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City should embrace media darling Angelos

The reporter from Forbes magazine, Josh McHugh, was calling from New York yesterday to ask me some questions about Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Two days before that, ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" program was interviewing Angelos regarding his position on replacement players.

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A couple Sundays back, no less a newspaper than the New York Times led its sports section with a long story on Angelos.

Right after that, a New York columnist, Mike Lupica, called Angelos his hero.

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Imagine Peter Angelos, son of Greek immigrant parents, reared in Highlandtown, graduate of Patterson High and the Mount Vernon School of Law, which was later absorbed by the University of Baltimore, captivating the press.

Angelos, a relatively unknown asbestos lawyer less than two years ago, has become the new darling of the nation's media.

If you don't think so, when was the last time you saw anybody go to George Steinbrenner for an interview?

Hey, I know Angelos has his critics. Every gutsy action guy has.

I know people thought maybe Angelos meddled too much when he first owned the Orioles. They shook their heads at the way he turned to his sons for advice on baseball personnel matters.

I know there were those who disapproved of his firing last year of a good man, the manager he inherited, Johnny Oates.

I know -- and I'm on their side -- that many resent the price increase Angelos slapped on tickets for the coming season. Fans didn't appreciate being asked to make up $15 million in strike losses when they had nothing to do with this idiotic work stoppage.

And I saw John Stoessel's recent ABC-TV report on Angelos' work representing asbestos victims. It was so one-sided in favor of the companies that had to pay damages that it looked as if Stoessel was trying to make an ogre of Angelos.

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So we're not talking about an angel here, but we are talking about a man who in a very short time has gained nationwide notoriety for taking bold steps on controversial issues.

Of course his fellow owners are leery of him. Angelos says what he thinks. What's more, he says what most people think.

The other baseball owners aren't ready for that, particularly from this new kid on the block.

Think what Angelos has done.

He was the only owner to say the players will never trust the owners until the clubs open their books and show whether they're making or losing money.

He said long ago that the owners should forget the salary cap. It wasn't necessary, he said.

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Angelos' fellow owners were aghast. Now they're all saying what he said. Six days ago they agreed to drop the cap.

Twenty-seven owners are ready to put impostors in big-league uniforms and allow them to play major-league baseball.

Peter Angelos and Peter Angelos alone has stood up and said there's no way he'll do that to his fans.

Unless he can put the real thing on the field at Camden Yards, he says, his Orioles won't play.

For this he is scorned by the other owners and threatened by the American League with punitive action.

For this, we should all kiss Peter Angelos.

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As Syd Thrift, the longtime baseball man who is now the Orioles' player development boss, said at a luncheon at J. Patrick's last month:

"I'm proud to work for a man who will stand right up and say he will only accept genuine major-league ballplayers."

No one with any sense wants to go to Camden Yards and see a bunch of has-beens and never-will-bes pose as Orioles.

People who tell me it's still baseball are forgetting something. There's plenty of baseball played, and played well, at local colleges such as Towson State and Johns Hopkins and at numerous high schools. All the games are free of charge; almost no one attends.

Our town, after suffering the out-of-town ownership of Bob Irsay, Edward Bennett Williams and Eli Jacobs, should get down on its knees and thank Pete Angelos for what he's done.

He paid $173 million, a record price, at auction to buy the Orioles and anchor them in Baltimore, where they belong.

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"If you allow your major-league club to be owned by out-of-towners," Angelos said, "you're not really a major-league city. You're a branch-office city."

Recently Angelos offered $200 million for the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs so he could bring NFL football back to Baltimore. Naturally he was spurned in favor of a lower offer.

Who else is doing such things for this town?

Only Pete Angelos, that's who.

Angelos is one of us. He's real Baltimore -- ethnic, a man who connects with blue-collar people such as the union members he has represented for more than 30 years.

Around the country, they've come to recognize what Pete Angelos is all about.

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I hope the people here have.

An appreciative former Mount St. Joe athlete named John Davis said to Angelos not long ago: "I think they ought to hold a parade for you right through Patterson Park."

Sounds good to me.


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