Joseph P. Hamper Jr., the last surviving member of the group of Orioles staff and investors who returned big-league baseball to Baltimore in 1954, died July 13 of a heart attack at the Blakehurst retirement community in Towson.
He was 84.
Mr. Hamper, the son of an auto parts manager and a Baltimore public school teacher, was born in Baltimore and raised on Belle Avenue.
After graduating in 1942 from Forest Park High School, Mr. Hamper attended the University of Maryland before being drafted into the Army.
Mr. Hamper served with an infantry unit in the European Theater and was taken prisoner by German forces during the Battle of the Bulge.
He was held 90 days in several prisoner of war camps before being liberated in the spring of 1945 by the forces of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'s 3rd Army.
Mr. Hamper attended the Johns Hopkins University and became a certified public accountant in the early 1950s.
Mr. Hamper was working as an accountant when the Orioles hired him in 1954 to work in their old Eager Street headquarters. Four years later, he was promoted to controller.
In 1966, he was named vice president for finance, a position he held until retiring in 1991.
In a 1989 interview with Bill Tanton, who was the Evening Sun's sports editor, Mr. Hamper reflected on the move that brought the St. Louis Browns franchise to Baltimore.
Mr. Hamper reminded Mr. Tanton that the Baltimore investors had paid $2,475,000 to Browns' owner Bill Veeck for the team and the highest-paid player at the time was shortstop Vern Stephens, who was paid $33,000 a year.
Years later, Mr. Hamper loved to say that Cal Ripken Jr. earned nearly as much in a single season as investors paid for a whole team in 1954.
"It was considered quite a big thing for the Browns to be moved here. It was only the second time in 50 years that a major-league club had moved from one city to another," he told Mr. Tanton. "We only had 3,108 season-ticket holders. But in the early years we could break even with 750,000 admissions."
In a 1991 interview with The Sun, Mr. Hamper recalled those stomach-churning days that led to Opening Day on April 15, 1954.
There was grave doubt whether contractor Joseph F. Hughes & Co., after five years of construction, would complete the upper deck at Memorial Stadium in time for Opening Day.
All through the winter of 1954, the Orioles were selling tickets for seats that didn't exist, as the unfinished upper deck almost doubled the capacity of the stadium, and it looked as though it would remain unfinished.
"The ballclub was concerned as Opening Day approached," Mr. Hamper said in the interview. "We had this fear that we'd sell four tickets to the same seat in one section and there would be big open spaces in others."
Mr. Hamper and other Oriole executives gave a sigh of relief when the contractor finished the upper deck and the concrete was dry in time for Opening Day.
He told Mr. Tanton in the 1989 interview of other fears during the Orioles' first season in Baltimore.
"I remember in August of that first year, 1954, when Clarence Miles [then the Orioles' president] was worried that we wouldn't draw 1 million people," he said. "We barely made it. They drew 1,060,910."
Between 1966 and 1971, the Orioles won four pennants.
"Even with those great teams, we thought drawing 1.2 million was the ultimate," Mr. Hamper said. "But after Edward Bennett Williams bought the team in '79, we drew over two million three times."
Mr. Hamper recalled the first check he wrote for a bonus-baby pitcher Billy O'Dell, a lefthander, who played for the Orioles from 1954 to 1959. It was for $8,000, Mr. Hamper said.
"When Paul Richards came as manager and general manager in 1955, he really opened the cash box. He'd just sign anybody. Paul believed if you spent money you'd get results," Mr. Hamper said in the 1989 interview.
"The team became respectable in the early '60s. The big kicker was getting Frank Robinson in '66. That's when we started winning pennants," he said.
James S. Keelty Sr., the Baltimore homebuilder and Orioles investor who succeeded Clarence Miles as president in 1955 and held the position until 1959, was a favorite of Mr. Hamper's.
"You would never know he was the club's president," Mr. Hamper told The Sun at Mr. Keelty's death in 2003. "He never took anything out of the club. He never drew a salary. He always paid his own way into the ballpark. He always bought his own tickets."
J. Frank Cashen, who was the Orioles' executive vice president and general manager from 1965 to 1975, was both an old friend and colleague of Mr. Hamper's.
"Joe was one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet. He was good at what he did and he did his job well," said Mr. Cashen. "We always called him our 'Money Man.' He always had a good sense of humor and was a steady guy."
Mr. Cashen said his friend's advice was always sought after.
"He took part in all of the major decisions affecting the Orioles. We wanted his opinion and he always took the long-term view on our finances," he said.