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.