Angelos rides local in his quest to get Orioles back on track

John Steadman

October 11, 1993|By John Steadman

More than ever the Orioles will reflect the identity and wishes of hometown ownership. A new law firm, Piper & Marbury, will represent them, and production of the game program will return to French-Bray, a union printing shop that had a longtime association with the team and earned a reputation for quality work.

New owner Peter Angelos, attending an AFL-CIO meeting, told its membership changing from French-Bray to a non-union, out-of-Maryland firm was "done last season without justification after the company had been doing work for the Orioles for over 30 years" and had been buying tickets for games all the way back to International League days.

It was a week ago today that Angelos took control of the Orioles. The only change so far is what was to be expected . . . he's calling the signals. He'll soon have a decision to make on the retention of John Oates, who has been named Manager of the Year in a poll of his contemporaries.

That Oates will be retained seems a foregone conclusion. What happens then in regard to trades and free-agent acquisitions? "In every line of work and profession, you learn by listening," Angelos said. "I won't be an instant-expert. I'll ask every question I can in seeing what holds the most promise for the club."

James J. Lacy, an insurance executive and, historically, Loyola College's foremost basketball standout, says, "Peter will be outstanding. He'll be committed to having a highly competitive team. Everything we're hearing is in keeping with my high personal opinion of the man."

When the opportunity was given Angelos by reporters to comment about former Orioles owner Eli Jacobs, he said, "Eli played a major role in assembling the club. He believed in prudent expenditures. You don't win pennants throwing money out the window. The dividends in paying Glenn Davis almost $12 million and three fine players [Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley] were practically nil. But Eli showed he'd spend money.

"The trade for Davis simply didn't work out. You can't condemn anyone for it. The results of that move could have played a role in Eli feeling a bit gun-shy on what other deals were completed. I don't know, but I want to be fair to the man."

What has Angelos found out during his first seven days with the Orioles that he didn't know before? Not much about the internal operation because he's utilizing his own designated hitter, Joe Foss, who is caring for the transition process and connecting names to job responsibilities.

Angelos has been bothered with a cold and has yet to visit the team offices nor has he met with any of the six vice presidents who functioned under club president Larry Lucchino, now vice chairman in charge of operations.

It's natural to wonder what reaction Angelos has received from the public. "It has been absolutely extraordinary," he answers. "People congratulate me. All the while, I realize these commendations carry heavy responsibility. I'm in charge of an important civic duty. I want to make the fans proud of the club and also make them confident of the job that'll be done."

A little boy came up to him in a Dundalk restaurant and asked for an autograph. Angelos didn't have a piece of paper so he reached for a business card, signed it on the reverse side and handed it to the youngster with a smile, telling him, "Keep this card in case you need a lawyer." They both laughed.

Are there any comparisons to owning the Orioles and what he has been involved in previously? "It eclipses anything I've ever done," he replied. "More so than running for mayor in 1967 or being the attorney for those 8,500 consolidated cases in the asbestos litigation."

Angelos also realizes buying thoroughbreds for his racing stable is something that can be equated to evaluating baseball talent. He makes a judgment in purchasing horses off what the trainer advises. There's similarity in baseball, except the general manager and scouts offer their opinions and then the decision is up to him.

But, in racing, if the verdict is wrong only he and the trainer know. That's more of a private disappointment. In baseball, owning a team and dealing for players is comparable to directing a utility.

Since the Orioles have been in Baltimore for over a century, every ticket buyer feels as if he or she is buying in as an investor -- which is why baseball is so successful. Yet it's also why owners must always answer to the demands of the public.

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