Checklist of positives from past can help new Orioles owners

John Steadman

August 18, 1993|By John Steadman

Since there's no school or special courses available for the indoctrination and education of potential owners of major-league sports franchises, the next best thing toward fulfilling such need is to create a handbook offering quick and easy reference.

First, a prelude. We've been privileged to know such sterling gentlemen owners as Tom Yawkey, Art Rooney, Tim Mara, Jerry Wolman, Tony Morabito and Lamar Hunt. Not all of them were successful in earning championships. Winning, of course, isn't the be-all and end-all; it's only part of the equation.

Then there were chances to observe Charley Finley, George Marshall, Dan Reeves, Clark Griffith and a multitude of others, including a group known as the "100 Brothers" who in the long-ago past combined resources to operate the Philadelphia Eagles.

In Baltimore, specifically, a mix of owners, some good, others less than that, followed in profusion. There were such names

as Jack Dunn III, Clarence Miles, Bob Rodenberg, Abe Watner, Jim Keelty, Carroll Rosenbloom, Joe Iglehart, Zanvyl Krieger, Jerry Hoffberger, Edward Bennett Williams, Bob Irsay and Eli Jacobs.

What differentiates between a good and bad owner? That's easy.

* Love of the game.

* Honesty.

* Genuine respect for the spectators who fill the seats.

* Desire to field a competitive team.

* Understanding of the history of the sport, its treasured traditions and the players who contributed to the glory of their times -- regardless of the era in which they performed.

Hopefully, the owners-to-be of the Orioles, headed by Peter Angelos and probably 28 other associates, are going to be popular and successful. How will their individual personalities play out in the operation of a team that is held near and dear to the hearts of Baltimore? It's more a civic treasure, almost comparable to Chesapeake Bay and Federal Hill.

Angelos describes himself as a humble "trustee." May he never lose the perception. Taking bows, except in behalf of the team, or engaging in self-aggrandizement, will do him in quicker than a steamed crab that's spoiled. The temptation will always be there for the full set of owners to pontificate, pound their chests and issue statements.

It's not going to be an easy effort to control the thoughts of so many divergent individuals, high achievers in other lines of work, with egos to match. Angelos' patience will be tested to the

maximum. His voice is the only one that counts, but others will be expressing their opinions and be available any time reporters approach with notebooks, recorders and television cameras.

The potential for creating turmoil is boundless. Any view other than the one Angelos expresses can be construed as diversionary. If such conflict occurs the next step may border on chaos. Angelos is the only officer invested with the authority to make command decisions for the Orioles. It should remain that way.

Owners might like to throw their weight around but shouldn't. They need to tell friends they can't help them get good seats, bring particular players to social functions, appoint a favorite nephew to the job of team batboy or even set foot on the field or in the locker room.

The players don't need to be interfered with, caressed by soft words or be on a first-name basis with the owners. They are being well paid for their skills. That's enough. A code of restraint must be self-imposed. Is that too much to ask? No. To expect? Almost. But once confusion manifests itself the trip is all downhill.

Nothing wrecks a franchise quicker than a collection of owners becoming visible and vocal. With the present group taking over the Orioles, it's important they succeed because that's good for Baltimore.

Most of them, to be brutally frank, may not be able to tell the difference between a lemon and a baseball. The fans don't pay to see the owners but too often this vital premise is ignored or forgotten.

Larry MacPhail, a Hall of Fame owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, once made a powerful suggestion to the Orioles' ownership in the mid-1950s at a banquet of the Scimitar Club at the Alcazar. "The best thing they could all do," boomed MacPhail, "is book passage on an ocean liner for an around-the-world tour leaving April 1 and not return until Oct. 1."

The wish for the Orioles' incoming owners is one of monumental success. To give themselves the best chance they need to enjoy their combined $173 million investment by merely exercising a rooting interest.

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