On first play, Lucchino may stay on home turf before driving north or south

John Steadman

November 10, 1993|By John Steadman

Now that Larry Lucchino placed himself on front-office waivers and is free to look at other opportunities, the chance to sign on with any new football team that might come to Baltimore offers intrigue and appeal. Reports he has already embarked on such a mission were dispelled today, but, then again, don't rule out the possibility of his joining the scrimmage.

To this point in the machinations of Baltimore's acquiring a National Football League expansion franchise, Lucchino, once the president of the Orioles, doesn't have an official position. He says he is offering moral support to Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, who heads a group endeavoring, along with that of rival Malcolm Glazer, to gain rights to a team that will be awarded Nov. 30.

What about the future? Will he be involved in football, providing a team comes here?

"I would consider assisting in building a stadium because I feel connected to the city," he replied. It's his plan to continue residing in Baltimore. He's in no hurry to relocate.

When Lucchino left the Orioles, it's reported he had the option of cashing in ownership holdings, which would have given him a severance payment in excess of $9 million. Although still a partner with the Washington firm of Williams & Connolly, he gives the impression he's not about to go back to the practice of law on a full-time basis.

As it has with other lawyers, the excitement of the sports arena caught Lucchino's attention, and he doesn't want to give it up. He had previously attended NFL meetings with the late Edward Bennett Williams when he was associated with the Washington Redskins, so it's plausible Larry again will have a football connection.

This, in truth, seems a long shot because Lucchino has job opportunities awaiting with the New York Mets and Florida Marlins. The call is his. He can go either place. Where will it be, Larry, north or south?

"I'd like to stay right where I am," is the answer he gives, which means right here on the crab flats of the Chesapeake.

If it plays out that Baltimore isn't included in NFL expansion and an existing team decides to transfer, what then?

He paused, weighed his words as attorneys have been known to do, and replied, "I have no opinion that I want to offer. It's a sensitive issue."

There have been reports Lucchino would help pave the way for a transfer of the Los Angeles Rams in the event the league elects to go to St. Louis via expansion rather than Baltimore. About bringing a franchise from someplace else, he added, "The window of opportunity will be open for the next six months."

This is an act Gov. William Donald Schaefer finds repugnant. The fact the Colts were stolen out of Baltimore in 1984 upset Schaefer then, as it does now, but he has never advocated turnabout as fair play in the fight for a replacement team.

Lucchino says he'll not make a career decision until "the dust settles and things quiet down." Meanwhile, he points out he's a member of the Orioles' board of directors and will be advising new owner Peter Angelos on a "few matters he asked me about." He's in no hurry to leave.

But if there's no sports opportunity to pursue here, then his attention could turn to either New York or Miami and a return to baseball. Lucchino related that the night before he announced his resignation from the Orioles he took a walk around the new ballpark.

"Kind of a nostalgic trip for me," he explained. "Whatever happens, don't let the idea I talked about earlier, to erect a statue of Babe Ruth in

the plaza on Russell Street, die. The location is right across from Pickle's Pub. It's the perfect place. Babe should be there."

Why, then, wasn't the facility named for Baltimore's most illustrious son rather than something as bland as Oriole Park at Camden Yards?

"Because the governor didn't want it and neither did [former owner] Eli Jacobs," said Lucchino, who added that the only voice for Ruth within the Oriole hierarchy was that of general manager Roland Hemond. That is not surprising because Hemond is the only pure baseball man at the top of Oriole management and therefore has an understanding of Ruth's contributions to the game.

Larry Lucchino is like so many other men and women coming to Baltimore from someplace else. They become attached and are reluctant to leave. Industry and business have known this for years. It's something about a crab cake.

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