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Edited by Jack McCallum and Kostya Kennedy
November 18, 1996
Oriole Songbird Flies Off
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November 18, 1996

Broadcast News

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Oriole Songbird Flies Off

The first big free-agent signing of the baseball off-season involved a broadcaster. Jon Miller, the superb radio voice of the Baltimore Orioles for the last 14 years—and a fixture on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball for the last seven—signed a five-year, $2.5 million deal to be the lead radio announcer for the San Francisco Giants. As with many free-agent signings, this one was steeped in acrimony and left some loyal fans feeling deserted.

Miller's agent, Ron Shapiro, says Miller (left) wanted to stay in Baltimore but departed primarily because owner Peter Angelos disapproved of Miller's on-air criticism of his club. "He's not much of an advocate," says Angelos. "He should bleed orange-and-black once in a while."

No, he shouldn't. Miller (who is on vacation and couldn't be reached) shouldn't do anything but call things as he sees them. Endearing homers like Harry Caray and Phil Rizzuto notwithstanding, broadcasters have a responsibility to be honest. The Orioles played badly for three months of last season and deserved to be criticized. Miller, an exception in this age of shameless shilling by broadcasters, was not one to compromise.

Miller, 45, is not blameless. He demanded a contract proposal by Nov. 1—"This is an employee, mind you, issuing a deadline to the employer," huffed Angelos—and when one didn't come, he engaged in brief dalliances with the San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees before accepting the Giants' offer. "He was here part-time [referring to the fact that the Orioles let Miller off to do the ESPN games], earning close to $500,000 a year," Angelos says. "I would never have given him [a contract for] five years, not for 115 games a year. If people don't like it, they will see that I made the right decision."

Many among the Orioles faithful have reacted angrily. For as Miller takes his mellifluous voice, his knowledge of the game and his hilarious on-air impersonations back to the Bay Area, where he grew up, Baltimore fans know the radio days of summer won't be the same.