remembered but life didn’t take him on that pathway. Instead, 25 years later, he’d become wealthy and mostly anonymous.
He was in that steamy courtroom on that August day in 1993 to change that. Most people in Baltimore had no idea who Peter G. Angelos was on that day.
If he could win this bid and bring home a local ownership team to Baltimore, he’d be revered forever as a champion of the people and a modern day hero in his adopted hometown.
At least that’s what he thought.
THE SELLER OF THE BALTIMORE Orioles, Eli Jacobs, wasn’t broken-hearted to be selling the baseball team. He was much closer to “broke” than broken-hearted.
Before his bankruptcy case, Jacobs told Tony Kornheiser of The Washington Post in June 1991 that he didn’t like owning a MLB team as much as he thought he would. “I’d prefer that I live a normal, ordinary life.” Described as introverted and doggedly shy, Jacobs put the team on the market for $200 million as the Orioles wound down their time at Memorial Stadium. Jacobs paid just $70 million for the team less than three years earlier.
Jacobs thought the team merited a $130 million appreciation as Camden Yards opened its doors in April 1992. He was at the right place at the right time in buying – and then trying to flip – the Baltimore Orioles.
While continually denying any financial pressure, his price lowered to $160 million by the fall of 1992, when his empire was privately crumbling. By December, he was reportedly negotiating exclusively with William DeWitt, Jr., a baseball family insider and Cincinnati oil executive, who owned a small piece of the Texas Rangers with soon-to-be President George W. Bush. The price was in the $150 million range. DeWitt, through his connections with new commissioner Bud Selig was thought to be “pre-approved” for ownership given his reputation and family legacy in the sport.
At the time, there were only two comparable sales of any sports franchise in North America: the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys fetched $140 million from oil tycoon Jerry Jones in February 1989 and the MLB Seattle Mariners sold for a then-thought-to-be-outlandish $125 million in February 1992.
Jacobs bought the team on Dec. 6, 1989, from the estate of Washington-based attorney Edward Bennett Williams, who died in the summer of 1988 after inking a long-term deal with then-Governor William Donald Schaefer to keep the Orioles in Baltimore and move them into a new downtown ballpark that would become Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Jacobs was a junk bond man from Wall Street in the 1980s. A Red Sox fan by birth, Jacobs bought the Orioles because he could afford to do it and because it allowed him to enter rooms with presidents, the Queen of England and various business leaders and politicians. Plus, it was right on the train between Washington and New York and he could wield some political clout with his Republican friends by owning a Major League Baseball team.
He also thought it was a pretty sound investment.
And he was right.
More than any other Major League Baseball team, the Orioles were swimming in profit. In 1990, they had $2.1 million in profit. In 1991, it increased to $7 million with big sales for the final season at Memorial Stadium. And in 1992 at the shiny new publicly financed palace, which was the centerpiece of a downtown urban renaissance for Baltimore, the Orioles made $28 million in profit while drawing 3.8 million fans to the Inner Harbor for baseball.
The Baltimore Orioles franchise was the gem of baseball and a civic treasure in 1992 when Camden Yards opened its doors. If you were anybody in Baltimore – or even around the D.C. Beltway and straight onto Capital Hill – an Orioles game on a summer night was the place to be in the Mid-Atlantic region. At this point in his career, just seeing Cal Ripken Jr. play baseball was thought to be something you’d be telling your grandkids about for years to come.
Jacobs was in the right spot at the right time with the Orioles. He was in charge of a soft underbelly of the Orioles existence. Fans had high expectations because the community was fresh off