Orioles prove to be fitting symbol of Angelos' work, hometown pride

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Now that Peter Angelos has settled in as owner of a team with one of the most time-honored names in all of sports, the Baltimore Orioles, which go back more than 100 years, he's able to view the $173 million purchase of the franchise with more than frivolous enthusiasm and rookie-like excitement. To his credit, he doesn't stand around the batting cage making profound observations or imposing himself upon the manager, players and coaches in the locker room.

What's transpired is he has turned the operation over to a general manager and manager and, in that regard, believes he recruited the best baseball has to offer in those respective positions.

In an interview at Jimmy's Famous Seafood Restaurant, with close proximity to downtown Dundalk, Angelos talked about his boyhood, what it means to have come up the hard way, to gain influence and affluence and to be the owner of a Baltimore institution -- the Orioles.

In the place where he was having lunch, Jimmy Minadakis, the owner, came to him 18 years ago as an immigrant from Greece and said he wanted to go into business. Angelos made the arrangements and looks back with a touch of pride over the success that has occurred, the good wife and children his friend has and what he has done to enhance the reputation of what was once a nondescript building that housed a political club.

As Angelos reflects on all the positives, it must be stressed from an objective perspective that he wasn't standing around like Henny Penny when Dame Fortune indiscriminately smiled. He's a hard-work success story, first tending bar and cooking in his father's cafe, then putting himself through law school and suffering in the early years when paying the weekly office rent, electric bills, postage and salaries of secretaries and clerks became a struggle.

So he looks back, in a quick glimpse, on how far he has come . . . the owner of a powerful law firm trying high-profile cases, a baseball team of excellence and a thoroughbred stable with 20 horses, including five 2-year-olds who are getting ready to go to the races. What has having money and the right connections meant to him?

"My style of living hasn't changed," he answered. "It never will. I haven't stopped to take inventory. I guess the greatest satisfaction is in helping people, like those whose lives were handicapped by working in certain types of unprotected environments, and our involvement has helped them. The best part of owning a team is people have been complimentary and said how happy they are a man from Baltimore is in control of the Orioles."

In his most active off-season, 1995, he hired Pat Gillick as general manager and Davey Johnson as manager. Both arrived with impressive backgrounds, and there's no fault to be found with how they've performed. "Pat is really conscientious," says Angelos. "In every respect, he's the consummate pro. A straight shooter, a man of integrity. No guile, the ideal general manager. He rarely makes a mistake. He's batting about .875."

As for Johnson, similar words of praise: "An extrovert, of course, who knows how to deliver a message. He would have been a great politician or diplomat. He knows when to move in to deftly handle situations that arise and how to disarm controversial issues. An excellent manager by any standard you want to use."

Although Gillick and Johnson were players and teammates during an earlier Orioles era, they learned their trades in other places: Gillick in New York, Houston and Toronto; Johnson in New York and Cincinnati. Both are winners, and there seems little doubt they'll duplicate such previous performances in Baltimore.

"We are going to win, if not this year then next, but we will always be competitive. The men around Gillick; his assistant, Kevin Malone, and the men in charge of the minor-league system, Syd Thrift and his assistant, Don Buford, will get the job done," Angelos said.

There have been highs and lows, which go with the game. For Angelos, seeing Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig's consecutive- games streak was unforgettable. On the downside, having to tell Johnny Oates he was no longer the manager after the 1994 season was difficult. "But I don't think it was going to work for Johnny because some things here were out of his control."

Angelos continues to be fascinated with one of his partners -- Tom Clancy, the author. "He's terrific. There's no one like him in the world. I enjoy Tom. The other night in his box at the game, he had a general who defected from the KGB, a high FBI official and two of his colleagues. About a month ago, he was there with Gen. Colin Powell. He loves the military and they love him."

As for the presence in Baltimore of an NFL club, the Ravens, he doesn't believe it'll have an impact on Orioles attendance. "We're the leader in the American League," he says. "When I tried to buy an NFL club, the offer was $210 million for Tampa Bay. I believe both teams will thrive if they're competitive. They must deliver."

There's no doubt, despite what the Maryland Stadium Authority said wouldn't happen, that Angelos is going to invoke the parity clause, which will mean he'll get exactly what the Ravens have, meaning all profits from parking and concessions at Camden Yards. He also believes the Orioles can maintain the park for "something less than the $7 million we've paid" to the authority and has talked with outside firms, unionized, interested in the job.

Plans are being explored to stage performances at the ballpark, and he has been visited by the same consultant who put on similar shows for the Los Angeles Dodgers. "I foresee such entertainers as Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Jimmy Buffett, Billy Joel, Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire coming here for concerts, and a lot of others my kids like, being in the ballpark. No damage will be done to the field."

Angelos has kept his promise of not being an owner who interferes with the players. He doesn't camp in the locker room. In three seasons, he has only been in the Orioles' clubhouse on two occasions -- both times when President Clinton was in Baltimore for games and he was the official host and had to go there. At this point, he's not sure what's going to happen to the team's future broadcast rights, but says the Orioles will weigh all factors.

As for a commissioner to replace interim leader Bud Selig, he said: "We need one. By all means, yes. Definitely. A man who has total authority over both sides. And, in picking him, there should be participation from both sides, the owners and the players. That's never happened, giving the players a voice in a commissioner, but it's the only equitable way to go."

For Angelos, the Orioles haven't returned much in a tangible way on his record investment of $173 million, with no guarantees or permanent seat licenses. What he has enjoyed is a feeling of satisfaction that came with responding to the auction sale when his hometown team was in a precarious state of going to an out-of-town bidder. It was Angelos to the rescue.

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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