Rick Dempsey walks into the steamy warehouse on Aliceanna Street looking like he just stepped off the MASN set where he does Orioles pre- and post-game shows.
Check him out. Deep summer tan. Hair perfectly combed. World Series ring glittering on one finger. Dark suit pants, purple striped shirt, purple tie and —
"It's a purple and mauve tie," he corrects you.
Mauve? You wonder if you heard that right. Did he really say mauve?
"It's a mauve striped shirt, too," he adds.
Now you wonder if some alien hasn't snatched the real Rick Dempsey and taken over his earthly form.
Can this really be the tough-guy former Orioles catcher who played 24 years in the big leagues at the game's most demanding position?
The blue-collar MVP of the '83 Series? The man who used to entertain the crowds at old Memorial Stadium with rain-delay impersonations of Babe Ruth pigeon-toeing around the bases, complete with ample gut padding and head-first slides on the slick, soaked tarpaulin?
Because that Rick Dempsey wouldn't know mauve from Goofy Grape or Loudmouth Lime.
But it is the same Dempsey and he's here on a sweltering July afternoon to talk about his newest business venture, Rick Dempsey Ties, sold exclusively on his website rickdempseyties.com.
The idea for a line of neckties, many characterized by vibrant colors and sheens, came directly from his work with MASN, where the on-air talent is expected to dress up and look sharp.
"I got tired of wearing the same ties," he says. "I wanted to have colors that popped, especially on HD television. I wanted blood reds. Blood oranges."
So he teamed up with Baltimore clothier Christopher Schafer and photographer Aaron Haslinger to acquire quality fabrics and design and manufacture the ties arrayed in the warehouse before him.
"I think Rick is a super-creative guy," Schafer says. "He's very hands on" with the business.
The ties aren't cheap. They sell for $79 and come with a free pocket square. Dempsey is big on pocket squares. He got this from his MASN on-air partner Tom Davis, the longtime Baltimore sportscaster and legendary snappy dresser.
But it's the look of the tie that most consumes Dempsey. Which makes sense in his line of work.
"The tie," Schafer says, "is really the focal point of the outfit for TV guys. Because you mainly see them from the waist up."
Dempsey says that in the six months he's been in the business, he's sold around 3,000 of his signature ties. Baking mogul John Paterakis ordered 1,000 to give to his clients and friends. An Atlanta charity also ordered 1,000 for its giveaways.
Dempsey has also designed ties for area private golf courses and car dealerships. And he expects to sell a large number of pink ties during October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.