Put silver spoons aside this home team was built from ground up

John Steadman

October 05, 1993|By John Steadman

Most of what happened in the generation of our parents had to do with "old money," the power of the Sunpapers and the elitists of the Green Spring Valley.

They were, collectively, considered the privileged class. Important decisions and what evolved in the way of civic progress in Baltimore required their approval. Otherwise, there was little movement.

But what transpired yesterday offered a momentous contrast. Peter Angelos, son of a Greek immigrant, became majority owner of a baseball treasure, the Orioles, which for more than a century have been entwined in the fabric of the city. His successful bid to buy the team at auction required $173 million. Not bad for an erstwhile poor boy.

From a row house on Eastern Avenue, Angelos has become a Horatio Alger story that reads like something lifted from a story book. His father, John, owned a bar, at Eastern Avenue and Oldham Street. It was called "Tom's." Why not "John's?"

"I think because he bought it from a man named Tom," was Peter's uncomplicated explanation.

Angelos has 21 listed partners (there may be more) and of those on the roster are 18 with Baltimore or Maryland addresses. When they invest and cheer for the Orioles they are truly supporting the old home team.

Most of them are men who made it on their own. And what better illustrations than Henry Knott and Harvey Meyerhoff. And author Tom Clancy, son of a mailman, now one of the world's most renowned novelists, who came in as the second largest investor by writing a check for $20 million.

Angelos' lead role cost him more than $40 million. His debut as Orioles owner was hailed with enthusiasm. Angelos' comments were extraordinary, particularly when he said:

"This city will go on ad infinitum. This park will be here after we are long gone and so will the Orioles. We hold it in trust for future generations. As human beings we are only passing through."

That kind of eloquence is worthy of a Roosevelt or Churchill. He further analogized the Orioles as permanent as the Chesapeake Bay, Ocean City, the mountains of Western Maryland and insisted, "we'll never allow them to be taken away."

The Angelos group was smart enough to include one of Baltimore's most famous baseball names, Jack Dunn IV, whose great-grandfather built the winningest dynasty in the history of the sport, an Orioles team that won seven straight International League pennants, an unprecedented achievement.

Among Dunn's Orioles contributions as club owner and manager was the signing of the game's greatest player, Babe Ruth.

In the gathering hailing the new owner was Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who offered his personal thanks and reported Angelos told him during negotiations he was doing it "because he said he had made a lot of money and wanted to put something back into the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland."

Working as an assistant to the Orioles' public relations 'u department was Lisa Waskiewicz, who made an interesting observation for her alma mater.

"This is a great day for Loyola College," she said. "Peter Angelos, Tom Clancy, Jim McKay and Pam Shriver are on the board of trustees. Father [Joseph] Sellinger, our beloved president who died earlier this year, would have been proud of this."

Oddly enough, the Orioles deal came about as Clancy talked to Angelos in February to see if he would join in a move to get a pro football team for Baltimore.

But Angelos said he felt it was more important at that moment to assure keeping the team Baltimore had -- the Orioles -- rather than going after one that was predicated on an application.

With so many owners involved there's almost a need for them to wear numbers. Ed Brush, also on the ownership team, was asked about the possibility of there being too many investors, making for a situation that would invite chaos.

Brush responded by answering, "That won't happen because we have a strong leader in Angelos. A competent commander, like in the Army [where Pete was PFC Angelos], creates confidence. I believe he represents a benevolent dictatorship."

It was a "history-making day" for the Orioles. The team is owned by a group that, in the majority, comprises self-made executives in business and industry.

Their Baltimore roots run deep.

John Angelos, a bar owner from Greece who died at age 86 in 1977, would be pleased to see how son Peter has played such a role in buying something as American as a baseball team.

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