Another sports merry go-round

Dan Rodricks

June 19, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

We certainly made a big deal about Boogie Weinglass in th daily newspapers yesterday.

Nobody I know ever made so much news from something reported on a local radio talk show, unless, of course, you count the time William Donald Schaefer called up the Joe Lombardo Show, disguised his voice and blasted Joe for interviewing some twerpy college professor who said Baltimore was an armpit.

Anyway, in case you didn't hear it, Monday night -- LIVE and ON THE AIR -- Boogie's old pal and WCAO talk show host Stan "The Fan" Charles reported that Boogie was interested in maybe buying the Baltimore Orioles from Mr. Eli Jacobs, mild-mannered millionaire who doesn't return phone calls to hardly anyone, never mind a guy named Boogie.

But see, Boogie, he's loaded.

Boogie wears tight jeans, so when he sticks his wallet in the hip pocket, it looks like he's walking around with an air conditioner attached to his backside.

And besides, Boogie is one of those "Diner Guys." More important, he's a close, personal friend of Barry Levinson.

I know. I know. About 40,000 guys over 40 say the same thing. A guy could make a killing in Baltimore selling T-shirts that say: "I'm a Close Personal Friend of Barry Levinson." But with the Boogie Man, it's really true.

(By the way, Boogie was the model for the "Diner" character played by Mickey Rourke, the smooth operator who, from what I recall of the movie, got beat up by some debt collector near that old hair salon on Charles Street. He also tried to play doctor with his friend's wife. Memba?)

So, like I was saying, Boogie told Stan Charles that he is in "the very early stages" of exploring the possibility of buying the Orioles from Mr. Jacobs, who says he is way behind on his reading and would like to sell the team so he can catch up. (I know exactly how he feels: I haven't had a chance to read the J. Crew spring catalog and already the summer one has arrived.)

Besides being loaded and a close, personal friend of Barry Levinson, Boogie is a smart guy. (So smart that Stan doesn't ever have to tell him to turn his radio down when he calls his show.)

Also, Boogie is shrewd. He made his Big Paper in the cutthroat business of retail garments. The Merry-Go-Round chain was his creation. Now he is said to be worth about $100 million.

This is why he's making news. He appears to have the means to make a serious security deposit on the franchise. (If somebody like, say, auto dealer Gary Hurley said he was interested in buying the Orioles, we'd say: "Yeah, you and what Kuwaiti?" If somebody like Frank Perdue said he wanted to buy the Orioles, we'd say: "Please, Mr. Jacobs, keep the team; we'll send you books-on-tape!")

So, to go over the analysis one more time: We get excited about Boogie saying he wants to buy the Orioles because (a) he once lived in Baltimore, (b) he's loaded, (c) he's a close, personal friend of Barry Levinson, (d) he's smart and (e) he's a shrewd businessman, somewhat more hip than Gary Hurley, more beloved than Frank Perdue.

And, unlike a lot of millionaires with ties to Baltimore, he's not cheap. He's apparently willing to put up the money to buy the team and thereby restore public confidence that the Orioles won't end up in Indianapolis.

Why else was the news about Boogie on the radio such a big deal?

Let's face it. Baltimore sports fans are paranoid. Bob Irsay hijacked the Colts. Another carpetbagger, Edward Bennett Williams, bought the city's baseball franchise and held out the none-too-subtle threat that he'd move the team unless he got a new stadium. So we're building a new stadium, but even a 15-year lease doesn't seem to vanquish fears that Baltimore might one day lose major league baseball.

So Boogie -- local boy made good -- showing up with cash to get the team out of the hands of a New Yorker like Eli Jacobs makes everyone happy. (Of course, Boogie spends 11 months of the year in Colorado and part of the 12th month in Ocean City, which shouldn't count as local residency, since everyone knows Ocean City could slip into the Atlantic any day now.)

But why quibble? A "Diner Guy" owning the Orioles is kind of exciting. And think of the possibility of Barry Levinson hooking up with his ole pal. If he and Boogie combined their funds to buy the team in time for Opening Day 1992, Baltimore will be one big happy town again. You'd have nearly 50,000 fans wearing T-shirts that say: "I'm A Close, Personal Friend of Barry Levinson and Boogie Weinglass."

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