The great sports lives they led -

Rich Dubroff

The great sports lives they led

Photo credit of Joe Altobelli: USA Today Sports

As 2021 draws to a close, it’s remarkable how many Baltimore sports figures were lost.

Earlier this month, Roland Hemond, their general manager from 1988-1995 who spent nearly seven decades in baseball, died at 92. Eddie Robinson, the oldest living major leaguer, who played the final four games of his long career with the team in 1957 and later served as a coach, died in October at 100.

Last week, Kimera Bartee, who was drafted by the Orioles and was the Detroit Tigers’ first base coach, died suddenly at 49. Pitcher Richie Lewis, who began his major league career in 1992 with the Orioles and ended it with them in 1998, died earlier this month at 55.

Longtime infielder Jorge Lugo, who played for the Orioles in 2010, also died unexpectedly in November at 45.

All-Star reliever Doug Jones, who was the Orioles’ closer in 1994, was a victim of Covid-19 this year. So was Ron Johnson, their engaging Triple-A manager at Norfolk for seven seasons.

Grant Jackson, who pitched for the Orioles against the Pirates in 1971 World Series and against the Orioles for the Pirates in the 1979 Series, also died of Covid.

Two Oriole managers died this year — Joe Altobelli, who managed the last Orioles’ World Series-winning team in 1983, and Ray Miller, who had three iterations as the team’s pitching coach and two years as manager.

In 1982, Miller watched as Don Sutton, who died in January, pitched against Jim Palmer in the final game of the season, winning the AL East title for the Milwaukee Brewers against the Orioles.

Bob Brown, who revolutionized the job of public relations by compiling batter vs. pitcher matchups for Earl Weaver, died at the tail end of last year.


Vi Ripken, who was the wife of Orioles manager Cal Ripken Sr., and the mother of Cal Jr. and Billy Ripken, died earlier this year, too.

Bernie Walter never coached major league ball but made a huge impact in the state. His Arundel High School teams won 10 state championships and the most games by a public school. Denny Neagle, who played for him, had a fine career as a major league pitcher.

It was a sad year for old Baltimore Colts and Bullets, too.

Tom Matte was a terrific halfback who filled in as quarterback in 1965 when Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo were hurt and nearly guided the Colts to the NFL title. Matte, who was also a longtime broadcaster for the Ravens, died in November at 82.

Dick Szymanski, Matte’s teammate, who was a center and linebacker and later the team’s general manager, died just five days before at 89.

The last surviving head coach of the Baltimore Colts, Howard Schnellenberger, who had a brief tenure in Baltimore that ended in 1974 when owner Robert Irsay fired him when he refused to change quarterbacks during a game, died in March. He had a glorious college coaching career.

Bob Ferry played for the Bullets in Baltimore and went on to serve as their general manager for 17 years. His 1978 team won the franchise’s only NBA World Championship.

Slick Leonard, who was best known as the longtime coach and broadcaster for the Indiana Pacers, was the first coach of the Baltimore Bullets when they moved here from Chicago in 1963. He left us in April at 88.

Jim Phelan, who coached Mount St. Mary’s to 830 wins, including a Division II National Championship in 1962, died in June at 92. Phelan won 830 games at the Mount, but sadly isn’t in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He’s been nominated again this year.

Mel Antonen, an outstanding baseball writer who spent years with USA Today and, died after a painful illness in January at 64. Jeff Seidel, a longtime Baltimore and Washington area writer, who covered almost anything imaginable, died of cancer at 59 in August.

Ted Patterson, who was a longtime area radio and television broadcaster and had an amazing collection of memorabilia, also died this year.

Last, but certainly not least, Paul Salata is gone, too. Salata, who died in October, a day short of 95, played for the Baltimore Colts of the All-American Football Conference as a wide receiver in 1950. That’s not why he’s notable. Salata invented the “Mr. Irrelevant” award, which is presented annually to the last player selected in the NFL draft.

It’s fitting that in this year of great loss, Mr. Irrelevant is listed last.

Answers to Monday’s quiz: 1) Bob Melvin 2) Liam Hendriks 3) Grant Balfour 4) Both are Australians 5) Mark Conner 6) Rick Adair 7) Bill Castro 8) Arnie Beyeler 9) Six games from August 7th-13th, 2020 10) Chris Ellis 11) Alex Cobb 12) Jace Peterson 13) Dan Duquette said it about Adam Jones. 14) D Knight appeared in seven games 15) B Hart was an Orioles coach in 1988. 16) Phil Regan, who managed the Orioles in 1995 is 84. 17) The Orioles are 3-9 against the Chicago Cubs 18) A 19) Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson, and Gregg Olson 20) Roberts was named to two All-Star teams in 2005 and 2007, but never won a Gold Glove 21) Scott McGregor 22) Clay Dalrymple 23) Tanner Scott and Dillon Tate each had 62 appearances 24) Frank Tanana of the Detroit Tigers 25) A 26) Jeremy Guthrie on August 3rd, 2010 27), Jimmy Yacabonis on September 30th, 2018 28) Renato Núñez 29) C 30) The Atlanta Braves (three games) and the Chicago White Sox (seven)

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. Baltimore Castaway

    December 28, 2021 at 11:15 am

    Not the type to categorize “good years” or “bad years”, but I will be happy to kick 2021 in the behind as it heads out the door…although things can always get worse.

    Have to (once again) take up the case for Joe Altobelli. The fact that the Orioles did NOTHING to ever celebrate the fact that Joe was the last WS Winning Manager is a disgrace. I don’t want to hear the “well, he had so many good players on that team that anyone could have won that WS” BS. Joe Altobelli was a prince of a man, a great citizen, Husband, Father, Friend and a great Baseball Manager…period. The fact that certain people in this town lionize an uncouth, ignorant, foul-mouthed stew-bum continues to be a head-scratcher for me. That’s right–I said it.

    It is a disgrace in the same way that they kicked Rick Dempsey to-the-curb, that they won’t spend money to get World Class Broadcasters to make their fan’s viewing experience more interesting and enjoyable (not referring to Jim Palmer or Ben McDonald here either).

    Hoping that the Brothers get the team in good-enough shape to sell the team to Jim Davis and let the Franchise realize it’s former self as one of the jewels of the Sport.

    • TinLevelHallofShameCommenter

      December 28, 2021 at 2:21 pm

      I got your back whenever you take up the case for Joe Altobelli!

      You seemed a bit PO’d in today’s comment though in general. Come on 2022! Can’t get here soon enough IMO.

      Jim Davis? Had to look him up! #240 on Forbes list of wealthiest individuals, says he is a minority owner of the STL Cardinals and was only given a Philanthropy Score of 2 gasp! (2 out of 5)

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 28, 2021 at 3:33 pm

      Talking trash about the Earl of Baltimore? You’re getting a bit full of yourself BC. Yeah I said it. (Is that supposed to be a new catch phrase?). You’re not exactly Howard Cosell.

      • Baltimore Castaway

        December 28, 2021 at 5:02 pm

        Actually BRR, it’s a take-off on a phrase that Mark Levin uses….although Cosell surely could also have used it.

        And yes–I am talking Trash about the enormously over-rated smoke-hound late Manager. People who think he’s so wonderful and give no credit to Altobelli are very misguided–and that’s as nice a way of putting it as possible.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 28, 2021 at 6:25 pm

      I’m not sure how ‘overrated and smoke hound” can be as nice a way too put it as possible, and I don’t know what any criticism of Altobelli has to do with Weaver, but I DO that Weaver’s handling of those juggernaut teams was outstanding and just as important as any of the players he managed. Frankly calling him overrated is either folly or you simply wanting to stir the pot, especially with your play of the great Mark Levin’s phrase.

  2. IrishAl81

    December 28, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    Rich, thanks for the quiz. Some tough nuggets in there. Happy New Year!

  3. Buzz1979

    December 28, 2021 at 6:58 pm

    Joe won a WS with Earl’s team!

    • Baltimore Castaway

      December 28, 2021 at 7:08 pm

      So…I guess all those great players were scouted and signed and developed by Weaver?

      Weaver was a crass hillbilly of a man…

      Another example of the false idolatry ascribed to Weaver by long time Orioles Fans… totally misguided and false narrative.

      Dave Trembley would have won w those guys….

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 28, 2021 at 8:49 pm

      Buzz, Wow … just wow. I’d rather go to war with a crass hillbilly by my side long before an over educated PrimaDonna any day. Wow, just wow.

  4. Icterus fan

    December 28, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    Castaway, I would disagree with your assessment of Weaver, at least in terms of results. He was a hard boiled, old school curmudgeonly guy who demanded excellence on the field, so regarding execution of fundamentals (ie winning), I’ll take it. I also understand that those days are forever gone.

    With regard to your take on the broadcasting, let’s include radio too. It’s rather pitiful now; on some nights even hard to listen to, so I’m in agreement with you there.
    The fall from quality play by play broadcasting (particularly radio) has been quite noticeable.

    And yes, they douched Dempsey hard.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      December 28, 2021 at 7:20 pm

      The least Ownership can do for us people who pay a lot of money for MASN in our Cable Bills is to give us top notch Broadcasters….we all like McDonald and we all have great respect for Jim Palmer…but you are right– this is total amateur hour w the Radio Broadcast. There are World Class Broadcasters that would happily take the Orioles job—but you gotta them!!

      Funny how that works….

      Schlock is bad—–Great Announcing is Good… you can do this boys….

      I spend time in Florida in the Summer, they have been a bad team wayyyy more often than not… their play-by-play guy DeWayne Staats (who has been their PBP guy from the begining there) is surely Cooperstown-bound. If Mr. Cheapie Stu Sternberg is willing to pay for this level of talent, surely the Brothers can also….

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 28, 2021 at 8:41 pm

      Uh BC … the team is worst than the broadcasting. Let’s complain about it.

    • IrishAl81

      December 29, 2021 at 3:23 pm

      Jim Palmer consistently delivers insightful comments, except when he doesn’t… (To quote 22.)

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