In a brief, emotional pregame tribute, the Baltimore Oriolestonight honored Edward Bennett Williams as a man of 'inspiringpersonal courage' and for his humor, joy and passion for life.
Wearing the initials 'EBW' to remember their owner, who diedSaturday after an 11-year battle with cancer, Orioles players andcoaches stood at attention along the third base line as announcer JonMiller spoke of 'an extraordinary lawyer, a courtroom legend and apassionate patriot.'
He reminded the 22,239 at Memorial Stadium that, while Williamswas sometimes viewed as an outsider in Baltimore, the fears he mightsomeday whisk the Orioles away to Washington never materialized.
Instead, Miller said, 'He gave the fans what no one before hadgiven them-a formal commitment, keeping his word. And as a result,the Orioles will be yours for a long, long time.'
The Oakland Athletics stood along the first base line as Millerspoke of Williams, and when he finished, a trumpeter-Baltimorepoliceman Clayton Buck-stood behind second base and played 'Taps'while the Diamond Vision screen showed photographs of Williams' life.
The screen faded to black with a quote from Williams-'The timemay come when I leave baseball, but baseball will never leaveBaltimore.'
The somber ceremony ended a long, emotional day for the Orioles,two of whom, shortstop Cal Ripken and catcher Terry Kennedy, had gonevirtually without sleep to attend Williams' funeral this morning atSt. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington.
Ripken and Kennedy made a 90-minute drive in rush-hour trafficafter arriving home from Milwaukee at 4:15 a.m. (Manager FrankRobinson, his coaches and most of the front office staff traveledtogether in two buses.)
'I wanted to be there,' Ripken said. 'I thought it wasimportant.'
Ripken and Kennedy joined an overflow crowd that included a Who'sWho from the world of law, politics and sports. Among the prominentsports figures were the commissioners of the National FootballLeague, Pete Rozelle, and Major League Baseball, Peter Ueberroth;the presidents of the American and National leagues, Bobby Brown andA. Bartlett Giamatti; Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin; formerWashington Redskins coach Jack Pardee and former Redskins SonnyJurgensen, John Riggins and Ray Schoenke; New York Jets owner LeonHess; New York Giants owner Wellington Mara; Milwaukee Brewersowner Bud Selig; Boston Red Sox executive Haywood Sullivan; formerOrioles Jim Palmer and Scott McGregor, and James Madison basketballcoach Lefty Driesell.
They were all men Williams had represented, known or touched insome way, and as Palmer said, 'He left an unbelievable imprint oneveryone who knew him.'
Williams, who had attended Ripken's wedding last winter, left oneof those imprints on Ripken.
'He always seemed to be pouring with strength,' Ripken said. 'Hegave off a kind of presence. I was thinking of that today. Healways seemed to be confident, controlling, soothing and in command.To me, that was a sign of his strength.'
Kennedy didn't join the Orioles until 1987 and missed the team's1979-83 glory years under Williams, but his reasons for attendingwere similar to Ripken's.
'He was very generous to me and, out of respect for his family, Ithought it was the proper thing to do,' Kennedy said. 'We talked inspring training briefly, but I had a good idea of his personalhistory, and the people he has been involved with. I know how hefought his cancer. He kept fighting. His attitude didn't change.He was always the same.'
Several club officials were miffed that more players didn'tattend, but only a few of the current Orioles had even met Williams,a sign of the rapid transition the roster has undergone the pastthree years. Of their 24-man roster, 13 are in their first Baltimoreseason. And Williams was in Memorial Stadium only twice thisseason-opening day and May 2-with only one brief clubhouse visit.
Another generation of Orioles remembers a different Williams, onewho enjoyed the glory days and pushed his players and management, andasked that they work as hard as he did. Former Oriole Ken Singletoncited one of the happier times:
'One thing I'll always remember is a private moment during thecelebration after the '83 World Series. He came over, put his armaround me and said, `Kenny, this is the happiest I've ever been.' Itwas like he wanted to cry, and that was totally out of character forhim. We'd always seen a man of such strength.'
It was a 7:30 a.m. phone call from Williams in late 1984 that ledto Frank Robinson returning to the Orioles, first as a coach, andlater as an assistant general manager and manager. Robinson's hiringstarted what eventually would be a complete overhaul of the Orioles.
'He went about things the way I played the game,' Robinson said.'He put everything he had into it. It wasn't that he couldn't lose,but he certainly wouldn't accept it. It was 100 percent with him.That's the type of guy he was. He respected people that looked himin the eye and answered his questions. He despised people that gavehim the answers they thought he wanted to hear. One of the problemshere is that people weren't honestly telling him the situation thisorganization was in.
'The sad part is he won't be around to see the results now thatit has changed.'