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Dominican Beisbol & Baltimore Orioles Baseball News

JOHN LOWENSTEIN Apathy Club

John Lowenstein will always remain one of my all-time baseball favorites.  Not only was he the most entertaining announcer I ever listened to, he was also a key role player on some of the best Baltimore Orioles teams of my childhood.

In 1979, Brother Lo’ supplied some “Orioles Magic” with a pinch-hit, three-run, walk-off home run to win game one of the ALCS.  Though the Birds lost the Fall Classic in seven games that year, Lowenstein helped them win it all four years later.  Overall, he batted .308 in ten World Series games for Baltimore, and enjoyed his best regular season in 1982.  That year, as part of an incredibly productive three-headed platoon with right-handed hitters Gary Roenicke and Benny Ayala, the lefty-hitting Lowenstein hit .320 with 24 homers in just 322 at bats.  I write all this to let you know that he could play a little bit.

That’s not what made him so unforgettable, though.  Steiner’s signature moment in an Orioles uniform took place on June 19, 1980 at Memorial Stadium.  Baltimore trailed the A’s 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, but had two on with two outs against Oakland pitcher Rick Langford.  Up stepped Lowenstein to pinch-hit, and he pulled a single to right-field to score Mark Corey with the tying run as Al Bumbry raced from first to third.  Brother Lo’ tried to take second on the throw home, but A’s first baseman Jeff Newman cut the ball off and gunned it towards second base.  The baseball bounced off Lowenstein, allowing Bumbry to score the go-ahead run!  It proved to be the game-winner, as the Orioles went on to win 4-3.

But wait, Lowenstein stayed down, and replays indicated that the ball had hit him in the back of the neck.  A stretcher came out to carry him off the field, and the concerned crowd of 15,491 murmured among themselves.  Then, just before the stretcher descended into the Orioles dugout, Lowenstein sat up abruptly and raised both his fists.  The fans went nuts!  “I had it planned halfway to the dugout,” Steiner admitted later.  “You have to acknowledge the cheers of the fans, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to come back out after the game.”  He wasn’t hurt badly, and returned to the lineup exactly one week later with run-scoring singles in his first two at bats.

Lowenstein’s unusual way of showing love to his fans was nothing new.  Once, as he exited the stadium to board the team bus, somebody asked if they could have his autograph.  “I left it in the clubhouse,” he replied.

In the early years of his career with the Cleveland Indians, Brother Lo’ compromised with a fan who wanted to paint a bedsheet with a pro-Lowenstein message and hang it at Muncipal Stadium.  Instead, Steiner suggested “It would be a huge white sign hung in the centerfield bleachers at the stadium where fans are not allowed to sit.  There’d be no writing on the banner, and it would be displayed only when the Indians were on the road”.

A traditional fan club was out of the question, too.  Lowenstein thought they were a waste of time, and said so.  “Cheering is bad for a player because it gives him a false sense of importance,” he explained.  “Booing indicates a fan really cares enough about him to get mad, which is negative, too.  But a fan who really doesn’t care one way or another about him won’t boo or cheer.  That is an ideal kind of club member.”

The Lowenstein Apathy Club is what Steiner was referring to, and hundreds of letters started showing up at the Indians offices from people determined to join.  While his teammates were busy getting t-shirts with their faces on the front made up, Lowenstein’s featured the back of his head and one word:  “APATHY”.

“There is a great solace in not caring,” he said in 1975.  “People today are so uptight about everything -war, gasoline, unions- that having complete apathy about something would be welcomed.  In a small way, I can bring a moment of peace to my fellow man.”

I wrote to Steiner at the P.O. Box listed for him in Las Vegas in my baseball address book to comment for this story, but I didn’t get a reply.  Come to think of it, there couldn’t be a more fitting ending.

by MALCOLM ALLEN

onetoughdominican47@hotmail.com

************************************************************

DID YOU KNOW:  When Lowenstein came up with the Indians, the organist at Muncipal Stadium used to play “Hava Nagila” when he came to bat, assuming that he was Jewish.  Informed that he wasn’t, the organist began playing “Jesus Christ Superstar” before Lowenstein’s at bats instead.

*****************************************************************

MORE LOWENSTEIN

 ON BASEBALL:  “Baseball is reality at its’ harshest.  You have to introduce a fictional world to survive.”

ON THE SECRET TO WINNING:  “The secret to keeping winning streaks going is to maxmize the victories while, at the same time, minimizing the defeats.” 

ON HOME RUNS:  “I have noticed that there are a lot of outfielders in the American League with great mobility, and the best way to immobilize them is to hit the ball over the fence.”

ON BIRTHPLACES:  “You never know where you are born.  You have to take your parents’ word for it.”

ON BEING A ROLE PLAYER:  “I have endeavored to retain a low profile in baseball.  The organization has been more than helpful in that direction.”

 ON STATS:  “Nuclear war would render all baseball statistics meaningless.”

ON FAILING TO GET THE BUNT DOWN:  “Sure, I screwed up that sacrifice bunt, but look at it this way.  I’m a better bunter than a billion Chinese.  Those suckers can’t bunt at all.” 

ON WHY BENCH PLAYERS SHOULD BE PAID MORE THAN STARTERS:  “I firmly believe a player who is not playing regularly should be paid more for the inconvenience.  Not everyone can play at the same time.  This is a far greater emotional strain than hearing the cheers and boos every day.  There is a tendency to become a more irritable person.  You begin to lose friends.  I have observed, too, that irregulars tend to drink more alcoholic beverages, figuring that they are not going to play anyway.  This can create tension in a bar, having one more blast for the bench, like having one more for the road.  Alcoholism is a threat, and your body -not knowing what to expect- can suffer a heart seizure when suddenly called upon to play.”

ON STAYING READY ON THE BENCH:  “I flush the john between innings to keep my wrists strong.”

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23 Responses to “JOHN LOWENSTEIN Apathy Club”

  1. Thanks for this excellent article that shows the interesting side of Lowenstein, a favorite of mine as well. Started as a productive utility infielder to a great hitting OF in 1982-83, then out of baseball less than 2 years later. Unique career for a unique guy.

  2. ok- even better than his Berra-esque quote are the shades he’s sporting in the photo.

  3. Brother Lowe was also one of my favorite Baseball players. I am curious as to what he is doing now, if anyone knows?

  4. I think this is wonderful. Some friends of mine have been fans of Mr. Lowenstein since high school. Unfortunately I am too young to see John play, but have quite the baseball card collection of him. I am also getting a game used bat in the mail. Does anyone know what he is up to these days?

  5. i was a school mate of his sister linda. seen him play the angles a couple of times as a guest of his. i’ll never forget when he and two teammates were all knocked out in a collision chasing a pop up. check it out in the a p archives

  6. I was a teammate of John’s in Pony League. I must say that I have no memory of the sense of humor evinced during his major league career, but I do remember him as a very hard worker who improved tremendously (as I did not) between his season at age 13 and the one at age 14.

  7. Blue Jay fan here. I remember him playing that outflled wall in Baltimore like it was a piano. In the early 80′s the young Toronto franchise had started to be competitive but could never beat the O’s when it counted…Vividly remember Lowenstein reaching over making leaping catches of deep fly balls over the fence…and I swear that outfield fence flexed about 3 feet longer than it was!

  8. My Dad and I were sitting down to watch an Orioles-Tigers game, probably about 1989 or so. Mel Proctor and John Lowenstein were calling the game on the old HTS network. Proctor was discussing the Tigers pitcher that night (it happened to be Jack Morris) and how difficult he could be to hit. Proctor then kicked it over to Brother ‘Lo whose response was, “Yeah, Morris is the kind of guy that really makes you want to stick the bat down your pants”. The flummoxed look on Proctor’s face was priceless. My Dad and I still laugh over that line twenty years later.

  9. Where the heck is brother Lowe? He was an awesome announcer on HTS.

    After the game I am going to order Two Heinekins.

  10. I hear he is in las vegas if any one knows him or has a chance to can you tell him a friend of his sister linda says hellohope life is good.

  11. In 1970 I saw Lowenstein hit a home run for the Wichita Aeros (AAA for Cleveland). Lowenstein’s homer cleared the right field fence, bounced on McLean Boulevard and rolled into the Arkansas River.

    Buddy Bell and Chris Chambliss played on that same team.

    The Aeros played in a bandbox called (at the time) Lawrence Stadium, which was also home to the National Baseball Congress tournament.

    http://www.ballparkreviews.com/wichita/wichita.htm

  12. Yeah he is pretty freakin amazing in baseball, and in real life =)

  13. [...] I found that quote after finally finding details of a Lowenstein story my dad once told me. It’s a classic. Steiner’s signature moment in an Orioles uniform took [...]

  14. Those Orioles announcers from the late 80′s and early 90′s are by far the best the game ever had. That is in my most humble and biased opinion. You couldn’t go wrong back then. If the game was on HTS you had Proctor and Lowenstein, and if Channel 20 was airing the game you had Palmer and Brooks Robinson, and on the radio you had John Miller and Joe Angel. I feel blessed that I could listen to these men in my most impressionable years.

    My favorite Lowenstein memory was one night when the crowd at Memorial Stadium was scarce, and Lowenstein made sure to point out all the attractive females in the crowd. His way of saying, “look at what you’re missing by not being here!”

  15. I remember Low and, I think Proctor, calling an O’s game whne the TV camera’s panned the bleachers. It picked up an atractive woman with a low cut top and a man behind her trying to look down her blouse. Low said that the guy was probably looking for his keys…….Proctor almost choked. I was on the floor. Let IT be Low!!!!

  16. My favorite Lowenstein quote as an anouncer = “He hit the snot out of that ball”

  17. I thought I was the only person left who remembered the Apathy Club. I recall an anecdote where he gestured to 70,000 empty seats at a Muny Stadium game (avg. attendance was around 3500) and made a crack about how many members were present. Thanks for writing him up.

  18. My pet theory is that John was let go by the Orioles because he was a little too prone to on-air sexist comments. The fact that he only said what all of us guys were thinking was irrelevant, because the era of political correctness was in full flower and John Lo was a casualty. Why somebody couldn’t just caution him to keep it down a little and retain his invaluable services, I’ll never know. He was great fun on the air!

  19. [...] as much about who will win out at the position as much as it’s about who is ready to rise up and pump his fists while leaving the field on a stretcher a la Brother Lo. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← [...]

  20. [...] several times as a young fan at Memorial Stadium. Words don’t do it justice, but blogger Urban Shocker offers a description of that night, as does Lowenstein himself in John Eisenberg’s book, [...]

  21. In the late 80′s the Orioles held a “give away” night, this particular give away was an Orioles seat cushion. Late in the game fans began throwing the cushions onto the field, the flat shape and light weight really made these suckers sail a pretty good distance. Brother Low, in the press box for HTS took note of how cheaply made the cushions were and then fired his cushion out of the press box and onto the field!! The Oriole teams of the 70′s and early 80′s were made up of many “characters”. Tonight let it be Lowenstein.

  22. One of John’s favorite sayings, “That is slicker than dog snot on a door handle!” I use it often and certainly miss John’s entertaining broadcasts.

  23. I grew up an Orioles fan in the ’70s and was lucky enough to be at that “stretcher” game as a 10-year-old kid, along with my grandparents. I read the attendance here and coudn’t even have guessed how many were there — as a kid, even a few thousand people seem like a million — but I do remember everyone erupting when he suddenly sat up from the stretcher and thrust both fists into the air.

    I also remember enjoying his telecasts on HTS, and distinctly recall one quote that I think might have helped speed up his pink slip. One of the Orioles players broke his bat on the swing, and Lowenstein quipped, “Well, they say you just can’t get a good piece of ash anymore.” There were a few seconds of dead silence before Proctor changed the subject, but I was laughing out loud in front of the television, knowing some thin-skinned viewers would be sending in their complaints.


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