Apple in a battle over who would own and control the Baltimore Orioles for the next two decades and beyond.
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IT ALL EVOLVED SO QUICKLY, this love affair the newly wealthy attorney from East Baltimore had discovered with the Baltimore Orioles. So how did all of this happen – his fascination and obsession with the local baseball team? Where and when and why did Peter G. Angelos decide that he wanted so desperately to buy and control the Orioles? By any measurement at the time, it was clear he was only, at best, a passive baseball fan – a man who revered the law and politics far more than games of sport on the civic scene.
Angelos had recently cashed in on asbestos cases in the late 1980s, using his many years and influence as a union lawyer via the steel mills and workers in Sparrows Point. In 1992, he hit a huge payday with a class action assault on manufacturers who poisoned workers and was truly nouveau riche. Before owning a Major League Baseball team the only thing he owned that dealt with the public was a tavern, following in the footsteps of his father, who ran a dining establishment. As an attorney, Angelos represented blue-collar claims. He ran for office. He helped the common man fight the system and big business. He was a lifelong Democrat. He hated fat-cat Republicans.
Angelos won a City Council seat in the Third District in 1959 and never won another election. He ran for mayor in 1967 on the first mixed race ticket and lost and failed to win as city council president in 1963 and 1971.
Born in Pittsburgh on July 4, 1929, Angelos nearly died from appendicitis when he was 10 years old before coming to Baltimore a year later. By age 30, he had been elected to the City Council, and he ran unsuccessfully for mayor prior to turning 40. His father’s tavern, Tom’s Bar, at the corner of Oldham and Eastern Ave in Greektown, was where Angelos got his street smarts and he was an amateur boxer in his formative years.
The City Paper did an extensive profile of Angelos in 2000 and reported:
He lost a state Senate bid in 1958, but a year later he was elected to the City Council, where he developed a reputation as both government watchdog and incurable windbag. He successfully advocated for the city to hire a fiscal adviser to scrutinize mayoral spending, and he pushed for raises for police and firefighters while demanding that city officials hold the line on their own pay. He regularly demanded investigations, into everything from gasoline prices to the city welfare, real-estate, and school-construction agencies. But more often than not, The Evening Sun said in a 1967 editorial, these probes produced only “interminable charges and counter charges and finally dissipated with a hailstorm of words.” The outspoken council member, the paper concluded, was “excellent on the attack but lacked the staying power on important issues.” In 1963, Angelos ran against Tommy D’Alesandro III for City Council president and lost. Four years later, he ran for mayor – again taking on D’Alesandro (and heading the city’s first integrated ticket, with Clarence Mitchell III running for council president), and again losing. He would consider several state and congressional races before bowing out of electoral politics to focus on his law practice, but it wasn’t long before that took on the familiar ring of a crusade.
But it wasn’t until 1992 that Peter Angelos became a rich man. That spring, Angelos’ many asbestos cases were consolidated and went to trial. In July, a Baltimore Circuit Court jury ruled that several asbestos manufacturers knowingly peddled a hazardous product to plants such as Bethlehem Steel for more than a half-century, causing cancer in thousands of Baltimore factory workers. By August, the awards had reached the $200 million to $400 million range; Angelos and his firm, which handled the cases on a contingency, earned more than $100 million, according to newspaper reports at the time.
And just what does a guy who used to run a diner do when he comes into a couple of hundred million dollars?
Well, Angelos tried for political clout and power in the 1960s and mostly failed. He tried to get famous, become the mayor and become loved and