The Orioles took awhile to figure out the marketing game. Recall, those great playoff years of 1969-71, the attendance figures barely topped 1,000,000 every year. Or add up three World Series seasons and you won’t get what the Orioles received in the fan department in the 1997 season (3,711,132).
So marketing came into vogue when I was hired as a group sales representative in Washington in 1983. The Birds actually opened a baseball store right on 17th street in the District of Columbia.
And when the Orioles got hot that year, the place was packed with ticket requests. Now don’t bet on the O’s spending much money putting that store together. I was hired at four dollars and hour. The store was equipped with a restroom but that was about it. It was right around the corner from owner Edward Bennett Williams office and his sidekick Larry Lucchino (President of the Boston Red Sox).
There was no copy machine in the store so our secretary would go into the law office of Williams and make copies.
No big deal as she wasn’t that busy. One day she came back with a collection of papers. I happened to be near her desk when I realized she took more than her fair share of paper work.
Plain as day was Tippy Martinez’s baseball contract. I started reading it. In 1984, he was to be paid something like $300,000 and the years after his salary went up. Oh, boy, I had discovered a treasure.
Did I return it to the lawyer’s office? Heck no. I took it home with me and put it in an envelope simply entitled, “The Tippy File.” I do think I lost it in my divorce.
Now us Orioles employees did have a section at Memorial Stadium where we could sit. There were terrace box seats on the first base side.
It must have been when Tippy was ending his career in Baltimore because he was seated in those seats around 1986. And I was right behind him. I couldn’t pass on this opportunity. I came up from behind Tippy and told him about The Tippy file. For some reason, he didn’t find it amusing. Oh, well.
In better news, years later after both Tippy and I left the Orioles and I met him again while doing research for my book on Steve Stone’s magical year in Baltimore. Like others, I had sent letters to Orioles players and the Baseball Alumni Association forwarded them to the players. Well, I didn’t hear from him so I did interviews in person in 2003. When I came upon Martinez in the locker room, he recalled the letter.
Yeah, why did you respond to the letter, Tippy? Anyway, Tippy gave me some great quotes on Stone as he and Tim Stoddard saved some many games for Stone that season. I did mention to Tippy that he had one wicked curve ball during his days in Baltimore.
Martinez had a career-high 21 saves during the World Series march of 1983. And he did have that magical performance on Aug. 24th of that season. The O’s had tallied twice in the home half of the ninth to tie the game with the Blue Jays. By the time the game went into extra innings everything was out of whack. John Lowenstein was playing second base. Gary Roenicke moved to third. And Lenn Sakata was stationed at catcher. Stoddard came into pitch and allowed a leadoff homer to big Cliff Johnson. Barry Bonnell singled and that was it was for Stoddard. Tippy came on to face the Jays. And Tippy picked off Bonnell off first base. He allowed a walk to speedster Dave Collins. Tippy picked off Collins. Willie Upshaw singled. And promptly was picked off.
It was incredible. My only regret was Jon Miller wasn’t doing to the play by play of that 10th inning. Naturally after that stunning frame, Cal Jr. homered and the new catcher Sakata won the game with a three-run homer. No wonder the Orioles won the World Series that season.