Mr. Tops In Sport says Angelos ranks up there with best

John Steadman

August 09, 1993|By John Steadman

Knowing Peter Angelos for more than 40 years and once being employed in his law office, when there were only three attorneys (now there's 55), has given Frank Sliwka reason to applaud the success of the man who bought control of the Baltimore Orioles and furthermore to be enthused over the future of the franchise. He predicts a rewarding relationship.

Sliwka, who has directed the Maryland Professional Baseball Players' annual "Tops In Sport" banquet for almost three decades, says there's no doubt Angelos will be honored at the January event. He'll be invited to join the head table lineup as the new owner of the team, the man who wanted so much to buy the club he and his partners bid a record $173 million.

The pertinent points of discussion with Sliwka concern his early association with Angelos and to gain his perception of how the incoming leader will conduct himself in a public business, major league baseball, and how strong his impact will be. "First off," said Sliwka, "he's a good person. He loves to fight for the underdog."

How long will it take him to become acclimated to the role of being a sports executive? "He's smart enough to realize he doesn't know baseball," said Sliwka, "but he'll be effective. I told his wife, Georgia, when I called to congratulate Peter that their life isn't going to be the same. He'll be surrounded everywhere he goes. Georgia said the family has already found that out."

Sliwka expects Orioles changes will be forthcoming under Angelos. After all, he didn't pay that kind of money to continue the status quo.

"Peter will be proud of the team and want to keep it competitive," Sliwka continued. "I promise you that. Some people have an impression he's a cocky type, but he's not. He won't do anything stupid. He never has. I can tell you he's not a biased person. Loyalty is important to him."

It was Angelos, while running for mayor in 1967, who had Sen. Clarence Mitchell, one of the first black men to run citywide, on his ticket. But Tommy D'Alesandro III beat him three-to-one in the voting and Angelos, from that point, moved on to incredible heights in the practice of law.

What should Angelos' first move with the Orioles be? Sliwka was asked. "Put the name Baltimore back on the road uniforms," he said. "That's no great discovery. It's the perfect public relations move. It costs nothing and makes the fans happy. You'd have to be awfully dumb and out of touch with Baltimore not to do that."

Sliwka spent time working as a case investigator for Angelos when he had a law office in the Equitable Building.

"I was just entering law school shortly after the time Peter had graduated," he recalled. "As partners, back then, there were three lawyers -- Selig Wolfe, who died a year or so ago; Tom Menkin, a wonderful man who is still with him; and Peter. It was just about that time when Peter was in the City Council, before he ran for mayor.

"I remember one time watching him, when he was in the council, debate another councilman, the late Solomon Liss, on an issue. Here was Liss, widely respected, intelligent and with much wisdom, being challenged by young Angelos. It was incredible how well Peter handled himself. He was sharp, had a good vocabulary and gained much acclaim from everyone that night."

Yes, Angelos, despite his current wealth, was once a struggling attorney and, indeed, Frank "knew him when." Sliwka remembered Peter, on a Friday, in the early 1960s, asking him if he could postpone pay day until the following week.

"I remember him saying, 'I'll catch you then.' That was no problem. I guess it was a cash-flow situation and every businessman can relate to that."

Now Sliwka laughs at the contrast. He thinks of Angelos being in a position of regal affluence -- to afford being able to buy the Orioles for a commanding price of $173 million.

Angelos' athletic background is limited, except he was considered a good amateur boxer. "He was a skinny kid growing up," said Sliwka, "but he knows a lot about sports. I'm sure he'll be good for Baltimore."

Sliwka attended Angelos' wedding at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation and then the reception at the Eastwind.

"It was the biggest and most elaborate party I have ever seen," he said. "He married a pretty girl, Georgia Kousouris, and they have a nice family."

The future of the Orioles is in Angelos' hands. He's going to put his own record for achievement, fed by personal pride, to give the team a different type of leadership. It will, assuredly, have his strong input because Peter Angelos didn't come this far by being passive.

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