Angelos takes rooting for the home team to a higher level

John Steadman

July 29, 1993|By John Steadman

That Peter Angelos was born in Baltimore and scaled the heights of his profession, with an imposing won-lost record, provides the civic incentive to look now in a different direction. It explains why he's totally immersed in pursuit of his hometown baseball team -- where a "high as the sky" price tag hasn't scared him off.

The Angelos' star glistens brightly in and out of the courtroom. Angelos, it could be said, is comparable to an angel financially backing a stage show or, in this case, a major-league franchise. The California Angels for a man named Angelos would be more of a rhetorical fit but he wouldn't be interested.

Because the Orioles are synonymous with Baltimore, he's heading a group involved in bidding for team ownership at next Monday's bankruptcy proceedings in New York. Angelos is Baltimore-born and educated (Patterson High and the University of Baltimore). He has an immensely successful law practice with a team of attorneys, numbering 55, that is even more numerous than his string of thoroughbred horses that race under the name of Marathon Farm.

Angelos will be in attendance when the judge renders the decision on Monday but his legal representation is being quarterbacked by the firm of Piper & Marbury and a young attorney he admires, one George Stamas.

Does Angelos, with a high percentage of achievements, covet the ownership of the Orioles?

"Now that's a strong word," he answers. "No, I don't covet the team. I'm interested for one reason, to return the ballclub to Baltimore and Maryland ownership. I can't identify the number the franchise will sell for when the bids are in place. It hasn't been decided yet."

From your perception, is there a financial limit?

"Yes, there is," Angelos says. "The price that's paid will have to make good business sense. But we might be in position to pay a premium because it's a Baltimore franchise. That's the only reason I'm interested."

If an available-for-purchase team, hypothetically speaking, was located elsewhere, say in Pittsburgh or Chicago, would you be involved?

"Absolutely not," is the reply. "I'm a part of the effort entirely only because of how important it is to Baltimore."

Angelos, speaking for his group, has an offer of $148 million on the table in what appears to be turning into an almost runaway game of "can you top this?" Providing he has the lucky number and comes away with the Orioles, are there any immediate operational ideas he is ready to propose and implement?

"It would be a more intensive program of involvement with the fans," he says. "I'd hope to bring more kids to the games, not just in Baltimore but across the board for all of baseball. I'd like to see about 1,500 seats constructed in the ballpark and reserve them for young people and senior citizens.

"Invite an entire class, not just handing out tickets, from public, parochial and private schools, along with their teachers to supervise the outing. Have it organized. The total might come to 125,000 for the season. And give each of them a Coke and hot dog. See that they have the full experience of what ballpark enjoyment is all about."

As a young man, even before he enlisted in the Army during the Korean action, Peter wanted to be a lawyer. Now his two sons hold similar aspirations. In bringing up a pleasant sports experience, he recalls with fondness the time in 1952 when he got to see Rocky Marciano beat Jersey Joe Walcott for the heavyweight boxing championship in Philadelphia.

"I was just a youngster then but Benny Trotta, the fight promoter, got me to drive him, Joe Battaglia and Rodger Pippen, the News-Post sports editor, to the bout," he said. "I had a great seat. What a thrill that was. At various times, Benny let me have a small ownership of a fighter. I had a piece of Joe Sanchez and some others. One more boxer I remember was Babe Gallagher."

Angelos now has turned his attention to baseball, rather the Orioles, to be more specific. He says there's a chance he might add another name to the ownership delegation.

"We just had inquiry from someone in the Washington metropolitan area," he says. "It could be advantageous to have one or two from there to acknowledge the support the fans there have shown to the club."

For the present, he waits on the decision and dreams of how it would be to be in charge of a baseball team, the Orioles, in his old hometown. The judge will make a decisive call -- either "safe" or "out" with no such thing as a tie going to the runner.

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