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Bad Sports

By Eileen Murphy | Posted 10/13/1999

To sports fans, it was no shock when Orioles manager Ray Miller lost his job Oct. 7, but it may have surprised some media-watchers when The Washington Post broke the story a day before The Sun. While The Sun waited for an official announcement about Miller's job status, the Post had the news that a provision of Miller's contract had already made the manager's firing automatic—news that, according to Peter Gammons of The Boston Globe and ESPN was leaked to the Post by O's owner Peter Angelos himself, complete with a faxed copy of the contract.

If the O's did deliberately send the scoop south, it would be just another salvo in a long war between Baltimore's ball club and its daily paper. In November 1994, Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote of Angelos' overreaction to blasts from The Sun's critical but hardly bloodthirsty sportswriters: "Already this week, one Baltimore columnist annoyed Angelos so much that he issued a two-page press release . . . as a counterattack." Other members of the O's brass have shown themselves to be similarly thin-skinned: This past May, then-public-relations director John Maroon fired off an indignant letter to Sun sportswriter Milton Kent. Maroon's complaint? Media critic Kent had criticized the media, specifically O's broadcasters Jim Hunter and Fred Manfra. Maroon's five-paragraph letter took Kent to task for, well, doing his job.

But the Post getting the scoop on Miller's dumping doesn't suggest intrigue to Molly Dunham, The Sun's assistant managing editor for sports. "We're just kicking ourselves that we didn't get the story. We made every attempt to reach Angelos as the season ended and Miller's fate was up in the air," Dunham says. "We never got a return call. As far as why [the Post] got the story and we didn't, I can't really say."

Dunham declined to comment on whether the paper's relationship with the Orioles is hostile, but says it is "definitely adversarial, and I prefer that to the alternative. I wouldn't characterize our relationship with any [sports organization] as warm."

The Orioles may be battling with The Sun, but the Post hasn't exactly been management's closest ally. Boswell has been one of Angelos' fiercest critics for years, and since the D.C. paper broke the Miller story he's penned two pointed columns on Angelos' meddling in his team's front-office affairs.

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