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Claire: O's want to be in Angels' shoes

Claire: O's want to be in Angels' shoes

If ever two Major League organizations seemed headed in opposite directions, it would be the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Angels.

Entering Tuesday night's games, the Orioles had won 19 games and the Angels more than twice as many, 39.

This isn't about a one-season assessment, however. It's about more than a decade of results and how two organizations seemed to have switched roles.

The once stable and successful Orioles are in their 13th consecutive losing season and the losses have topped 90 during the past four seasons, with a total of 98 last year.

There have been six managers in Baltimore the past dozen seasons and the team now is searching for a new man to lead the club, as Juan Samuel holds the position on an interim basis after Dave Trembley was dismissed earlier this month.

It's a stark contrast to the Angels, who have Mike Scioscia as their skipper in his 11th season.

The Angels are looking for their fourth consecutive postseason appearance under Scioscia and the seventh in the past eight years.

It is the type of winning run the Orioles experienced when they had one manager, Earl Weaver, from 1969-1982. During his tenure, the Orioles won six Eastern Division titles, four American League pennants and a World Series championship in 1970.

The Orioles are searching desperately to get back to those winning days of Weaver, and they will attempt to reconnect with their past glory when they honor the 1970 team in a celebration this Saturday.

One of the former star players in attendance will be Bobby Grich, 61, who has spent his professional life in baseball with only two organizations -- the Orioles and the Angels.

Grich knew the Baltimore organization when it was at its best, when there was an "Orioles' Way" of doing things and that meant great scouting and player development and winning teams at the Major League level.

"Just as important to all of the things that happened on the field, there was a real sense of family. A sense of pride of being a member of the Orioles," says Grich.

Grich has fond memories of his days with the Orioles. He was drafted out of Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif., in 1967 as the team's No. 1 selection and shot through the Orioles' system so fast, he ended up playing in 30 games for the World Series champion team of 1970.

"It seemed to me the Orioles had a real plan in those days, and it started with good scouts who seemed to be on the same page," Grich said. "There was an emphasis on skilled athletes and there was high priority on a winning-team attitude.

"The Orioles weren't a flamboyant organization, but they were rock solid with genuine people in scouting, player development and in the front office.

"I'll never forget the general manager, Harry Dalton, because he set the tone by treating everyone with great respect. He seemed to trust his scouts, and he hired great people to run the player development system."

In a touch of irony in view of all that has happened, Dalton left the Orioles after the 1971 season to become the general manager of the Angels.

When Grich became a free agent after the 1976 season, having established himself as a star second baseman, he headed home to Southern California as a free agent to sign with the Angels.

"I was excited about the opportunity to sign with the Angels and return home, but I knew things were going to be different," recalled Grich.

"The team wasn't winning in those days and there was a lot of turnover on all levels."

When Grich was in his first year with the Angels in 1977, he recalls that he was asked by the team's batboy what it was that had made the Orioles so successful.

"I replied that the Orioles created an atmosphere where the players felt like they were part of a family. That there was a sense of unity of the players and of the organization," says Grich.

Grich could not realize at the time that his conversation with a batboy would have an impact on the Angels organization.

The batboy was Kevin Uhlich, who worked his way through the Angel organization, and in 2002, was named the club's senior vice president of business operations.

One of Uhlich's first acts in his new role was to call Grich into his office and talk about a conversation that had been held between a batboy and a player.

A plan was launched to help advance the feeling of the Angels family with former players being honored and various alumni activities scheduled throughout the year.

"Our owner, Arte Moreno, has embraced and helped to direct all of the ideas that have created a feeling of family in the Angel organization," says Grich.

"It seems as though everything has developed for the Angels on and off the field. We have a winning team, and we have been able to scout and develop our own players and with that we have brought former players back into the fold to help promote our history."

The Angels have discovered the joy of what the Orioles once knew, and hope to find again.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as Executive Vice-President and general manager. He is the author of "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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