BALTIMORE (AP) – As a reward for guiding the Baltimore Orioles through the most tumultuous two-month stretch in franchise history, Sam Perlozzo had the “interim” label removed from his job title Wednesday and signed a three-contract as manager.

Perlozzo takes control of a team that has suffered through eight straight losing seasons, the longest such run since the Orioles moved from St. Louis in 1954.

“We’re going to go at it as hard as we can, and as long as we can, until we get a winner on this field,” he said.

, speaking within the warehouse that sits behind Baltimore’s home stadium. “I look for that to happen sooner than later.”

Perlozzo was promoted from bench coach to interim manager on Aug. 4, taking over for Lee Mazzilli after the Orioles lost 16 of 18 to sink into fourth place in the AL East.

Perlozzo’s job went far beyond filling out the lineup card, giving signs to base runners and summoning pitchers from the bullpen. He also had to serve as the voice of the organization as the Orioles endured the steroid suspension of Rafael Palmeiro, the termination of the contract of pitcher Sidney Ponson after two drunk driving arrests, and injuries to Sammy Sosa and Brian Roberts.

Though his 23-32 record was not spectacular, Perlozzo’s levelheaded approach under extreme conditions enabled him to retain the job.

“I think we made the determination late in the season,” said Mike Flanagan, who was promoted to executive vice president on Tuesday. “There’s an old expression: Rough seas make a great sea captain. I think we got to see the best of Sam in a very difficult time, and frankly, I was very impressed the way he handled the club on the field and in the clubhouse.”

Flanagan and Perlozzo will work together to end the Orioles’ record run of sub-.500 seasons. Perlozzo has endured every one of them; he spent five years as third base coach before becoming bench coach in 2001 under Mike Hargrove.

After Hargrove was fired in October 2003, Perlozzo interviewed for the job. He was spurned in favor of Mazzilli, and although Perlozzo was extremely disappointed, he dutifully continued to serve in his capacity as bench coach.

His patience was rewarded Wednesday, when the 54-year-old Maryland native was named the 16th manager in franchise history.

“I’ve been a believer all my life that things work out the way they’re supposed to if you just keep plugging away,” Perlozzo said. “I put my faith in the fact that was going to happen. I always felt in due time I would be rewarded, and that it would be at the time it was supposed to be. And I totally believe this is the time it is supposed to be.”

Perlozzo had prepared for this day since 1982, when he got his first managerial job with Little Falls, the New York Mets’ affiliate in the New York-Penn League, following a nine-year career as a player that included 12 big league games with Minnesota and San Diego.

He moved up in the Mets’ organization, finishing in first place three times in five years before accepting the job as third base coach with New York in 1987.

He took the same post with the Cincinnati Reds in 1990 under manager Lou Piniella, then assumed an identical position with Seattle in 1993 when Piniella was hired as manager of the Mariners.

Perlozzo found a home in Baltimore in 1996 when he became third base coach in Baltimore under Davey Johnson.

And now, he’s the manager of the team. The Orioles waited more than a week to hand him the job, even though no one else was interviewed for the job.

“We felt comfortable moving in this direction. It was just a matter of getting there,” said Flanagan, who observed Perlozzo’s actions intently over the team’s rocky two-month period.

“He was extremely fair with the players. If there was something negative he had to deal with, he dealt with it,” Flanagan said. “He didn’t let it fester, he didn’t let it build.”

Despite the distraction created by Palmeiro, Ponson and Sosa, and despite the Orioles’ free-fall in the standings, the team continued to play hard for Perlozzo.

“The whole clubhouse likes him. He communicates well and really got us to remain focused,” outfielder David Newhan said in a phone interview. “He definitely got as much as he could out of the guys, given everything he inherited. I’m excited for him and the team.”

AP-ES-10-12-05 1705EDT

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