Phil Itzoe Tribute: Which road stadium would you like to visit for an O's game?
Nothing beats the winter blues like talking baseball.
It surely helped Thursday, when we discussed why we loved the sport. Another reason I didn’t mention previously is that I love baseball because it has such a tight-knit fraternity.
On Wednesday, that fraternity lost a cherished brother: Phil Itzoe, the Orioles’ long-time traveling secretary who died after a lengthy illness. It seems like I’m writing about baseball deaths way too often these days.
This one definitely hit home. For many of you, Phil was just a name you heard on the radio when announcers chatted about their travel arrangements.
Phil was more to me. He was one of the first people I met when I began covering the Orioles as a full-time, traveling beat writer for the York Daily Record in 2001.
Phil and I shared several common bonds: We both started our sportswriting careers at The York Dispatch, albeit three decades apart. We often ended up at the same church for mass on Sunday mornings on the road before heading to the ballpark, occasionally comparing mass times on Saturday evenings. Also, Phil was not only a loving and doting father, he was a smart one. He sent his son to Calvert Hall, my alma mater.
So there were plenty of reasons for me to bond with Phil. But I needed no excuses; he was one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve met in this game.
I have a bunch of Phil stories, but here’s my favorite:
One year in spring training we were in Jupiter, Fla., when O’s PR director Bill Stetka announced that Green Bay Packers’ GM Ron Wolf was at the Orioles’ exhibition game.
Stetka told us Wolf was there as a guest of Itzoe’s. Stetka added that Phil and Wolf were football teammates and graduated together from Susquehannock High School in Glen Rock. The guys in the press box chided me, because they knew I was going to write it, since the York angle was always something I paid attention to at the Daily Record.
So I included it as the last item of my spring training notebook, just a throw-away line that Wolf was there as a guest of his old teammate and fellow Susquehannock alum.
About 7 a.m. the next morning, the emails started flooding in, letting me know that Phil was a proud graduate of York Catholic High School. He had transferred from Susquehannock and graduated from York Catholic.
I probably received two dozen emails for that one ill-informed sentence. I wrote a correction, and was fined $1 by our press kangaroo court for “Falling for Stetka’s Phil Itzoe ruse.”
When I retold the story to Phil, he released one of his trademark hearty laughs and then put his arm around me and said, “Dan, if I knew it was going to cause you that much trouble, I never would have transferred.”
Classic Phil. Great sense of humor. Great man.
So let’s raise our glasses to an Orioles’ Hall-of-Famer and wish him Godspeed.
And let’s dedicate the Think Special today to the man who likely piled up more travel miles watching baseball than anyone else in the game’s history.
I want to know if you could pick any road stadium to watch an Orioles’ away game, which one would it be? Would you pick a classic like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, or would you go with a newer one with a less rabid fan base?
If you’ve had a particularly good or bad Orioles’ road experience, share that, too.
Daily Think Special: Which road ballpark would you most like to visit for an Orioles’ game?