Fans meet former Orioles outfielder Anderson

November 05, 2011|By ANDREW MASON |
  • Brady Anderson, a former Baltimore Orioles outfielder, shakes hands with Ed Baer of Hagerstown during an autograph signing Saturday at Hoffman Automotive in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Brady Anderson hit a team-record 50 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles in 1996 and made his third and final All-Star appearance in 1997 — and the Orioles haven’t had a winning season since.

That’s seemingly one of the reasons why a few hundred O’s fans waited in line to meet the former center fielder and get his autograph Saturday afternoon at Hoffman Automotive in Hagerstown. O’s fans certainly have learned to be patient over the last 14 years.

“I’m a huge Orioles fan. I’ve listened to all their games for years, even the last 14 years,” said Lois Gilbert, 78, of Hagerstown, who wore an Orioles cap to Saturday’s event.

“It’s very nice Brady came to visit Hagerstown,” she said. “We have so many good memories of that time. The team had so many good players then, and everybody liked Brady.”

Anderson, 47, who retired from baseball in 2002 after a 15-year career in the big leagues, came from his home in California to attend Hoffman’s open house. For two hours, he shook hands, signed baseballs and other memorabilia, posed for pictures and chatted with fans.

“It’s great. It makes me feel good,” said Anderson, who spent nearly his entire career with Baltimore. “I loved playing here, and when I come back, fans are always terrific to me, like they always have been.”

Anderson, much like his many fans, remains an ardent supporter of Baltimore.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m a supporter of the team, the city and I’m a Ravens fan. I couldn’t be a bigger supporter. And I hope to contribute to the team returning to winning again.”

Most of the children at Saturday’s event never saw Anderson play — or have experienced a winning Orioles season. But they seemed to trust their parents that getting to meet Anderson was a pretty neat opportunity.

“Anytime you can meet a sports figure, it’s exciting,” said Wayne Ambush of Hagerstown.

He and his wife, Carolyn, brought their sons Ty, 7, and Collin, 5, to meet Anderson.

“We’re all Orioles fans, always will be,” Ambush said.

Hoffman’s open house was a celebration of Chevrolet’s 100-year anniversary.

“We wanted to honor Chevrolet and have a birthday-party open house,” said Jennifer Suddith Stahl, Hoffman’s dealer and general manager. “We’ve been in business 86 years, and it’s nice to give back and bring the community together.”

She said her late father, Robert Suddith, Hoffman’s former dealer, would have enjoyed Saturday’s celebration.

“He passed in ’04, and he was a baseball buff and a real big Orioles fan,” Stahl said. “I grew up going to the stadium in Baltimore.”

Having an Oriole at the party was important to her.

“I didn’t want just any baseball player,” she said. “There are a lot of Orioles fans in Hagerstown and a lot of Brady Anderson fans. He had a great career.”

Anderson said he is optimistic the Orioles will return to their winning ways.

“You have to be realistic, too,” he said. “You are in the game’s toughest division. It’s not for the meek, the mighty American League East. The Yankees have over a $200 million payroll, and the Red Sox have the second highest payroll in the American League and outspend the average team by $90 million.

“Having said that, there are definitely ways teams can get better, should get better, will get better to close the gap. There are a few models out there — the A’s and Twins in the past, and currently the Rays — who show that every now and then a team without a massive payroll can break through and have some success.”

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