Hometown sluggers connect to spark late rally to buy O's

John Steadman

May 21, 1993|By John Steadman

Security checks are under way to put all in readiness if the American League approves the effort of the triple play combination of Clancy-to-Weinglass- to-Angelos in their late-inning rally to buy the Baltimore Orioles out of bankruptcy proceedings.

It's a hometown bid to purchase the team and if all three of the would-be owners pass inspection the final decision on the deal will be determined by a judge. The other strong proposal has been put together by William DeWitt Jr., the son of a

well-respected executive with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees and a part-owner of the St. Louis Browns and Cincinnati Reds.

The preliminary part of the background process has been completed on author Tom Clancy and tentatively approved. This is to be expected since he has no record of arrest, indictments or charges of laundering drug money or stealing hubcaps. In fact, the CIA and FBI consider Clancy an honorary alumnus because of his understanding of government and the top security clearance he already enjoys.

Clancy was recruited by Peter Angelos, who organized the all-Baltimore group shortly after he initiated what amounts to a belated endeavor to obtain ownership of the Orioles. Angelos said he wanted a partner with the ability to invest, plus a man with the kind of name recognition that would get the attention of the lords of baseball.

The fact Angelos has recruited Clancy and now businessman Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass adds importance to his contending role. Not only is it a hometown team in regard to ownership but Angelos and his associates offer an ethnic mix that looks the part of a well-constructed political ticket.

DeWitt has put more than six months of negotiations into building a proposal that may well exceed $100 million but not all the money has to be in cash. Angelos was interested in mid-winter but when he made inquiry was told the DeWitt group had the inside track and the move was fait accompli, so he backed off.

However, what Angelos later heard inspired him to revive his interest. He was told, but without verification, that DeWitt had only $15 million in cash to pull off an acquisition of a team that is considered one of the most valuable franchises in sports.

DeWitt has known for at least several days that Angelos was marshalling forces to head him off. Angelos, as a lawyer, knows there are delicate rules pertaining to the sale of a property in bankruptcy, especially after sale proceedings have moved this far along with one individual. All of Angelos' moves have been weighed and calculated so as not to meet with any legal difficulties.

The most interesting and influential name Angelos has otherwise mentioned as being with him is that of Henry Knott Sr., a Baltimore civic leader who has contributed millions to educational institutions. Recipients include Notre Dame College, Loyola College and Mount St. Mary's College, plus the parochial school system of Baltimore.

Angelos, except for owning a thoroughbred racing stable, has never been involved in major-league sports but has been a participant in the political game, formerly serving in the City Council and then losing a campaign for mayor.

"I once had one of the best seats in the house for the Jersey Joe Walcott and Rocky Marciano championship fight," he recalled with a laugh. "I was only a kid when Benny Trotta, the former boxing promoter, got me to drive him and Rodger Pippen, sports editor of The Baltimore News-Post, to Philadelphia for the bout. I got the chance to sit in the seventh row, got paid for driving and it's an experience I have never forgotten."

The developments in Baltimore with the two new names joining Angelos is of concern to the National Football League. Clancy and Weinglass had both applied for an expansion team that is to be awarded this fall. Clancy has pulled out completely in favor of baseball but Weinglass is still in pursuit, although he believes he would have to divest himself of Orioles ownership if football became a reality for him.

The NFL has a meeting next week in Atlanta and it definitely wants to establish the cost of the two expansion franchises, with the announcement of selected cities coming this fall. With Clancy out and Weinglass also getting involved in baseball, it would seem to move up the other Baltimore bid, that of Malcolm Glazer.

Pro football never likes to be placed in a role of secondary importance, certainly not to baseball. Don't rule out the possibility of another investment group forming to push for Baltimore.

It would have to bring with it outstanding credentials and awesome financial assets to be a factor this late in the game.

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