When I first moved to York and began working for the Revolution in 2008, and was watching the Orioles on TV most nights when the team was on the road, it wasn’t long before I noted how frequently Jim Palmer would begin a sentence with, “well Andy Etchebarren would say…”
It was striking how often a Hall-of-Famer who pitched in 19 Major League seasons, 11 of which overlapped with Etch’s career in Baltimore, would constantly invoke the wisdom of one single player – even if he was his catcher – when you consider the amount of relationships two decades in the big leagues must foster.
Then, about two weeks into the first of three seasons I had the privilege to spend in Andy Etchebarren’s baseball orbit, I immediately understood. On one occasion I accompanied Etch to an alumni autograph signing before a game in Baltimore. One of the older O’s employees who had been fortunate enough to see him play at Memorial Stadium remarked, “you know, they say Etch has forgotten more baseball than anyone else knows.” That’s only cliché if you didn’t know him.
It was impossible to walk in and out of Etch’s office on a gameday and not learn something about the game. What I appreciated about him most was, as a lifer who had played, coached and managed at the highest levels, he’d never talk down to anyone. Sure he knew it all, but he never scoffed at a baseball opinion before he gave you his. He was a teacher first, his tenure well-earned. He may have been a firebrand who was nothing if not blunt, but you also never had to walk on eggshells around him; he never wanted to intimidate or act like he was smarter than anyone, he just wanted you to enjoy being at the ballpark everyday as much as he did.
Etch may have been “old school,” but he embraced new information. Like his idol and mentor Earl Weaver, his no-nonsense approach sometimes hid the fact he was ahead of his time (he wasn’t a huge fan of bunting, or a hit-and-run). Etch was a guy’s guy and a good ‘ol boy, but I watched him numerous times go out of his way to encourage 20-something women beginning their journey in the industry, still very much a man’s world.
Progressive, yet a throwback to a simpler time in baseball all-in-one, Andy Etchebarren was all things to all people. The players respected his career, and trusted his judgment. The fans knew better than to worry about his gruff exterior on the field when it was time for a Sunday autograph. The umpires, on certain days saw him coming, especially if the Revolution weren’t in a particularly good stretch of baseball and in need of motivation. But even the umps knew their time with Etch would make them better. At minimum, one of his trademark ejections would get them on the news.
For three of his 51 seasons in the game, I got to be there. He made me a better baseball man. He made me a better man.
-Paul Braverman, Director of Marketing & Communications 2011-2015 seasons