Manfra articlefeature--baltimore-orioles articlefeature--sports-media

Fred Manfra Says Goodbye

When Orioles radio play-by-play man Joe Angel turned the top of Sunday’s broadcast back to Fred Manfra, it may have marked the first time in 24 years that Manfra got top billing.

Too bad it was in his last game.

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Manfra, who retired from the Birds’ radio booth for medical reasons, played the role of second banana in his time behind the microphones here largely because of the Hall of Fame talent he has largely been paired with.

When Manfra took over in 1993, he worked with Jon Miller, the greatest baseball radio play-by-play announcer of his generation. And, in recent seasons, he’s been paired with Angel, who has a legitimate argument for Hall of Fame recognition.

Along the way, Manfra worked occasionally with the late Chuck Thompson, whose “Ain’t the beer cold?” saying might be the most recognized slogan in Baltimore sports broadcasting history.

It was if Manfra was Doug DeCinces following Brooks Robinson, only in triplicate.

To his credit, Manfra, a Baltimore native who grew up idolizing Thompson, never tried to be anything other than what he was: a solid professional with a tremendous voice and a gracious nature.

In many respects, Manfra mirrors Thompson’s longtime Orioles radio partner, Bill O’Donnell, who, like Manfra, was a solid pro who was lived in the shadow of a broadcaster with a higher profile.

Though Manfra had a terrific career with ABC Radio as a sports newscaster, covering events as varied as the Olympics and Triple Crown horse races, getting the post as Orioles radio announcer, even in a backup role, was the highlight of his professional life.

And he treated it just that way, not as if that booth at Camden Yards was where he deserved to be, but as if that was the place he had always wanted to be.

I had the great pleasure of being around Fred Manfra when he began with the Orioles, as I was a backup writer with The Sun. He was always friendly and always generous of his time.

Most importantly, he never “big-timed” the producers and engineers he worked with. It wasn’t as if he was the high-priced talent and the production crew was the help. They were, in his eyes, equals.

It’s a pity that his health won’t permit Fred Manfra to continue doing the job he loved. Rest assured, though, he embodied the axiom that if you do the job you love, you never work a day in your life.

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Written by Milton Kent
2 months ago
Baltimore Orioles, Sports Media,

Milton Kent

Milton Kent is a veteran of Baltimore and Maryland journalism. Kent began a long association with the Baltimore Sun in 1985, serving as the Evening Sun’s Howard County reporter for 2 ½ years before joining the paper’s features department as an entertainment writer in 1988. In the following year, Kent began covering men’s and women’s college basketball for the Evening Sun, concentrating on the Maryland men’s and women’s teams. He continued covering college basketball when the writing staffs of the Evening and Morning Suns merged in 1991. From there, he covered the Orioles for three seasons before becoming one of the nation’s first fulltime sports media critics for parts of six years. In 2000, he began covering the NBA until 2004, when he launched a high school sports column, which he wrote until he left the Sun in 2008. Kent joined the staff of AOL Fanhouse, an online sports operation in 2009, covering sports media and women’s basketball, until operations ceased in 2011. He then joined the faculty at Morgan State University in the fall of 2011, where he has taught until the present day. In addition to writing for various platforms, including Sports Illustrated.com and TV Guide, Kent has hosted “Sports At Large,” a weekly commentary program airing on WYPR (88.1 FM) since 2002.

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