Angelos gets straight A's from old law school prof

John Steadman

September 13, 1993|By John Steadman

There's an almost fatherly pride expressed by Francis Valle over the accomplishments of Peter Angelos, the man who wanted, regardless of the price, to return ownership of the Orioles to Baltimore and successfully bid $173 million for the opportunity. Valle was one of Angelos' teachers in law school, later ran with him on the same political ticket and subsequently worked in his firm as a consultant to young lawyers.

Valle, who served 10 years as a judge of the orphans' court and two terms as a commissioner of the workmen's compensation board, is elated Angelos stepped forward to buy the Orioles.

"When he puts something together, it's done right," said Valle. "Peter is a big spender. But he first has to believe in the effort."

At a record $173 million for the Orioles, the Valle words are supported with tangible verification of his assessment of the man. "Intellectually," said Valle, "he has a great legal mind. He has a natural ability in law that can't be acquired, plus immense courage."

Had he ever seen Angelos angered? "I guess I have," he answered.

What was it over? "The stupidity some people exercise. That will get him upset. He's a man who does things properly. In a courtroom, he's prepared. If you know Peter, he's in command of the situation. Nothing will intimidate him. He'll talk to the King or Queen of England the same way he talks to us."

Can he amplify? "Yes," said Valle. "Peter won't pull a punch. You may not like what he says but you get it straight. I once sent a friend to see him who needed advice about a domestic problem. After reviewing the situation, he said, 'You're married to a bum.' My friend was all shook up. But that's Peter. He gave his honest opinion."

Angelos already has created a popular presence with his purchase of the Orioles. It's said he's now the No. 1 Greek-American in Baltimore.

"That's wrong," answered Valle. "I believe he's overall our top citizen -- period. The reception he's receiving is like a heroic Roman general returning to the homeland, although he's Greek-American. People thank him and congratulate him for buying the Orioles."

On the ancestral aspect, Valle, a much respected leader in Italian-American causes, likes to claim Angelos as being "somewhat Italian" because his father was born on a Greek Island that was controlled by Italy and had Italian citizenship. "I VTC know one other thing about Peter," he said. "He has a great relationship with the Italian community."

Valle reflects on the 1967 Baltimore election when he was running for comptroller, Angelos bidding for mayor and Clarence Mitchell as president of the City Council. A landslide victory went to rival Tommy D'Alesandro III in the Democratic primary and Angelos never ran for public office again.

"I remember at the time the D'Alesandro group was perceived as liberal," Valle said. "Then when we had Clarence Mitchell with us, we were given that label. I had an inkling we weren't going to win. I think Peter felt that way but never said it. Still, we were disappointed. Peter knew the functions of government extremely well. He had been a tremendous city councilman and, I believe, would have been a great mayor."

As for citing Angelos' role in the huge Baltimore asbestos cases, Valle remembers union leaders telling Angelos some of its members had been devastated with physical ailments relating to previous working conditions. So what did Angelos do?

"He approached it the right way," Valle said. "He believed in pursuing the litigation. Peter engaged doctors, nurses and medical units to first examine the union members. He tracked and substantiated the claims. He's the only lawyer I know who would have been motivated to put up his own money and believed enough to pursue it and make certain proper action was taken."

Valle also remembers when Angelos, after buying Shane's Restaurant, took over active direction and told one of his best friends, the late Ed Healy, who had been the manager, that he was replacing him. He actually paid Healy his salary to stay away.

"Those two men loved each other like brothers, believe me they did," added Valle. "It was a minor disagreement between them."

Now Francis Valle, positive about the Angelos acquisition of the Orioles, prepares to cheer his former student's association with a sports entity. He insists it bodes well for Baltimore and baseball.

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