Give them an O!

August 04, 1993

When Peter G. Angelos and William O. DeWitt Jr. make their first official appearance at Camden Yards as the dominant owners of the Orioles -- before season's end, we hope -- local fans will have a chance to express what must be in their minds today.

They got more than they bargained for: a purchase price that was even more of a record than anyone expected, local control of the baseball franchise again and two strong figures in the new ownership group.

That is reason for great joy. The ballclub commanded an astonishing price in an auction supervised by a federal bankruptcy judge. (Does anyone in the National Football League still need evidence of the value of a Baltimore major league franchise?) Two competing groups among the four remaining contenders to succeed Eli Jacobs combined forces at the last minute in what appears to be a stronger team. Certainly it has greater financial resources than either the local group led by Mr. Angelos or the partnership headed by Mr. DeWitt, the Cincinnati businessman and son of a former owner of the St. Louis Browns, who moved east to become the Baltimore Orioles 39 years ago.

The Angelos/DeWitt group will need all the financial strength they have combined in order to deal both with the higher price they were forced to pay and with the team's obvious needs for some bolstering on the field. Mr. Angelos, the Baltimore attorney who entered the competition for the team as much with his heart as his head, has promised to field a contender. As the dominant partner in the group, he can deliver on his pledges. Mr. DeWitt's sentimental ties to Maryland are less evident on the surface, but plainly he understood what he was doing when he agreed to become a minority partner to a Baltimorean with season tickets.

The agreement between the Marylanders led by Mr. Angelos and Mr. DeWitt's group evolved over time but was not concluded until the last minute. Naturally there will be a lot of scrutiny, by organized baseball as well as local fans whose hopes have been --ed by owners who promised more than they ultimately delivered.

But there is an important difference this time. Mr. Angelos and his fellow investors aren't going to move here to satisfy a major league requirement. They're here already. And if things don't work out perfectly, they won't be able to sneak out of town, with or without Mayflower vans. Their lives outside baseball are here.

The presumptive new owners have taken on a Herculean task. Only they know whether they have the resources to make the Orioles a consistent contender -- one that can win a few more in the Skydome, for example. They have the cheers of grateful fans to urge them on.

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