Accorsi is impressed with athletic Indians

The Inside Stuff

August 11, 1992|By Bill Tanton

Ernie Accorsi, who resigned recently as executive vice president of the Cleveland Browns, has the same feeling I have about the Indians team that played the Orioles here last weekend.

"Cleveland has a bunch of big, good-looking athletes," says Accorsi, who has been a huge baseball fan all his life. "I was impressed with the Indians' athleticism. They can run. They hit the ball hard."

The Indians, of course, beat the O's twice and forced the locals to go into the 10th inning to win the series finale, 3-2. During those three days, they looked like a better ballclub than the Baltimore team some are now picking to win the American League East.

That's a far cry from Indians teams of years past -- Cleveland hasn't won a pennant since 1954 -- and Accorsi, who lives here now, hopes people appreciate that it was Hank Peters who put this Indians club together.

"Hank was blistered by the media when we were in Cleveland," Accorsi says regarding the executive who was Orioles general manager through 1987 and who retired as Indians GM last fall.

"The team didn't win. You can't get free agents to come to Cleveland so Hank had to develop some young talent and make a few trades.

"He drafted Charles Nagy, who beat the Orioles, 6-0, on a one-hitter. Nagy is one of the best pitchers in the majors now.

"Hank traded with San Diego for Carlos Baerga. He sent Tom Candiotti to Toronto for Mark Whiten and Glenallen Hill. Cleveland's center fielder, Kenny Lofton, was a starter on Lute Olsen's Arizona Final Four basketball team. Hank brought Sandy Alomar [AL All-Star catcher] to Cleveland.

"The Indians are really moving. After a horrible start this season, they've gone 37-32. They think they're a couple starters away from being a contender."

It was Peters who appointed the Indians manager, Mike Hargrove, and who brought their GM, John Hart, to Cleveland with him from Baltimore. And, of course, it was Peters who selected Cal Ripken for Baltimore in the June 1978 free-agent draft.

Peters, a gentleman who has many friends here, was voted Major League Executive of the Year twice with the Orioles (1979 and 1983). When he was let go by Edward Bennett Williams, his comment was classic Hank Peters.

"I didn't get smart overnight," he said, "and I didn't get dumb overnight either."

Accorsi, incidentally, expects to get back into the NFL, but not until he sees what happens with expansion. In the meantime, look for him to turn up doing talk shows on local radio and TV.

* Accorsi testified for three days last week in the NFL antitrust hearing in Minneapolis. He is prohibited from discussing the case, but he does tell a classic George Young story about it.

Young, the Baltimore-born GM of the New York Giants, is quite an intellectual as sports executives go. He holds two master's degrees and, unlike most of us, seems to have remembered everything he learned.

On the witness stand in Minneapolis, Young was being grilled by the lawyer for the players seeking free agency. Lawyers ask questions designed to elicit a yes or no answer, but when this one asked Young, "Isn't it true that one man's chaos is another man's human rights?" George answered: "Who said that, Socrates?"

It broke up the whole courtroom.

* Speaking of longtime sports figures from Baltimore, there will be a testimonial golf tournament at Clifton Park on Aug. 28 honoring one of them, Joe Vaeth, who retired after 26 years as pro there. Bring your own foursome or come single and join a group.

Nobody ever said Joe Vaeth was the best golfer in the country, but I'll bet he could beat any golf pro in the country at badminton.

Mayor Kurt Schmoke has declared that day Joe Vaeth Day in Baltimore. For details, call the pro shop at 243-3500.

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