For starters, Angelos throws himself a party OPENING DAY '94

April 05, 1994|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Writer

The game was a shade under three hours old. Peter G. Angelos, in his Opening Day debut as Orioles owner, managed to pull himself away from the party scene in the back of the owners box just in time to watch Lee Smith stride onto the mound at Camden Yards.

Out of nowhere, Kansas City had two runners on and the tying run at the plate. Suddenly, what had been a nearly perfect Opening Day for the new owner looked as if it might end with a loud thud.

And Angelos sensed it.

"Geez, I knew I should have been paying attention," he said, staring at the field, seeing something less than a guaranteed win.

He didn't have to think it long. Smith threw the next pitch. Dave Henderson dribbled weakly into a fielder's choice for the final out. And Angelos had his Opening Day victory.

Angelos was on his feet, clapping and taking every outstretched hand. The owner's smile was the one he usually reserves for the million-dollar settlements of asbestos lawsuits.

"It's the perfect ending. How can you beat a day like this?" Angelos said, the sellout crowd buzzing below him.

You'd have to search long to find fault on the first Opening Day of the Angelos regime. The weather was crisp, but the day sun-splashed and delightful. And the Orioles got away quickly, posting a 6-3 win.

The only scar was Angelos' performance in the first-ball throw. His throw fell well before home plate, giving him the least memorable first pitch in a field that included noted author and Orioles investor Tom Clancy and Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Angelos even had an explanation for that. "Stage fright," he said with a chuckle.

Most of Angelos' moves were sure and true. He shook a thousand hands. He posed for snap shots and home videos. He even got invited on a golf date by former Royals star and future Hall of Famer George Brett, a visitor to the new owner's box.

Angelos thanked Brett for the kind offer. Turning to a visitor, he said, "I don't even own golf clubs."

Of course, you understand, Angelos couldn't say no to anybody on Opening Day. As Angelos saw it, his main job was to play host to a Camden Yards crowd of 47,549, all but about six of whom showed up either at his pre-game party or at the owners box.

And what a party.

Angelos invited about 750 to a reception on the sixth floor of the B&O warehouse. At least that many showed up, with the biggest crowds gathered around Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the jumbo shrimp.

Then it was on to the pre-game ceremonies, which bore the unmistakable mark of the Angelos clan. Georgia Angelos, the owner's wife and an opera buff, chose the national anthem singer, Baltimore Opera Company general manager Michael Harrison.

Angelos put himself in charge of first-pitch ceremonies, which turned out to be a good move. President Clinton passed up Opening Day in Baltimore to christen Jacobs Field in Cleveland. Vice President Al Gore was another possibility, but that didn't pan out either.

The new owner didn't miss a beat. He called Schaefer and offered him the honor. Schaefer didn't want it, or more accurately didn't want to be the politician on the mound when the sellout crowd let loose with the inevitable chorus of boos.

But Angelos insisted. He sweetened the offer, saying if the governor accepted, he'd throw out a ball, too. So would Clancy, the novelist and aspiring relief pitcher.

And so, at 3:04 yesterday afternoon, the three of them stood on the mound peering in at home plate. They all wore Orioles jackets. Schaefer and Clancy had on Orioles hats. Angelos refused, grunting something about wanting to show off what remains of his hair.

Schaefer never looked more content to be at a ballgame. Angelos clearly had a lot to do with that.

"It's the happiest Opening Day," the governor said. "Sure, I'm enthusiastic about this one. He has made me feel so good. I didn't ask to throw out the first ball. I never wanted to ask for that honor. But with Peter, I didn't have to mention it. You know, I am the governor. He cared enough to come to me."

If the honor helped to lift the governor's spirits, Angelos hardly seemed surprised.

"It was great for his morale. He's very sensitive. He did build this place. After all, let's remember this man led the charge," the owner said.

Not all the first pitches were perfect strikes, however.

Schaefer looked the most like somebody actually aiming in the direction of the plate. His pitch sailed wide. Clancy uncorked a dribbler, which certainly came as no surprise to the gangly author. "I don't play baseball; I have trouble hitting a golf ball 60 feet," he said.

Angelos said he didn't want to make Clancy look bad, and he didn't, coming up with an enthusiastic but forgettable throw.

"That was the first indication I had all day that there might be some slight nervousness," the owner said. "I should have warmed up."

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