I thought it was a great gesture for the Baltimore Orioles to honor their MLB Hall of Famers with statues in the outfield picnic area in 2012. All of the ceremonies were very well done, and I feel like the fans really got a kick out of them. And it didn’t hurt that it coincided with the re-birth of the Orioles as a winning franchise. However there’s still one Oriole Hall of Fame member who doesn’t have the recognition he deserves at Camden Yards.
I write a column on this topic every year towards the end of spring training, and quite honestly it’s one of my favorite ones to write. The great Chuck Thompson was the voice of the Orioles on both television and radio for years and years. While he also did some play-by-play work for the Washington Senators in the 1950’s, he was a voice and a persona that belonged uniquely to Baltimore. Granted he did some national work, but he was always Baltimore’s voice.
Thompson of course called Orioles games, as well as Baltimore Colts’ games. Odds are that any big time Baltimore sports moment until the 1980’s featured Thompson behind the mic. He retired in 1983, but returned to the radio both part-time a few years later before retiring in 2000 for good. And it’s in those latter years of his career that I remember him in my own youth. However as great of an announcer as he was even then, he really came to life for me from the stories told by my Dad and my Uncles of him from years before.
We all know the catchphrases…ain’t the beer cold, and go to war, Ms. Agnes! Those were vintage Chuck Thompson phrases, which represented summertime, BBQ’s, the beach, and Orioles baseball to us all. Speaking for myself, I always loved how at times Thompson would reverse his words in terms of how one might have otherwise said something. “…bats from the left side, does Eddie Murray,” as opposed to “Eddie Murray bats from the left side.” It’s little things like that which make hometown announcers in baseball the best. And Thompson was no exception.
So my issue is that short of his name being in the Orioles’ hall of fame, there’s no recognition of Thompson or his role in the organization at the ballpark. And I think that’s a shame. The Washington Nationals aptly dedicated their press box in honor of the great writer, Shirley Povich. That’s exactly the type of thing I’d like to see the Orioles consider doing. Because Chuck Thompson was an institution in and of himself. He was as much a part of the great Oriole teams of yesteryear as any of the players or coaches. It was through his voice, that fans followed the team. And to those of us who didn’t grow up watching games on our iPads or phones, that still means a lot.
So I would love to see the Orioles do something along the lines of what the Nationals did for Shirley Povich. Or perhaps simply name the radio booth in honor of Thompson. As the 1993 winner of the Ford C. Frick award, he is an MLB Hall of Famer. And thus he should be viewed as such.