The next time you sit down to listen to an Orioles game, it’s going to sound a lot different than the last time you listened to an Orioles game and different from most every Orioles game you’ve listened to for the last 15 years. The retirement of longtime Orioles radio broadcaster Joe Angel is another change to absorb for this season along with all of the other new things about the O’s.
A whole lot has happened to the Orioles, bad and good, since Angel took over broadcasting duties full-time in 2004. He got to call some highs and lows in his first stint here, too, when he was Jon Miller’s broadcast partner for the 1988 and 1989 seasons, as well as calling the Camden Yards inaugural season of 1992 before his career took him elsewhere for a while. It’s a big chunk of your life no matter how old you are.
If you’re a religious radio listener, you probably have a mental catalog of Angel’s calls of some of the biggest moments of recent years. When the Orioles stormed back and destroyed the Red Sox season on the last game in 2011, when Chris Davis pitched in Fenway in 2012, when Delmon Young doubled in 2014, among a whole lot of other great games, Angel was there on the microphone.
I don’t listen to the radio for most games, so I don’t have a catalog of Angel’s greatest calls right off the top of my head. Baseball, as you’ve probably noticed, has a whole lot of less-significant things happening between the huge moments, so if you’re listening to the radio or watching on TV, you probably have just as many memories of silly, meaningless moments. It’s these that I recall the best, and will miss the most, as Angel retires.
For me, Angel’s voice, and the soundtrack of Orioles games generally, will always be synonymous with the great power of being able to listen to whatever you want on the radio when you’re driving the car. With scattered exceptions for late-inning disgust in the last couple of years, if I’ve been at the wheel during an O’s game, I’ve been listening in, and nearly every one of those games have been called by Angel.
I’ve never spoken to Joe Angel and I probably never will, but he’s spoken to me plenty of times when I was driving around somewhere to tell me something great or horrible or dumb and random that happened during an O’s game.
Take this game: April 25, 2005. I remember it because, walking out of a night class in college, I first felt that “I could go ANYWHERE and do ANYTHING right now!” feeling. In a fit of responsibility, I drove home, on account of having class again the next morning, and my “do anything” was listening to the Orioles play the Red Sox.
The O’s won that night, it turns out - 2005 was good until June - but the thing I remember is Angel narrating something ridiculous: “We’re going to get a brief delay in play here. There’s an extra man on the field... and he’s not in uniform.” Angel kept calling him an idiot in a voice that dripped with disgust.
The next year, I spent the summer out of state to try to make something work out with a girl. It did not work out. Towards the end of that summer, I found myself driving home with a car full of stuff, missing Maryland, missing the Orioles. The very minute I crossed into Maryland, I tuned the radio to 1090 AM. When I was at the top of a hill, I could hear things. Between hills, there was static. I kept the station on for the static because the O’s were my first connection to home in months.
The date was August 22, 2006. I remember this because Nick Markakis hit three home runs and every time he hit a home run, I was at the top of a hill and could actually hear it happen. It was a surreal experience, one where I was not entirely convinced that I wasn’t dreaming it all. Brian Roberts and Corey Patterson also homered when I was near the top of a hill that night, and Adam Loewen pitched eight innings of one-run ball. It’s the only time in Markakis’s career he ever hit three bombs in one game.
Those were fun wins, with lovely totals, as Angel surely said on those nights. There have been a lot of not-so-lovely totals, too. I don’t remember why I was driving around on Saturday, April 17, 2010, but I had the radio on as the Orioles blew a ninth inning lead in Oakland to fall to 1-11. Even the 2018 Orioles went 4-8 through as many games.
It was a stupid loss even by the standards of recent and past dark Orioles seasons. The winning run reached base on a wild pitch during a strikeout and eventually two runs scored on a single after an intentional walk loaded the bases. Would-be closer Jim Johnson got just one out, an out the A’s gave him with a sacrifice bunt. As the walkoff run crossed the plate, a bewildered Angel reached right into my heart and said: “The Orioles lose AGAIN, and I am ready for a straitjacket!” Weren’t we all?
There’s not much reason for anyone else to remember these particular moments or games. I kinda like it that way: It’s almost like I had Joe all to myself at those times. I feel older just knowing that there won’t be any new random Joe Angel moments going into my memory.
It’s frequently been a poor decision to listen to an Orioles game in my adult life, it must be said. They’ve lost a whole lot more than they’ve won. Not that I root for this team because they have to win for me to like them. I root for them because they’re the Orioles, because I was born here, and my dad was born here and rooted for them, and his dad was born here and rooted for them when they came to town.
If your Orioles fandom is like mine and it came down from a Baltimore-born parent, you probably grew up hearing about the days of Chuck Thompson proclaiming, “Ain’t the beer cold!” The meaning of that one is obvious. “Go to war, Miss Agnes!” is not obvious, yet I still think it when the O’s do something awesome even though I don’t have any specific memory of listening to Thompson call an O’s game.
Angel’s go-to celebratory phrases are no less a part of the O’s fan lexicon now and forever: “Wave that baby bye-bye!” and “The Orioles are in the WIN column!” and “We’ll be back with the lovely totals.” We’re lucky we had him around for as long as we did.
Thanks, Joe, for all of the memories. Driving around during baseball season will not be the same without you.