Calling the Pen: Buck Showalter writes a letter to Baltimore - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Baseball Essays

Calling the Pen: Buck Showalter writes a letter to Baltimore

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

When I met with Andy MacPhail about the Orioles job, I knew Baltimore was a great baseball city. I knew what the tenor was like, I knew what the atmosphere was like.

When I was at ESPN, I was at peace with my life. It was a great time. My son was a senior in high school and I was a groundskeeper for his team when he played center field, and I enjoyed it.

I don’t call and solicit. I don’t network. It’s very disrespectful when people currently have a job. I don’t want X to get fired. I want guys to keep their job. I want everybody to be successful.

Being around Andy for about a half-hour, I knew that we shared a real connection about doing things right and trying to put something together that stands the test of time. The test of time is five or six years in today’s game. It could have been more, but that’s the subject for another day.

I had an open line of communication with Mr. Angelos and his family, and we shared a love of the Orioles. It helped get things done.

There’s not a meanness in the fans. One thing they want is for the Orioles to be good. I remember coming in there with the Yankees and with the Rangers, and there was always a really good atmosphere with the fans. They wanted the home team to win. There was a home-field atmosphere. You talk to other players coming in to play there, and baseball was the focus.

There weren’t a lot of the other bells and whistles. It was pure baseball. The fans would get on the other team, but there wasn’t that real edge to it. The ballpark fit the city and the city fit the ballpark.

Baltimore’s got a great blue-collar feel to it. I knew that it kind of fit what I was looking for, a place that you could sink your teeth into and feel like you could make an impact and was in need of what you had the potential to bring.

One of the missing things there was the consistency of message and an identity that I wanted and they wanted, and following through on it. People in Baltimore are drawn to sincerity, and they can smell phoniness.

A lot of people fight it, but you’ve got a real conduit to the fan. You have to do MASN before and after every game, all season. You’ve got to embrace it. It is part of your job, but it’s got to be a labor of love.

You know you’re talking about something that’s very important to people and you’ve got to take very seriously. I think the fans felt like I and we were as serious about the Orioles as they were. It’s not just someplace you’re passing through.

That’s why it’s so important to make that commitment to Baltimore and to the city and be up to date with news about what’s going on in Baltimore.

I always enjoyed going around the country talking about the virtues of Baltimore, some of the great things that we have there. I think a lot of people that grew up in Baltimore respected that and knew that I was trying to do what’s best for Baltimore.

Whether it’s the Ravens, whether it’s the University of Maryland, whether it’s Navy, whether it’s talking about what a great hospital Johns Hopkins is, there’s a lot of great things to offer there, Fells Point, Little Italy. I can take you to a bad part of every city, and I can take you to a great part of every city. Baltimore’s no different.

We loved where we lived. We had a pasture. I miss just having a place to come home to. We made a commitment there. We moved there, we committed there, lived there nine months a year. It was a commitment to everything.

We miss our neighbors, the things that most people do. Each time we were in the playoffs, our neighbors left notes on our gate wishing us luck. They were supportive yet respectful of our privacy, and we’re grateful for that.

I enjoyed the drive in. I had about two or three different routes. You miss the fans. I miss the rides home after a real good day game win at home. That was always fun.

I’ll miss Angela’s commitment to everything that goes with a manager’s wife. We were a true team.

I’m going to miss my son, Nathan, and daughter-in-law, Rebecca. Nathan is staying with the Orioles as a trusted scout, and I’m very happy about that.

Two or three weeks a year, Angela and I would drive to the sunflower fields not far from where we lived. It was so beautiful, it took our breath away.

I miss a lot of people with the Orioles, people I interacted with every day, a parking attendant, the clubhouse guys, support people, ushers you get to know through the years, relationships that you develop.

There’s nothing like a fall day when the leaves are turning and it’s starting to get a little cooler. I’ll never go through that and not think about Opening Day and the playoffs in October.

Those are things you’re going to miss. You’re going to miss a good weather day game when we played well, we played crisp, get into the car and drive at about 5 mph down Pratt Street looking at all the people in black and orange and realizing that you may have been a part of making a good memory for somebody and their family.

After Sunday day games, we’d stop and get snowballs behind the gas station on the drive home, and I’m going to miss that.

I think I’ll miss how much the fans embrace players from the past. They know who Chris Hoiles is. They know who Mike Bordick is, and what they did.

I understand the shelf life of a manager. Eight-and-a-half years in one place, well, that doesn’t happen anymore in sports, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

Fans in Baltimore have a long memory. They realize with good times, sometimes come challenging times. It’s not a what have you done for me lately world there all the time. I think they just want to know there’s better days ahead. It’s kind of like life.

Editor’s Note: When Orioles writer Rich Dubroff contacted Buck Showalter about reflecting on his time in Baltimore, the first thing the former Orioles manager said was, “What’s going on with Harbaugh?” The Ravens had just lost their third in a row, and Harbaugh calmly answered questions about whether he was concerned about his job. Showalter and Harbaugh developed a friendship during their time together in Baltimore, sharing the bond that comes with the expectation of producing a winner with the two teams fans care about most. Showalter became one of those fans who wants to see the Ravens do well, but a bigger concern is Harbaugh’s status. It’s personal, in a way that only he understands.

Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s “Calling the Pen,” a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to ‘Calling the Pen,” send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.

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45 Comments

45 Comments

  1. mike3764

    November 9, 2018 at 7:10 am

    And we will miss you Buck Showalter! You helped to bring back a culture of winning to this team that was long lost. A down-to-earth guy, with a passion for what he does will always be a success in Baltimore (or anywhere else for that matter). Your attention to detail, commitment and passion will certainly be missed. I hope to one day see you return to a ceremony where your statue is placed with all the other greats from the Orioles’ past. Enjoy your family time and know that no one here in Baltimore will forget your impact here.

  2. deqalt

    November 9, 2018 at 7:20 am

    Just terrific Rich thank you so much! What a gift to hear those things. Never wanted to lose him. Why would you ever let someone who believed in Baltimore so much go! You reward loyalty not let it go.

  3. karks

    November 9, 2018 at 7:41 am

    So classy – you wouldn’t expect anything different from Buck. I’ll always be thankful for the memories he helped build with the O’s.

  4. Mau

    November 9, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Thanks Buck!

  5. 5brooks5

    November 9, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Thank YOU Buck! You will be missed! God Bless

  6. Joseph Volz

    November 9, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Thanks Buck. You were thrown under the bus for Duquette tanking the team.

    • Pablocruz

      November 10, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      WRONG!! Buck was just as responsible for the team tanking as anyone. His continued support and use of Chris Davis had a terrible effect on the morale of the team and fans. His refusal to use the best closer in the game, at that time, in the playoff game in Toronto led to the resulting downfall of the team!! He also allowed Manny and Jones to dictate how and when they would be used. Pathetic and the reason he lost the team clubhouse and his job.

      • VICTORTEE

        November 12, 2018 at 10:16 am

        You are the one who is pathetic. Even if Zack had not given up a run in Toronto in his one or two innings how do you know we would a scored a run to win the game?

        I hope your boss (if you have a job) or your customers (if you own a business) hold you to the same level of perfection you hold Buck to.
        I know Buck has 100X the class you do from reading his letter and your post.

  7. Dan L.

    November 9, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Thank You so much for what you did for the Orioles. I’m a 59 year old lifelong fan that lives in Cecil County. I’ll never forget “studying” your face when you were making decisions. You really know the game of baseball and I wish your family nothing but the best. My Orioles hat is off to you sir!

  8. DevoTion

    November 9, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Once again thank you Buck! Your a class act!

  9. Kyle J. Andrews

    November 9, 2018 at 9:53 am

    Buck,

    It’s always been a great time talking to you since I began working with the Orioles in 2011 as a groundskeeper. You always had so much respect for what we did and would stop by just to congratulate on a job well done. A 17-year old kid would remember that for the rest of his life and luckily for me, it wasn’t the last time that I’d enjoy your kindness. In 2017, I began to cover the Orioles for a FOX radio station and you’d talk to us about the other sporting events going on: the NHL and NBA playoffs. You’re reverence for other games was great because it showed that you were like the rest of us. On top of it all, you would always answer the tough questions through the long grind of a 162-game season. Hats off to anyone who can accomplish that and hats off to you Buck for a career well-spent in Baltimore.

  10. VICTORTEE

    November 9, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Buck’s letter brought tears to my eyes. I wish he could have retired as an Oriole, whether as a
    manager or as a top executive.

    Good luck and best wishes Buck. Thanks for everything you did for the O’s.

  11. Jayh33

    November 9, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Great job, I will miss Buck. Brilliant baseball man. This letter really hits home how good of a person he is.

  12. bmorebirds

    November 9, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Could we please see a copy of the letter Buck forwarded to Dan Duquette? Oh yeah, forgot this is a family publication . . .

  13. Devereauxisunderit

    November 9, 2018 at 10:04 am

    “I like our guys” was a statement that cemented your status as a true coach and leader of that team. It made you hands down my favorite manager since I moved to Maryland and started following baseball and the Orioles in 1991. You were nothing like how the critics described you before your arrival. You were the most evolved version of a highly experienced and fully invested manager. No one had seen that from you before. The players and fans bought in immediately. The city and the team were so lucky to have you. That you miss the landscapes and personal connections from your Baltimore home speaks to your humanity and will forever make you a beloved local. Thanks to you and your family for your commitment to the Orioles and this fan base.

  14. SamDalton

    November 9, 2018 at 11:35 am

    I appreciate everything about Buck Showalter. How he handled the team in victory and defeat. His commitment to the community. His humility – a rarity in the world of sports. His understanding of baseball and appreciation for baseball history in general and Oriole history in particular. His unwillingness to cast blame. His press conferences and the folksy way he made them entertaining. His ability to change the losing culture to a winning culture immediately. His love for kids and those who have serious illnesses. His commitment to a city that he did not grow up in. His obvious love for his family. His appreciation for the opportunity he had to manage. His baseball acumen for the nuances of the game.

    My positive impressions of him have not diminished with the tanking of the team. And I do not agree with his removal. I feel he is the ideal manager for the Orioles and I wish they had retained his services. Everyone seems to be commenting, he is a class act.

    They are right.

  15. boss61

    November 9, 2018 at 11:47 am

    Buck, you brought such joy to a new generation of Orioles fans. Many of us wanted your tenure to continue. Many thanks for the memories.

  16. PA Bird Lover

    November 9, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    I’ll miss Buck more than any one player he guided. I would yelp out loud if he was chosen GM.

  17. Osfaninnc

    November 9, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I am one who hoped Buck would/could somehow be back, but knew it probably wasn’t to be. He was a class act and in my mind still a very good manager. I think he got more out of this club faster than anyone thought would happen. Many on various O’s blog say over and over the game has passed him by. I don’t believe it for a second. He knows this game and can still be very effective. I’m not sure what happened this year, but I don’t believe any manager could have won with this team, this year. I wish him well in whatever he decides moving forward. As many have said here—Thanks for the memories

  18. AvisOsFan

    November 9, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    My wife and I have been AVID Orioles fans for many years, she having grown up here and I having loved the O’s since the days of Boog, Brooks, and a pitcher named Palmer. There were a lot of great years in the 1960’s through the last championship in 1983 that I followed despite living in Virginia. When Buck came in 2010 after all the down years and losing, it was immediately different. He won over his players and instilled a family atmosphere in the clubhouse while exuding nothing but class, He taught his players to win and play the game the right way, the Oriole way. I know my wife and I bought in, we went to quite a few games over the past 9 seasons and watched every game we did not attend which always included Buck’s wonderful post game comments no matter how late they came on. We are NOT happy that Buck will not be back, so we will give up our season tickets. Thank you Buck, you will be sorely missed! We will wear our Showalter jerseys with pride, hopefully you will be in the Orioles hall of fame soon and out in Legends park where you belong for restoring a winning team to Baltimore. The powers that be soon forgot, but Baltimore will never forget you! God Bless you and your family!

  19. HOF19

    November 9, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Have a feeling we might miss you more than you know…… As Mr, Bob Hope sang so often “Thanks for the Memories ” Buck . Good health and good fortune the rest of your way !

  20. TCParkville

    November 9, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to write to the fans! It certainly came from the heart. Unfortunately the Orioles got away from the philosophy that made them successful, good pitching and good defense. Same as the Raven’s. They’ve gotten away from building great defensive teams that made them successful.
    We would love if you stayed in Maryland and maybe come out to a few games and meet the fans. Brooks hung around. Good Luck Buck.

  21. OrioleMo8

    November 9, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    To Buck: I have been an O’s fan since I was 10 & lived right near Memorial Stadium. I thought Earl Weaver was a God. When you came to Baltimore, I thought YOU were up there with Earl. You brought excitement, class and fun to Orioles fans and we immediately loved you for that. I was really hoping you would stay here, but I guess the front office had better ideas. They don’t always, I think. I just wanted you to know how much you meant to me and my sister. I wish you ALL the very best and I hope you are still in baseball in some capacity, so we can follow you. BE well, take care and stop back in “Bawlmer” once in awhile so we can say hey!

  22. SallyE

    November 9, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    I love you Buck!

  23. Chipper

    November 9, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Thank you, Buck! I thought the Orange and Black Of Crab Cake Corners we’re going to get you your first ring – something you so rightly deserve! Perhaps in the not-too-distant future that will become a reality. You are one of the best managers in Oriole history. All the best to you and your family, and once again, thank you, Mr. Showalter.

  24. Birdman

    November 9, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Enjoyed the warm and thoughtful comments from Buck. A truly class guy. Unfortunately, Buck’s departure was probably inevitable after the 2017-2018 decline of the team, even though that decline can be attributed to the dysfunctional ownership and front office, not to Buck.

  25. BirdsCaps

    November 9, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    I am very grateful for the “Buck Years.” Growing up during the post-Ripken rebuild was tough for a baseball fan. Seeing the team do well in ’11 and the miracle of a playoff birth in’12 was baseball heaven. While I always had an unwavering love for the game, watching competitive baseball from the birds was a beautiful thing. While I (and a lot of other fans) complained (and screamed at the television) about pitching decisions in the Toronto wild card game, Buck will always be the guy who managed the team into an excellent 5 year stretch. With the rebuild commencing, I think the memories of the Buck years will bring him into folk hero status. Also, when he decides to hang up the spikes could there be a place for a buck owned food vendor on Eutaw Street? With the institution of Boogs and the Dempsey’s restaurant, there might be enough room for Bucks burgers or beers. No matter what, the buck years were a blast.

  26. jkneps63

    November 9, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Okay Buck is a super guy and a class act, but a 115 loss season? Sorry but that turned (soured) my opinion of Buck as a manager quite a bit and am glad he won’t be coming back.

    • Pablocruz

      November 10, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      Amen!! Highly overrated. He’ll never get another managerial job in mlb.

    • Bhoffman1

      November 10, 2018 at 6:53 pm

      Your so right. He was a embarrassment as a manager from September 2017 to October 2018. Hired the worse coaches and just did everything wrong from top to bottom

    • VICTORTEE

      November 12, 2018 at 10:19 am

      And all the bad hitting, bad pitching and bad fielding by the O’s was Buck’s fault? And if you say he put them in the lineup maybe you can tell me who he had that was better.

  27. 5brooks5

    November 9, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    Talk about missing the point, the last post is a true example. It’s not about losses it’s about perception, and someone’s gut feelings. Sorry you can’t see that, mores the pity!

    • jkneps63

      November 10, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      It’s not about perception, nor is it about a feel-good group hug over a nice letter Buck wrote, it’s about doing the job one is paid to do and Buck failed miserably at his job last season. Buck is a super guy, a class act, cared a lot about the community, and he wrote a nice letter, but he was a very poor manager last season so I am glad he won’t be coming back. He apparently isn’t much of a coach for struggling or younger players and isn’t a strong motivator either; basically he can lead a playoff caliber team to the playoffs, I don’t find that out of the ordinary.

      • VICTORTEE

        November 12, 2018 at 10:24 am

        So the O’s were a “play-off caliber team” before Buck became the manager???? HA! HA! HA!

        Do you remember the 14 straight losing seasons before he came to town?

        I’m SURE the O’s will get a better manager than Buck! Maybe you can apply for the job.

    • Bhoffman1

      November 11, 2018 at 9:36 pm

      Perception and gut feelings brought you the worst record in MLB and one of the worst seasons in the history of the sport .

  28. blackorange

    November 10, 2018 at 8:55 am

    First year as O’s fan was 1966, saw ’70 and ’83 championships and all the great teams in between. Loved those teams and all our great players. But none of it compared to the feeling I had in 2012 when Buck led us back. I really couldn’t believe it was happening. I recall being in the centerfield bar with my brother and nephew, both also lifelong O’s fans, and we did the famous Jim Mora “Playoffs…Playoffs?!” We videoed it and sent it to my son at college. I used to show my son the AL standings fro 1969, 1970… with Baltimore atop New York and Boston… he didn’t think we’d see that again… then came 2014. What a great run Buck!! Thank you and God bless you and your family.

  29. GSISDANNO

    November 10, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    There has always been a special connection between Buck and Baltimore. He was the perfect manager and the perfect person for Baltimore. I will always be grateful for how he turned this franchise around and made baseball fun in Baltimore again. Letting him go was a major mistake by whomever made the decision.

  30. Eldersburg Enigma

    November 10, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    This is sad. We’re two weeks past the World Series and the organization still lacks leadership and structure, so there’s nothing left to do but reminisce. There’s been hope about the ownership post-Peter but that’s quickly eroding.

  31. Bhoffman1

    November 10, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    If you love Baltimore so much Buck I’m sure you have enough money to keep your house and have a nice retirement here.

  32. Susan

    November 10, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you Buck and Family for all your dedication to the Orioles and Baltimore. It was added sadness to see your contract not renewed. It was already a rough year watching the players we LOVE struggle. Didnt need to end the season losing you. Best of luck. God’s speed.

  33. Charles Bernstein

    November 10, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    Dear Mr. Showalter,

    I have never written a fan letter to anyone in my almost 79 years, but I had to write this one.

    I have been an Oriole fan back to their Triple A days. I was there for Opening Day in 1954 and most of them since. To me, Opening Day is the equivalent of a religious holiday and absences from work or school are excused, indeed encouraged.

    I mention the above, not to impress you with my dotage, but to tell you that I have some perspective on baseball in this town and what you have added to it. Simply stated you gave us a great few years after a long, horrid period of losing. Not only did you give us a winner, but you fit this town well. I always had the feeling that you liked it here and you felt you belonged here. You do. Frankly, I wish you were staying to start the re-build, but that is not my decision.

    Leave town knowing that your work was appreciated and I know you will have success for whomever is smart enough to hire you. Wish it were us, but someone smart will.

    Thank you for what you brought to this otherwise beleaguered town.

    P.S. Like many others I went to the last game to say good bye to you and Mr Jones. Hope he returns or it is going to be a real tough 2019…..but I will be there regardless and following you two
    wherever you might be.

    Charles G. Bernstein

    • David7Oriolefan

      November 12, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      Been a diehard since ’70. Pitching, defense and the 3 run homer baby! Need to get back to that simple philosophy. Simply have the best defense, the best pitching and guys who get on base. With that comes guys who have the mentality, like Palmer, Brooks, Frank etc had, that said “not gonna get beat by these guys, at least not on my watch!” Agree with all of the pro and anti Buck sentiment expressed above. In short, life is complicated. And for God’s sake get a management team in place! One that will hire the right coaches and work with management to bring in the next champions! Go Birds of Baltimore!

  34. JimB

    November 13, 2018 at 7:03 am

    I have nothing but the highest regard for Buck Showalter. As most who have commented have said he is a class person who brought respectable baseball back to Baltimore after 14 years in the wilderness. When he arrived in Baltimore, he had to set a turn and show the players how to play Major League Baseball . He immediately did so. I do not believe that he should be held solely accountable for the misery of this past season and would have preferred keeping him to see through the rebuilding. The best organizations have stability in the important leadership roles. I am very sorry to see Buck go and of course wish him all the best.

  35. Gdmartin

    November 13, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    We are all hopeful here in your hometown of Century Florida that you will return , it’s been a long time. We are all proud of you and your accomplishments.

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