Baltimore owes quite a debt to longtime baseball executive Hank Peters, who died Sunday morning at age 90.
Peters presided over a big chunk of the most successful period in the history of the Orioles during his 13 years as general manager and built the teams that won the 1979 American League pennant and the 1983 World Series.
During a front office career that began with the old St. Louis Browns (who would become the Orioles in 1954) and also included his first general manager position with Charlie Finley's Kansas City Athletics in 1965 as well as his final front office post as president of the Cleveland Indians from 1987-91, Peters saw the sport change dramatically and was able to change along with it.
His imprint on the game stretches beyond Baltimore, of course. He helped turn the Indians around after decades of failure, but we'll remember him for ushering the Orioles into the free agent era and maintaining a level of unequaled baseball excellence that stretched from the 1960s through that world championship season in 1983.
"Baltimore has lost a great baseball man who helped bring to this town the world championship it so deserved,'' said Baltimore attorney and long-time player representative Ron Shapiro on Sunday morning. "He did it with great humility, intellect and commitment that was unparalleled in the game."
That's high praise coming from someone who spent years engaged with Peters in what is generally considered an adversarial relationship, negotiating the contracts of many of the Orioles' biggest stars. But Shapiro remained very close to Peters and credits him with being a strong influence on his multifaceted career as a player agent, negotiation consultant and author.
"He also was an extraordinary teacher and I am personally indebted to him so much for how he taught me to be a better negotiator and a more effective representative of people in the game of baseball … and in life,'' Shapiro said. "He may have been one of the classiest people in the game."
I can't say that I knew Hank well, since his tenure with the Orioles ended a couple years before I arrived in town. But I did have the privilege of interviewing him on several occasions and talking to him at various baseball-related functions.
I always found him to be helpful, engaging and instructive. No sportswriter can ask for more than that from someone of his experience and accomplishment.