Metro Data, Inc. President, Bert Orlitzky featured in Baltimore Messenger Newspaper - Power of Internet keeps Negro Leagues alive.

Business News (Hunt Valley, Maryland) - Aug 20, 2003

Metro Data, Inc. President, Bert Orlitzky featured in Baltimore Messenger Newspaper Article - "Power of Internet keeps Negro Leagues alive."

Bert Orlitzky of Mt. Washington helped put the Negro League Baseball Players Association on the Internet - and on the proverbial map. The NLBPA, which represents living legends from the long-defunct Negro Leagues, was relatively anonymous and nearly broke until Orlitzky got involved.

Orlitzky, 42, owner of Metro Data Inc., a Cockeysville-based computer company, agreed to design and maintain the NLBPA Web site for free. Seventeen months later, the site, www.nlbpa.com, attracts about 1,000 visitors a day. More importantly, it helped the cash-strapped association land a lucrative merchandising deal with a company in New York City, Orlitzky said. He said J.C. Penney is selling Negro Leagues hats and jerseys in its young men's department and store officials tell him they can't stock the items fast enough. "They're flying off the shelves," he said.

Orlitzky writes in a mission statement on the site's home page: "The NLBPA exists to honor and celebrate the significant contribution of Negro Leagues players to baseball and (to) American history; to collect and preserve that history; to educate others so that Negro League players may be a source of pride and inspiration for generations to come; and to support and promote the general and financial well-being of former Negro Leagues players." One of the reasons for the popularity of the Web site is that it comes up near the top of the list when "Negro Leagues baseball" is typed into the Yahoo or Google search engines.

Not surprisingly, members of the group, all of whom played baseball from the 1930s to '50s, are ecstatic. "Words can't explain what the Web site has done for us," says Ernest Burke, 79, of Pikesville, who played for the Baltimore Elite Giants from 1946 until 1949. "I get e-mails from all over the world." A writer from New York City contacted Burke earlier this summer by e-mail and now plans to travel to Maryland to write a feature article about him. "As old as these players are, they realize how important the Internet is," Orlitzky said. "It does preserve the history of the Negro Leagues. It helps them get their story out globally."

Orlitzky is the second person to design an NLBPA site. Charles Winner, the association's attorney, asked Orlitzky to improve the site, because Orlitzky built the Web site for Winner's Baltimore law firm. Designing Web sites is 20-30 percent of Orlitzky's computer business. He also specializes in Web security - with 300-400 corporate clients, as well as Web hosting and computer network support and integration. Orlitzky describes himself as a diehard Orioles fan, but his knowledge of Negro Leagues baseball was limited when he started designing the NLBPA site.

He had heard of superstars such as Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, but he did not know many of the other players. That made it more difficult to put the Web site together. "I was spending three or four hours a day doing the research and laying it out. I got 20 or 30 books. I purchased some on e-Bay and I got some from the library," he said. The final product is impressive. It features roughly 300 player biographies, most written by Orlitzky, and a calendar of player appearances. It also includes e-mail addresses for several players, including Burke.

It tells about 30 teams nationwide, including the Atlanta Black Crackers, the Baltimore Black Sox, the New York Black Yankees and the Washington/Wilmington Potomacs. And when the Kansas City Royals honored the Negro Leagues earlier this summer including the old Kansas City Monarchs, the event was publicized on the NLBPA site. "I believe it's up there in the top three of baseball Web sites," Winner said. "It's created marketability and visibility for them.

There aren't a lot of these wonderful men still living." Winner, who has been the player association's attorney for nine years, does not charge the group for his services. Nor does Orlitzky. In terms of discrimination and lack of recognition, the Negro Leagues were "kicked around quite a bit by Major League Baseball," he said. "I felt this was the least I could do to help them and their organization." Orlitzky has become close friends with Burke and many other players, including Wilmer Fields of Manassas, Va., and Philadelphians Stanley Glenn and Bert Simmons. "It parallels how I got involved," Winner said of Orlitzky. "They ask for help and then you literally fall in love with the guys."

E-mail Tom Worgo at tworgo@patuxent.com.

Original article link at http://archives.explorebaltimorecounty.com/news/6013923/power-internet-keeps-negro-leagues-alive/

 

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