Why Tom Clancy invested in baseball instead of football was more than merely going from an oblong spheroid to one that's round. The robust shape of the financial picture with the Baltimore Orioles was an important inducement, plus it's what his wife and children wanted. So he made them happy.
It also promised to put less strain on his financial holdings -- accrued from seven straight best-selling novels -- if he became involved in baseball rather than football. His $20 million involvement with the Orioles makes him second only to Peter Angelos, who is in for from $32 million to $50 million, in the record purchase of the Orioles.
Still, it's unprecedented and surprising that Clancy got out of the race for acquiring a National Football League expansion team and, in effect, left a partner, James Robinson, the highly successful movie producer, out on the proverbial limb. Robinson lost interest, too, and explained that since Clancy dropped out to pursue another endeavor, he had no alternative than to withdraw the bid.
The Clancy defection from chasing down a pro football club, after he spent $300,000 in fees and production of a 12-minute video introducing himself to NFL owners, came as an upset.
"An intermediary got me together with Peter Angelos," Clancy explained. "I wanted Peter to join the football venture. He told me he couldn't understand why I was interested in football, which was only a possibility, while at the same time it appeared the Orioles were going to be sold to out-of-town people. It was more important to buy them, rather than an NFL expansion club.
"That got my attention. It made sense. I had a personal reason, too. My bottom-line decision was based on pleasing my wife, Wanda, and the children. They like baseball better than football. My emotional attachment was to football and the Baltimore Colts, but I suppressed those feelings and went for baseball. It also was obvious the Orioles had a better cash flow than you could expect from football."
Was the NFL experience worthwhile?
"Yes, meeting Ed McCaskey of the Chicago Bears was particularly important," answered Clancy. "You can truly call him a great man. A sportswriter put me in touch with him. I know Jim Robinson was disappointed the way our football relationship turned out. Jim probably feels I deserted him and, in a way, I did. And, for that, I'm sorry.
"The effort was definitely informative. I also found John Unitas, who represented us, to be a man of high integrity. And when you talk football with him, it's easy to understand why he was the best there ever was. He could have been a great military general."
Clancy says an NFL owner told him the price for an expansion club, $140 million, was too high and that he personally couldn't advise him to pursue it at that point.
"He said if you want my team, which is established, you could probably get it for $130 million, which is less than expansion is going to cost," Clancy said. "But, of course, I would have to keep it where it was."
With Clancy out of the football derby and now a part of baseball, this leaves two groups, headed by Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Malcolm Glazer, in the competition. The Glazers, father and sons, are going it alone. But Weinglass, who leads a potential partnership, is said to be trying to interest Henry Rosenberg and John Paterakis, two prominent Baltimore businessmen, to join with his effort.
Clancy believes he made the right choice. "I like Peter Angelos," Clancy said. "He's a tough negotiator. I have grown to respect him. I hope we get an NFL club. And it would be perfect to get the Colts name back. I hope Paul Tagliabue could accomplish it. DTC I've always believed taking the team away and also plundering the Colt name offended God and that's not intended to be sacrilegious because of the love this city had for the players, the NFL and the Colt name for 35 years."
A football recovery for Baltimore would make Clancy happy -- even though instead of dreaming of being the owner he would be back sitting in the stands, the same as he used to do while cheering for Unitas and Jimmy Orr as they connected on a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone otherwise known as "Orrsville."