Orioles boss wants to raise awareness, not ticket prices

ANGELOS OWNS UP

September 26, 1993

Peter G. Angelos doesn't own the Orioles yet. The Baltimore lawyer and the roughly two dozen investors who've thrown their millions behind him won't take control of the team until major-league owners vote their approval and all the bank papers have been signed. That could take another week to 10 days.

By then, Angelos will have been the Orioles' owner-in-waiting for almost two months. On Aug. 2, he bought the team during an unprecedented courthouse auction in New York. The winning bid of the Angelos investors, $173 million, is a record price for a professional sports team. It also is about to give the Orioles a controlling owner who lives and works in Baltimore for the first time since brewery owner Jerold C. Hoffberger ran the club in the 1970s.

Angelos hasn't spoken much about the Orioles in the past month, preferring to wait until the pending sale is completed. Recently, though, he consented to a lengthy interview in his law offices on Harford Road and spoke about a wide range of issues, including one that matters most to pennant-starved Orioles fans: How deeply are the incoming owners likely to dig into their pockets to build a winning team?

Angelos also had good news for paying customers at Camden Yards. There will be no ticket price increase next year.

Angelos spoke with Sun reporter Mark Hyman.

QUESTION: If all goes as expected, you'll own the Orioles soon. Do you expect to be actively involved in running the team?

ANSWER: In the beginning, I will devote as much time as required to putting the imprint of this new ownership on the Orioles. In other words, it will be different. There will be a closer attachment of the organization, the baseball club, to the community.

Q: What specific changes are you planning?

A: First of all, there will be greater efforts made in reaching out to the community. Some of that is being done now, with club sponsorship of Little League programs and so on. That's an excellent beginning, but by no means should it be a culmination of the effort. We should get more involved with the [city] Department of Recreation. We should instigate. We should take the lead. I hope we'll be deeply involved in getting kids playing in Little Leagues within the city proper. There's plenty of space in Clifton Park, in Druid Hill Park, in Patterson Park and so on.

Q: The Orioles already have an active community relations department. Will there be changes?

A: Certainly, the efforts will be more intensive. I'm not saying [the current staff] isn't doing well. But I'll say those efforts aren't as recognized within the general community as they should be and maybe that is because the effort isn't as intense as it can be. There is a lot more that can be done and that is one thing this kind of ownership group we have can provide.

Q: As Marylanders, will the new owners run the team differently than outgoing owner Eli S. Jacobs, who lives in New York?

A: I think there will be major differences. Eli is a businessman from another part of the country, albeit close to Baltimore. He still essentially commuted to Baltimore and considering that, he did a very admirable job. But essentially he was an absentee owner. I don't believe he had hands-on management in the [community relations] areas I am referring to.

Q: What about baseball issues? Will Orioles fans see changes?

A: They very well might, in the sense that we may be somewhat more liberal in our pursuit of ballplayers who our baseball people believe are critical to the success of the team. I don't say that to denigrate the effort of this club under the Jacobs regime. Certainly this is a very successful ballclub, and it is not too far away from being at the top of its division.

Q: If the team has been such a big success, why make changes?

A: Just because we're hometown. Just because we're from this area. It is your team and the roots are here. You are going to be a lot more aggressive than someone who is from a distant area. That emotion certainly asserted itself in that auction. If one was making a cool and detached assessment that day in that courtroom, maybe you don't bid $173 million, and you don't prevail. We weren't going to let that happen.

Q: So how will you build a winner?

A: The farm system is critically important. If it works, it allows you to grow from a competitive team to being a champion. That is opposed to the free-agent concept, which is to reach out and pick up one or two key players who take your team to the top. It's just a question which road you want to travel. I think good baseball judgment dictates the first road, with the reservation that you don't absolutely rule out the second. It's going to require some restraint, combined with an aggressiveness that probably will be more pronounced than what has been here before.

Q: What is the status of Larry Lucchino, the Orioles' president, with you and the team? Initially, you named him vice chairman for operations.

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