Success is only fitting for Angelos

April 05, 1994|By John Steadman

That a kid of humble immigrant parents who grew up living in a row house, 5009 Eastern Ave., near what is called Greek Hill on the perimeter of Highlandtown, has indulged in philanthropy to benefit his hometown proves not all Horatio Alger tales are excerpted from story books.

The newest of names in such a rags-to-riches rise is that of Peter Angelos, with emphasis on the angel because it's what he is -- the financial backer of the great baseball show; entrepreneur par excellence; the local boy who beat the odds and made good.

It doesn't seem so long ago when Angelos, not Alger, was a part of the neighborhood crowd on the corner at Eastern and Oldham streets and then, as he grew older, the action moved to Highland and Baltimore streets, outside Stetka's Cafe.

The Orioles' franchise was on the block, up for sale, last summer, and out of the pack came Angelos, a dark-horse candidate. The rich and famous, the so-called valley set and what has been referred to for generations as "Old Baltimore Money," didn't respond. It was Angelos who demonstrated the necessary fortitude and an iron-like willingness to invest an ample part of his newly-earned fortune to share the good times with the public in the city where he was raised and continues to live.

Angelos, in a fit and proper way, is now celebrating his first victory as owner of the Baltimore Orioles, the team he purchased at public auction for $173 million last summer. It was pre-ordained, virtually written in the sky, that he would start off on the winning side of the ledger. It was appropriate, a fit and proper beginning, for a man who had so much confidence in the Orioles.

Angelos never blinked as the bidding for the team escalated. And yesterday, a glorious afternoon in April, he was the center of attention and the focal point of applause as the Orioles team he bought and improved with a vast expenditure of cash responded at first asking with a 6-3 triumph over the Kansas City Royals.

It was "one of the thrills of my lifetime," Angelos said. "What's happening is the team is closer to the fans and vice-versa. It's nice to see so many people happy. Isn't that what life is all about? That I was in position to bring pleasure to so many, rich and poor, young and old, of all creeds and colors, makes it worthwhile for me."

The pre-game reception presented by Angelos and his fellow owners was an enormous event. Leaders of the corporate community, political officials, family and "old friends" were invited to be with him for a gathering before the game. Angelos' majority partner, Tom Clancy, author of worldwide distinction, scanned the scene and quipped in an understatement, "Well, I guess we proved we know how to throw a party."

Angelos was surrounded by well-wishers, trying to shake his hand, whisper words of congratulations and solicit his autograph. Never has an Orioles owner been afforded such acclaim. A reporter reminded him that what added to his individual glory is he was a "self-made" success story. But the Orioles owner smiled and, almost as if he were trying to avoid embarrassment, amended the comment by saying, "Yes a self-made lucky stiff."

Hopefully, he will not lose (1) any money on his record Orioles purchase price or (2) the humility he continues to demonstrate.

In the past 40 years, the Orioles have twice been owned by other lawyers, namely Clarence Miles and Edward Bennett Williams; brewery chief Jerry Hoffberger, builder James Keelty and an investment chief, Joseph Iglehart.

But now comes Angelos, a kid whose father had a saloon/restaurant business, who grew up in a working-class section of Baltimore and was able to earn enormous money in his profession both for clients and himself in settling lawsuits. Then he turned around and bought a prize, the Orioles, maybe as much as a gift for his fellow citizens as an attempt to draw attention to himself.

In the rich story of Greece there's the expression, "An Uncle In Koroni," relating to a man who advanced in life because he had all the right connections.

Peter Angelos didn't have to call on influential relationships. He didn't need that celebrated "Uncle In Koroni." He made it on his own, working a job by day, going to law school at night, starting off on his own in a tentative, struggling manner and then putting together a firm that has gained status and affluence.

From the standpoint of mythology, he's closer to Zeus, the father of other Greek gods and mortal heroes. Zeus would be glad to know him.

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