Miller wasn't forced out, Angelos says Broadcaster's account 'sheer dishonesty,' O's owner contends

Points to quick Giants deal

Miller refuses to argue over preference to stay

November 05, 1996|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

As announcer Jon Miller signed a five-year deal yesterday with the San Francisco Giants, his former employer, Orioles owner Peter Angelos, took shots at Miller and his Baltimore-based agent, Ron Shapiro, centering on their stated preference for Miller to remain here.

In a conference call from Los Angeles, Miller reiterated that he did not want to leave Baltimore, but decided to do so when he perceived that the Orioles no longer wanted him and that Angelos would require more advocacy for the team on the air.

"This is no reflection on the Giants but my hope was that the relationship would continue. It's a very emotional time. My future and my family's future are in San Francisco, and we're very excited about that, but we're very sad at the same time about leaving Baltimore," said Miller, before departing for a Far East vacation.

However, Angelos last night said that it was "sheer dishonesty" to say Miller was forced to leave Baltimore and that the broadcaster and his agent had no intention of staying.

"They've gone to great points to direct the conversation in such a way that the Orioles and I are the culprits. That's ridiculous. We've dealt with Shapiro and Miller aboveboard," said Angelos.

Said Miller: "I don't know why they're saying that. At this point, I've made a deal with the San Francisco Giants. Maybe one day I'll write a book and get into all of that when I'm 85 years old or something, but I don't want to have any kind of an argument with the Orioles at this point.

"I had 14 of the best years that any broadcaster could ever hope to have in a city. I was treated with respect by ownership. The fans were just incredibly warm to me and my family. Those are the things that make it kind of hard.

"I wasn't the Orioles, and Peter Angelos owns the Orioles, but he's not the Orioles. The fans really are the Orioles and the Orioles belong to them and that's the main thing to remember.

"The Orioles will still be playing in a beautiful ballpark, and it can be a lot of fun for the fans. They should concentrate on that and enjoy it. If they don't like the way the team is run or whatever, well, make that known to the ownership, because it's their ballclub and that's always the way it has been."

At the crux of Angelos' ire is the timing of the deal. Miller, who will call approximately 115 Giants games, split between radio and broadcast television, announced Saturday night that he would be leaving Baltimore, and a deal with San Francisco -- terms were not disclosed -- was announced yesterday.

In the owner's mind, that short gap indicates the two sides had been talking for a long time and casts doubt on whether Miller ever intended to stay.

"My speculation, based on some pretty informed conversations I've had, is that the San Francisco deal was in the works for some time. The Nov. 1 deadline was for the purpose of laying that on the table and asking us to match it. If you look at the facts, there's not much control we had over whether he was going to stay or not," said Angelos. "He says he's leaving, and the following day there's a five-year deal? That's a little fishy, isn't it?"

Miller, however, said that his first contact with the Giants came in a phone call from San Francisco owner Peter Magowan on the night of Game 1 of the World Series, Oct. 20, a few days after he was no longer contractually obligated to the Orioles.

Miller said his conversation with Magowan was extensive, and led to a subsequent visit from Giants executive vice president Larry Baer, who came to Baltimore and met with Miller and his wife, showing them plans for a new ballpark that will look out over San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge.

From there, Miller said Shapiro sought meetings with the Orioles, but never got them. "Basically, we never really heard back from them again," said Miller, who on Saturday had said: "I can only go where I'm wanted. The Orioles are not among those who have made offers. No offer is no offer."

Shapiro, whose other clients include Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray and Colorado Rockies outfielder Dante Bichette, said in response to Angelos' statements: "My record and what I've stood for in sports speaks for itself. Jon's desire to stay in Baltimore and the facts about his discussions with other clubs and when they occurred speak for themselves and can be corroborated by discussions with other clubs."

Angelos called his discussion with Shapiro over Miller's being more of an on-air advocate for the Orioles "a collateral matter," now being used to cover the fact that Miller wanted to leave.

Miller's departure has touched off a storm of protest against the team. Yesterday's Allan Prell talk show on WBAL (1090 AM), the team's current flagship radio station, was filled during its entire three-hour length with calls about Miller, and a small group of fans went to Camden Yards to voice their outrage.

But Angelos said he is not concerned about a long-term backlash.

"The Orioles will go on for the next 100 years without him or, for that matter, without any of us. If the fans of this team can't appreciate the changes we've made to give them a championship contender, then there's something seriously wrong with putting $50 million a year [in payroll] into the team. Am I worried? The answer's no. Hardly," said Angelos.

Pub Date: 11/05/96

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