BALTIMORE, NOV. 10 -- Baltimore Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams, saying he'd reached "the end of the beginning" of an organizational overhaul, today named former Chicago White Sox general manager Roland Hemond vice president of baseball operations.
In a long, remarkable news conference, Williams pledged to make the Orioles competitive again, and in ticking off past problems, twice said that his front-office staff had been racist in their actions if not their intent.
As expected, Williams announced Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr. had been rehired for a second season and said a decision on a coaching staff would be made shortly.
He also, for the first time, apologized to first baseman Eddie Murray, who asked to be traded in 1986 after newspaper articles quoted Williams as criticizing the player. Williams said he hopes to sit down and apologize to Murray sometime before spring training.
"I made the mistake of saying he was having a disappointing year," Williams said. "I should have said anything critical of him to him and not a reporter. If I have something to say to him again, I will. He's a proud man and a great player. I hope whatever mistakes were made in the past are past."
Williams complimented the fans of Baltimore several times, thanked them for their support through two bad seasons and revealed that he had urged Bill Bidwill, owner of the National Football League's St. Louis Cardinals, to move his franchise to Baltimore.
Hemond, 58, replaces Hank Peters, who was fired Oct. 5, but that was only one of many moves for the Orioles, who lost 95 games last season, their most in 32 years.
In addition to Hemond, Williams named: Doug Melvin, 34, as farm director. Melvin already has begun a restructuring of a scouting and minor league system that has gone from one of the most to one of the least respected in recent years. Frank Robinson, 52, as a special assistant to the owner and general manager, filling the job that had been performed by Melvin. Calvin Hill, former running back with the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, as "vice president for administrative personnel." Hill was on the Orioles' board of directors and will now work as a watchdog for Williams and as a liaison between city and state governments and the Orioles.
Hill's hiring was the only surprise, and in announcing it, Williams had harsh words for Peters and the Orioles' previous baseball people. While not saying that Peters had been racist in his personnel decisions, he said there certainly had been the appearance of racism.
Williams said that at the end of last season, the Orioles had 100 minor league players under contract, and only five were American-born blacks. Further, in last summer's draft, the Orioles selected only one black of more than 30 players picked.
Of Hill's new job, Williams said, "He's going to monitor something for me in this organization. . . . A deadly illness overtook this organization, and he's here to guard against it happening again. I'm talking specifically about the shortage of black and Hispanic personnel. I don't want anyone to ever say again that we're insensitive to ethnics."
Asked how a team with a heritage that includes Robinson, Don Baylor, Ken Singleton and Murray could have become insensitive to blacks, Williams shrugged.
"I don't know," he said. "That's a pretty damning admission. I really assumed we were doing the right things in this area with minorities. I learned by getting involved that we weren't. I didn't know. I didn't have time to go to each ballpark and see the players. I looked at the statistics and all, and they don't say if a player is black or white. This is very troubling to me, but those days are over."
Peters was unavailable for comment.
Williams said the Orioles intended to become active in pursuing Latin American talent, which franchises such as the Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates have done for years. Robinson will travel to Puerto Rico on a fact-finding, scouting mission next week.
Hemond left today's news conference to go directly to the first of several organizational meetings that will be the basis for this winter's trade talks and personnel decisions.
Hemond, who has been a consultant to Commissioner Peter Ueberroth since being fired by the White Sox in 1985, saw the Orioles play only once in person last summer, but said he followed their box scores closely.
He said he hopes to add pitching and speed this winter, and like Williams, refused to be tied to any timetable for winning.
Much of the restructuring already has begun. The Orioles will add a Class A team, perhaps as early as 1988. Melvin has hired former Washington Senator Dick Bosman as a roving minor league instructor.
Melvin already has fired a third of the scouting staff. He has brought in former Yankees scouting assistant Roy Krasik as an assistant farm director.
Both Melvin and Robinson were candidates for the job of general manager, but both accepted Williams' decision.
"I'm elated with what has happened here today," Melvin said. "I think one of our problems has been with not having a number of quality baseball people. That and not putting them to use. We've got that now. I'm still young, and I'll get a chance."
Robinson said: "When it was explained to me what I'd be doing, I was excited. I'll miss putting on the uniform, but I'm going to have a chance to learn all areas of the operation. Roland said I'll be going to the general managers' meeting with him, and the more I talked to him, the more I got excited about it."
Hemond also sounded excited, even though he'd contacted the Chicago Cubs about replacing Dallas Green as their general manager.
"I'm delighted," he said. "When Mr. Williams explained his goals and desires, it seemed this was the place for me. I'll always have a great love for Chicago. . . . But I think this organization, with its heritage and support, can be a baseball man's dream."
Williams said other changes would follow in the next few months, adding, "This is the beginning of a long journey."