Peter Angelos stood dejectedly at the railing of the owners suite last night and watched hundreds of New York Yankees fans celebrate below, then made a promise to all of the people who filed out of Camden Yards with their heads down after the Orioles were eliminated from the American League Championship Series.
"New York won a battle in a war that is ongoing," Angelos said. "As far as the Orioles are concerned, we will continue in our efforts again and again until our pursuit is successful. And it will be. Baltimore will have a winner."
It was supposed to happen this year, of course. Angelos spent liberally last winter to build the best team in the American bTC
League East and the Orioles entered the season favored to win the division, but they struggled through a difficult first half before staging a dramatic late-season comeback.
When they defeated the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series, it looked as if they might be destined to overcome it all and reach the World Series, but a succession of freak plays kept the club from being competitive with the Yankees.
Angelos was enraged at the controversial call by umpire Rich Garcia that turned a likely flyout into a game-tying home run in Game 1, and by the rude behavior of the fans at Yankee Stadium.
"When you realize that we took two games in their back yard, I think our players performed superbly," he said. "[Roberto] Alomar was harassed to a point that was indescribable. [Bobby] Bonilla was harassed and cursed and had things thrown at him. But this team stood strong and won both games, even if one of them was given to the Yankees."
He also was frustrated by the way the Orioles lost Game 3, when the Yankees came from behind in the eighth inning against ace Mike Mussina. That was the game that really knocked the wind out of him.
"We came back to Baltimore and played a very intense game -- the third game -- on Friday," Angelos said. "Mussina pitched his heart out, but the game was lost in a fashion that left an indelible negative feeling. The momentum was there, but from then on the team faltered."
Game 3 featured a freak error by Todd Zeile and an eighth-inning meltdown by Mussina, who had pitched a terrific game through seven innings. He got the first two outs of the eighth, but gave up four hits in a span of seven pitches and the game got away.
Manager Davey Johnson defended his decision to leave Mussina in the game, but there was room to debate whether he should have pulled him before the rally got out of hand. Angelos would not comment, except to say that the game was the turning point in the series.
"As far as I'm concerned, the first and third games were gifts," Angelos said. "One from the umpire and one from us."
The final game turned on an error by Alomar that led to five unearned runs, but Angelos was careful not to cite that moment in his litany of disappointments.
"You saw the way Roberto Alomar performed throughout the postseason even though he was under brutal pressure," Angelos said. "I think the beating that he took psychologically took its toll. That very well could have affected him on that play."
Angelos had a pained look as he watched the Yankees fans crowding around the visitors' dugout, but he congratulated the new American League champions.
"New York is a great city, and it has one of the most sophisticated populations in the country," he said. "New York has reason to be proud of the Yankees team, which is a group of gentlemen who play hard and have earned our admiration. Now if they could just rid their stadium of about 5,000 hooligans, they'd have fans as great as the great fans of Baltimore."
Pub Date: 10/14/96