Schaefer, Cooke: Who do you cheer for?

February 25, 1994|By John Steadman

Given the choice of being on a deserted island with either William Donald Schaefer or Jack Kent Cooke as a companion, the ideal option would be neither. The two are meant for each other. Exclusively.

They, coincidentally, are so important they need three names for proper identification, which obviously makes them more important than the rest of we commoners. Cooke and Schaefer deserve to be together. One is a genius and a tyrant; the other a tyrant.

When you listen to Cooke and Schaefer they are remindful of a couple of old baggy-pant vaudeville comedians, which makes it perfectly understandable why vaudeville died. Because Schaefer, the governor, hasn't rolled out the red carpet of welcome for Cooke at Laurel, where he wants to build a new

stadium with his own money, there's a chance Cooke's Washington Redskins might not relocate to Maryland.

If there's no football team coming to Laurel, the proposal goes up in smoke. Meanwhile, the state's two most influential legislators, Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller and Speaker of the House Caspar Taylor, are doing all they can to keep Cooke interested. They don't want to see the Laurel endeavor, meaning much in tax dollars to Maryland, fall apart.

Baltimore missed in its attempt to gain an NFL expansion franchise through what Schaefer termed the "torpedoing" of the effort by commissioner Paul Tagliabue. But, after the battle, the Good Ship Baltimore hasn't slipped away to the bottom of the sea.

"Admiral of the Chesapeake" Schaefer, after sounding the call to general quarters, moved Herbert Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, from the bridge and personally assumed control. There's talk that when Belgrad's term expires that Bob Pascal, now the governor's appointment secretary, will be named to the position. But Pascal has no chance, the reason being he is too qualified.

Pascal understands sports since he was a brilliant halfback at Duke University, then a second-round draft choice of the Baltimore Colts in 1956. He played a year in the Canadian Football League and, subsequently, was elected chief executive Anne Arundel County.

These kinds of sterling credentials would eliminate him from consideration as head of the stadium authority.

The fair-haired boy in the eyes of Schaefer is the new owner of the Orioles, one Peter Angelos. From his racetrack association and ownership of thoroughbreds, Angelos knows what it is to be a "hot horse." In the parlance of the backstretch, that's what Angelos is.

There's no more admired citizen in Maryland today than Angelos, who bid $174 million for the Baltimore Orioles when they went on the auction block last summer.

The purchase of the franchise, saving it from those outlanders from Cincinnati, headed by Bill DeWitt Jr. and possibly holdover team president Larry Lucchino, immediately made Angelos a heroic figure in Maryland.

This has led Schaefer, who couldn't prevent Kurt Schmoke from taking over as mayor, to look to Angelos as possibly his successor as governor. William Donald Schaefer would like that, even though Angelos doesn't use three names. He's still Pete to his old friends and isn't impressed with his own importance. Hopefully, he'll stay the same.

Meanwhile, Cooke says, with or without the governor's help, he's going to build a stadium in Laurel.

Imagine this ground-breaking scenario: The earth-movers, those giant machines, are lined up, motors roaring, ready to roll and there's Schaefer throwing himself in front of heavy equipment to keep Cooke from re-making the property. Kind of a gubernatorial sit-in.

Would Cooke roll him into the ground or merely have private policemen escort him off his property?

Cooke contends, in the latest of prize-winning exhortations, that he's going to build at Laurel, "come hell or high water." That's far from original. Jack Kent can do better than that.

Then again, Cooke might be right on both counts. Schaefer is raising all kinds of hell, devilish in the eyes of Cooke. Also, alluding to "high water" might eventually be a natural occurrence since the land borders a flood plain.

Right now, Miller, Taylor and others are trying to hold the deal together, which is testing their patience and powers of diplomacy.

What Cooke and Schaefer may do is meet at high noon and

settle the controversy in a duel of swords. It will be difficult to root for either.

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