Weinglass sure he fits owner's mold Movie is old reflection of his image, he says

November 15, 1991|By Vito Stellino

Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass still remembers that when he was a 5-foot-11 basketball player at City College in 1958, sportscaster Vince Bagli said that "inch for inch," he was the best player in the city.

Weinglass, who says he's 5-10 ("I've shrunk an inch") now wants to prove that inch for inch, he's the best man to own an NFL team in Baltimore.

The one-time "Diner" guy is now ready for "Diner II" or "Diner, the Sequel."

Weinglass has grown up into a respectable, graying 50-year-old businessman, husband and father who wouldn't dream of TC gambling.

"Gambling is for losers," Weinglass said yesterday during an informal meeting with Bagli and other members of the media. "It really hurts that the press keeps making it an issue. I haven't made a bet in 10 years. It's mind-boggling that they keep bringing up gambling."

Weinglass, who was in town to be honored by the Maryland Sports Boosters for his philanthropic work in Baltimore, is trying to live down the image of the free-wheeling Mickey Rourke character in the movie "Diner."

"It made me bigger than life," he said.

Weinglass is concerned about the image now because he heads one of three groups trying to bring an NFL team to Baltimore. The other two are headed by Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer and author Tom Clancy.

Weinglass' image doesn't fit the button-down persona of a typical NFL owner (he still wears a ponytail and doesn't own a suit), which is why he is stressing that he's a successful businessman and that his group, which includes his good friend Barry Levinson, who made "Diner," has a net worth of $350 million.

He also said his group should get the team because he is a Baltimore native and five of the six members of his group have homes in Baltimore. Weinglass said his lawyer contacted Clancy's lawyer and suggested that Clancy -- another Baltimore native -- join his group. The answer came back that Clancy, who lives in Calvert County, wanted to run the group, so they continued to go their separate ways.

Meanwhile, Weinglass said that from all appearances, Glazer is a good businessman, but that the NFL should and will pick a local owner.

He called a Sun editorial "terrible journalism" and a "low blow" for suggesting that Baltimore should unite behind the Glazers because they offered to write a check for the team.

Weinglass said he was thoroughly investigated when his company, Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc., which operates a national chain of clothing stores, went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1983 and passed every test with no problem.

He said he expects the same results when the NFL completes investigating the owner groups. "I've heard my name brought up in a positive light," he said.

Weinglass, who said the NFL application asked what each owner group has done for its community, said that even before he became involved in trying to get an NFL team, he and the members of his group had put $12 million to $16 million into charitable efforts to Baltimore.

Weinglass also said that he probably knows half the people in Baltimore who are of his generation.

Even though it will be a business investment, Weinglass said he isn't looking to make money on the deal. He's just interested in bringing back pro football to Baltimore and simply doesn't want to lose money.

Of course, Baltimore first has to be awarded the team, but Weinglass makes it sound as if that's the least of his problems. He thinks Baltimore is No. 1 in the expansion derby and said it's the "most logical" choice.

"I just think Baltimore is going to get a franchise," he said.

Weinglass will get his chance to make his pitch to the NFL on Dec. 11, the second day that commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his expansion staff will be hearing presentations from the 10 cities vying for two franchises scheduled to be awarded next fall.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said that civic and business leaders and representatives of the three ownership groups will be included in the delegation that will represent Baltimore. The NFL has allocated Baltimore nine representatives at the meeting.

Belgrad also said he hopes to find out from the NFL at the presentation whether the NFL wants the city to support one ownership group. Baltimore is the only city that has more than one ownership group vying for the franchise.

Belgrad isn't favoring exclusively any of the three groups that filed the $100,000 application fee for Baltimore.

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