Angelos shows restraint in review of home team

Owner emphasizes effort to initiate Cuba contact

May 04, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Orioles owner Peter Angelos showed grace under fire, even if his team only grudgingly showed up for the second game of its historic goodwill exhibition series against a team of Cuban all-stars.

"The Cuban team won," Angelos said. "No excuses. They should be congratulated. They played a great game. They are understandably ecstatic. The Cuban people are probably very excited. I commend them for playing a great team of baseball."

In one sense, the mission was accomplished. Angelos had dreamed for years of the two-game, barrier-breaking series, which brought together a major- league team and a Cuban team for the first time in 40 years. Now, there is the possibility that it will be a regular event involving more major-league clubs.

"We're pleased to have initiated this friendly contact between the people of the United States and Cuba," said Angelos. "I'm sure someday we will return to Cuba to play baseball again. The many friendships that have been made proved that we have much common ground."

In another sense, the game was a minor disaster and a major blowout. The Cuban team seemed to have everything to play for, while the Orioles made it clear well before the game that they would rather have had the day off. The lack of effort was apparent on one particular occasion when marquee outfielder Albert Belle might have reached first safely if he had not jogged out a seemingly routine groundball.

Some Orioles had let it be known during the days leading up to the game that they had no desire to play an exhibition game on a day off during the regular season, but Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association had signed off on the event. Angelos, who has paid top dollar for a team that is 7-17 so far this year, showed great restraint in the evaluation of the club's effort last night.

"The truth of it is, the exhibition game was played on their day off," he said. "Major-league baseball players have a demanding and almost impossible schedule to meet. They have to play from February to the end of September and days off are minimal. To many people, playing baseball is a pleasant exercise. To these men, it's a very demanding, intensive job.

"It isn't as easy as it looks to us. Nevertheless, it seems to me that when you play the game, the competitive spirit should make you want to win whatever the circumstances."

Though there has been strong speculation that the poor play of the Orioles might soon lead to the dismissal of Ray Miller, Angelos again insisted that he has no intention of firing his manager.

"I'm not considering terminating anyone," he said. "That has not even crossed my mind."

This night was devoted more to the restatement of the goals of the four-month effort to pull off the home-and-home exhibition series.

"I hope this is the beginning of a process to bring together two peoples who have been estranged for 40 years," he said. "We've got to get together. It's time to continue working together to make a better life for the Cuban people and for the benefit of the people of both our countries."

Pub Date: 5/04/99

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