, Conn.

"That cartoon was his pride and joy," she said. "Now it's coming back? He'd get a really big laugh out of that one."

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