Angelos'approach to Orioles ownership is all over the park

February 01, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

The Super Bowl is over. Buffalo has lost again, meaning life isn't as random an enterprise as we sometimes think.

What would we do without the Bills? Every year, as tens of millions look on, the Bills die for somebody's sins. Meanwhile, we dip our chips, make side bets on the Bud Bowl and reflect on our comparative good fortune.

The party ends, and then we move on to more important pursuits.

Like baseball.

The big story locally is that Peter Angelos, the Orioles' new owner, wants to add as many as 10,000 seats to Camden Yards.

I have one question, and then a comment.

The question: Is he nuts?

The comment: Well, yeah.

Angelos loves change. He makes Bill Clinton look like William F. Buckley. He sees something, and he wants to make it better. Or, if not better, at least different.

He sees Camden Yards, the jewel of Baltimore. It is the most talked-about ballpark in the nation, maybe the most talked about ever. The praise never stops, and neither do the fans, who are more like pilgrims to a shrine.

Everyone who is building a stadium anywhere wants to make one just like it. No wonder. They stuffed 100 years of baseball tradition into Camden Yards, piled on some luxury sky boxes, and, Toto, we're home.

When Angelos sees Camden Yards, he sees history and tradition. Also, all those sellouts framed against a 10,000-person waiting list. He sees that more seats would accommodate more fans and, not incidentally, bring in more money.

I'd love to have a better shot at a ticket myself, but there's a problem. Except for a few seats they put in crookedly -- which Angelos is fixing -- the ballpark is pretty much perfect. If it's small and intimate, that's how it was designed. In fact, it is the essence of the place.

Bigger, as they used to say, is not better.

And art -- yeah, a ballpark can be art -- is not something you mess with, unless you're the kind who'd want to paint a bigger smile on the Mona Lisa.

Already, Camden Yards is a Baltimore landmark. You must tread carefully. You do not make the Bromo Seltzer clock digital. You don't put neon lights on the warehouse. You don't add 10,000 seats to the ballpark.

The good news is that it won't happen. Angelos says he wouldn't do anything to upset the ambience of the ballpark. I'm sure he wouldn't. This will be one of those ideas that, once floated, will crash of its own weight.

Of course, Angelos will have other ideas.

I'm going to be honest with you. The guy makes me nervous.

I know this is crazy. I mean, isn't Angelos everything an Orioles owner should be? Certainly, he's the anti-Eli Jacobs, and, for that alone, we must be thankful.

His heart is obviously in the right place.

More important, Angelos' wallet is in the right place. He's buying that stairway to heaven.

He doesn't settle for second best. He wants to win now. He

wants to win for you, for me, probably for himself. That's OK. If I'm an Orioles fan, I want an owner who wants it for himself.

So, why am I nervous?

It's because I've seen his kind before. Impulsive. Energetic. Interfering.

A sportswriter from Boston has already compared him to George Steinbrenner. The more apt comparison is Edward Bennett Williams, who preceded Jacobs in the owner's box.

You may remember EBW. He was the smartest man in the world and among the worst owners.

He was, like Angelos, a fan. Fans are dangerous. Or do you really think Stan the Fan should be running the ball club?

Baseball is not talk radio. It's not rocket science either. But there is stuff that baseball people know that we don't. Like how to hit a curveball.

Williams never grasped that concept, and the team, under his hands-on direction, slid into oblivion. I wonder if Angelos understands it any better.

So far, he's everywhere. Any move the Orioles make -- from signing Rafael Palmeiro to allowing Gregg Olson to become a free agent -- is dictated by Angelos. I get the feeling he wants to be the general manager as well as owner. Oh, and also the team architect. He'll probably be out there hawking programs, too.

Well, it's his team. And it looks like the Orioles should have a great season. If they don't -- watch -- the owner will want to know why.

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