It was a Baltimore night, in a Baltimore year

October 09, 1997|By MICHAEL OLESKER

As everybody knows, Peter Angelos, owner of the famous Orioles, can afford to stop in any establishment in town. In fact, he could buy any establishment in town. So here he was, the night after his baseball team qualified for the American League baseball playoffs that opened here last night, and he was hoisting a few celebratory drinks at Antney's bar, on Eastern Avenue in Little Italy, next to the Texaco station.

And never mind that Anthony "Antney" Apicella, proprietor of the place who was sitting in the corner smoking a cigar and not pleased by certain events of the evening, is a widely known Yankees fan.

"Yeah," Antney was admitting yesterday, "but I'm a good fan, I'm not one of them goofballs that comes down from New York."

And never mind that the bartender in his establishment, one Jason Peters, was wearing a Yankees baseball cap and declined to take it off when requested most politely by John Pica Jr., the former state senator who was there with Angelos and with Sens. Tommy Bromwell and Mike Collins.

"I know, I know," Antney said. "I like to die. I told him, 'You wear that cap, nobody's gonna come into the place.' "

Instead, on the night the New York Yankees were losing to the Cleveland Indians on national television - and thus putting Cleveland into these playoffs against Baltimore - here came Angelos, the very owner of the Orioles.

"A beautiful night at Antney's," Angelos said yesterday, as his Orioles opened these playoffs. "A Baltimore kind of night."

"Yeah, beautiful," Antney agreed. "I'm rooting for the Yankees, and I'm sitting there with the owner of the Orioles. He kept saying, 'Give this guy a drink, give this guy a drink.' And people were buying drinks for him. Look, we could talk and still be friends, whoever I'm rooting for. That shows you the class he has."

"Just typical Baltimore camaraderie," Angelos said.

"One big happy family. People were buying us drinks, and we're buying drinks for people, and back and forth. Place was packed. And then you get a ballgame like that, and it's suddenly an adventure that surpasses every human experience."

He was there because the Indians were playing their last game against the Yankees, and much human experience was riding on the outcome. He was there because his little group had just dined at Chiapparelli's, also in Little Italy, and somebody mentioned the Yankees-Indians game was close, and all of a sudden a television set was needed real fast. Let's go to Antney's, everybody said.

Also, they were there because, on such a night, this is how Peter Angelos, product of this city's neighborhoods and its schools and its ball fields, bathes in the joy of winning in his own hometown.

"Exactly," John Pica, who practices in Angelos' law firm, was saying yesterday. "It's Pete's kind of place. We've been there several times. Working people from the neighborhood stopping in for a cold one, and everybody talking baseball. You know, it's like 'Diner.' You grow up hanging out with the guys, and that doesn't change. He's still comfortable with the guys who carry their lunch to work in a paper bag."

Owning a baseball team has its headaches. The players make a fortune, and have their egos. At playoff time, Angelos' telephone rings off the hook with requests for tickets, some of them from people he actually knows.

But much of the joy comes not only from victory but from the places like Antney's, from neighborhood establishments where the Orioles are followed like a religion, even though the religion doesn't happen to be Antney's.

"Hey, if it ain't the Yankees, then I'm an Oriole fan," Antney said yesterday. "I'm rooting for them now, see? Make sure everybody knows this."

Meanwhile, said Angelos, he received a congratulatory letter Tuesday - from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The two have become archrivals over the years.

"A very warm and sincere letter," Angelos said. "I know he's disappointed. Look, it's tough to get this far, and we're all very competitive. You know, we were watching the game at Antney's, and everybody's rooting for Cleveland because of the antagonism for the Yankees. But, when Cleveland won, there was a certain mood of disappointment that went across the room. I mean, we wanted to beat New York.

"Cleveland's like Baltimore. They could pass for Baltimoreans. And now, everywhere I go, people are just so delighted we made it this far. It makes your heart jump with joy. Everybody's having such a great time, and this makes me feel good."

He felt it the other night, at Antney's: the joy of winning in your own hometown.

As for Antney's aberrant loyalty to the team from New York:

"That may have to change," John Pica declared.

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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