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  •   Orioles Broadcasters Find 20 Ways to Call a Loss

    By Norman Chad
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, April 29, 1988; Page C2

    Fact: After every Orioles game, Orioles radio broadcaster Joe Angel interviews a star of the game. He has yet to interview an Orioles player in that segment.

    Fact: New Orioles television broadcaster Jim Simpson was hired late in spring training. He has yet to see the Orioles win.

    Fact: Orioles broadcasters' records this season in games they have called -- Angel 0-21, Jon Miller 0-19, Simpson 0-8, Brooks Robinson 0-8, John Lowenstein 0-7, Mel Proctor 0-6, Chuck Thompson (subbing for Miller) 0-2, Bob Rathbun (subbing for Proctor) 0-1.

    Rumor: Miller has a buyout clause in his contract if the team doesn't win a game.

    The Orioles have become a source of morbid fascination around the country, with Miller, in his sixth season as the Orioles' radio voice, and Angel, in his first as Miller's partner, drawing much of the attention. Each night they chronicle another loss, and each morning after they are awakened by radio stations wanting to talk about the Orioles' plight. A Milwaukee TV crew even filmed them broadcasting a game last week.

    "We've become a cult team," Angel said.

    "Joe and I have become curiosities, like Madame Tussaud's wax pieces," Miller said.

    The Orioles' losing ways have reached almost biblical proportions, yet all the broadcasters on the Orioles' beat continue pretty much with a business-as-usual stance.

    "Hey, growing up in Washington with the Senators, I recall a lot like this," Simpson said. "I listened to how {long-time Senators broadcaster} Arch McDonald handled it."

    "My theory of broadcasting a ball game is that it shouldn't matter what the score is," Miller said. "You just go with it. You try to stay up . . . The hardest thing is trying to be fresh for the opening of the broadcast. It's your hook, it's your grabber. What is the significance of the game? Obviously, we've had a very big story going on. But how many different ways can you say that?"

    Last Saturday, Miller found a remarkably different way -- by reciting the first two paragraphs of chapter 54 from "Great Expectations."

    Miller, too, has lightened up a bit when several games got out of hand early. "Your job is to provide entertainment," he said. To that end, he recently did a brief play-by-play stint in Spanish with Orioles reliever Oswald Peraza on the mound during a rout. Still, he and Angel largely have stayed away from Orioles jokes, calling each game as if the Orioles were actually a major league team with a real chance for victory.

    But increasingly, it's become a difficult task to treat the Orioles routinely. It's not just that the Orioles have been losing, it's the way they've been losing. They're often far behind by the middle innings, and they have failed to score more than two runs in 14 of their 21 games.

    "Jon was saying the other day he had forgotten how to call a home run," Angel said. "He finally got one and didn't know what to do."

    As the streak grows -- 0-162 seems unlikely but an apocalyptic 39-123 season looks attainable -- Miller shakes his head a lot and remembers that "all the things I ever learned in baseball say this cannot happen."

    "I told Jim Simpson on the plane {from Kansas City to Minneapolis} that the longer this goes on, I get this fear that I'll get this call from the radio station saying that they've canceled the broadcasts," Miller said. "I mean, what if the advertisers refuse to pay?"

    Miller's steady countenance is a wonderful, calming force for Orioles fans tuning in night after night. However, even Miller cannot control the swirling fates once he falls asleep.

    "I had this dream recently with {columnist} George Will and his son in it," Miller said. "His son was going to play for the Orioles. George was so proud. And then the son did well, and George said that it did a great deal for his kid's self-confidence. So I thought, 'Well, there's at least one good thing that's come out of this whole thing.' "

    For Miller, that was only a dream, but for the winningest Oriole of them all, Brooks Robinson, April has been a broadcasting nightmare. On telecasts, he's not so much analyzing as agonizing these days.

    Tuesday, as the Orioles trailed the Twins, 4-2, in the eighth inning, he pleaded with Eddie Murray to get a hit. "Can I root?" Brooks asked during the WMAR-TV-2 telecast. " . . . C'mon, Eddie. Hit one out of here! I'm tired of all this stuff. Go deep!! "

    One night later, again in the eighth inning, Brooks came unglued. Orioles reliever Bill Scherrer came into a 4-4 game and allowed home runs to the first two batters he faced. "This not only takes the starch out of the fans, it takes the starch out of the announcers, also," Brooks lamented. "I think I'm going to pack it in right now."

    But for Brooks and the rest of the broadcasters -- as the Orioles' 1988 promotional jingle cruelly insists -- You Gotta Be There for the balance of Baltimore's darkest baseball summer.

    © Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company

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