The Peter Principles (Ch. 1): So, just how did Angelos become ‘King’ of Baltimore baseball?

March 19, 2014 | Nestor Aparicio

The Peter Principles (Ch. 1): So, just how did Angelos become ‘King’ of Baltimore baseball?

owners, who had suffered through seven work stoppages and disputes over the previous 22 years. Anyone who won this battle for the ownership of the Baltimore Orioles in 1993 would certainly have to be prepared for the upcoming war with the players that had become such a tired refrain for the fans, most of whom just wanted to watch baseball and support their favorite team and players.

Banks, more so than anyone in the industry, had a legitimate fear of a crumbling Major League Baseball financial empire and the lack of vision and leadership on the part of the Commissioner and owners was clearly a confidence killer. The death of A. Bartlett Giamatti in September 1989 led to a brief tenure by his lieutenant Fay Vincent, who was essentially overthrown by a group of MLB owners led by Allan “Bud” Selig in 1992. Selig, who had assumed the acting Commissioner role for the brawl with then MLBPA labor head Donald Fehr, had been the long-standing owner of the Milwaukee Brewers but he felt that Vincent wasn’t “pro owner” and he famously put together a group of six owners and seized control of the sport just before Eli Jacobs went broke.

Any purchase of the Baltimore Orioles was led by the caveat emptor of MLB’s tenuous labor situation.

And the mere fact that a Major League Baseball team – and its most profitable, no less – wound up in a bankruptcy auction was appalling to the rest of the owners, who had been infamous for “approving membership” of owners who were more “like minded” in the past.

Jacobs’ financial situation and his crumbled empire nearly had an angel in Bill DeWitt, Jr. who had believed he’d won the Orioles in February after spending six months negotiating the sale price with a desperate man who was days away from having his assets seized.

Baltimore clothing impresario Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass, whose ponytail and Merry-Go-Round chain stores for the hip and sexy, was the only other interested party in the Fall 1992 selloff of the Orioles but getting MLB approval proved to be a brick wall for him. He did his due diligence but in the end didn’t have the right connections that DeWitt brought to the MLB brain trust. Plus, in the end, Weinglass also didn’t have the funds.

The commissioner of baseball and the other owners quietly had the ability to simply “uninvite” some members into their ownership club.

Major League Baseball has been protected by an antitrust exemption that the United States Supreme Court had held in 1922 in Federal Baseball Club v. National League, which stated baseball was an “amusement” and that organizing a schedule of games between independently owned and operated clubs operating in various states, and engaging in activities incidental thereto, did not constitute “interstate commerce” and that therefore antitrust laws did not apply to such activity.

DeWitt, however, was already well known by the old-boys club of Major League Baseball ownership through his connections with George W. Bush.

DeWitt’s father, William DeWitt Sr., once owned the St. Louis Browns (which became the Orioles when they moved from the Midwest in 1954) and was a batboy for the team as a child. It was his outfit that was used by Eddie Gaedel when the little person stunt was pulled by owner Bill Veeck in the 1950s. DeWitt was already a minority stakeholder in the Texas Rangers with the Bush family. He was an insider, just the way Selig and the boys liked it.

DeWitt had traveled to New York several times in the winter to meet with Jacobs and his team to negotiate a final settlement to buy the Orioles. DeWitt knew Jacobs was having economic difficulties all along – Selig and the other MLB owners closely monitored the debt of the Orioles’ owner and they wanted him out quickly because seeing the team wind up in bankruptcy – at a fire sale – would be less than advantageous. It didn’t reflect well upon the sport, its stability or the people involved in ownership. Plus, given the small circle and antitrust protection, the Lords of Major League Baseball preferred to pick their partners so as to have unity, peace and what they considered a peaceful brotherhood.

The MLB owners had experienced their fair share of maverick owners with outsized personalities in Charles O. Finley in Kansas City (and then Oakland) and George Steinbrenner, who at various points believed he was the King of New York. Selig and some of the other old-line MLB owners watched what had happened with the growth of the National Football League over the past two decades and admired their ability to be united after the AFL-NFL merger but they also saw the deterioration of faith and partnership every time Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis confronted his partners in litigation.

Selig wanted to pick the owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He, along with the Lords, had already hand picked Bill DeWitt.

But, somehow, it all got derailed when Jacobs went broke and the team wound up at

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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Franchise Says:

    Nestor-

    Is the “stranger” bidder you refer to in this blog the same Jeffrey Loria (spelling Lorie) who is currently the principal owner of the Philadelphia Eagles????? or the previous owner of the Florida Marlins???

    Thanks,

    Franchise

  2. Franchise Says:

    Nestor-

    Just retribution punishment for the son of the “Chicagoan Carpetbagger” father Robert Irsay would be for Jimmy Irsay to give back all the records, history and HOF induction of 11 BALTIMORE Colt players and coaches back to the Charm City…. That includes all of the media guide propaganda in Indianapolis as well as the Canton, OH sacrilegious nonsense at the Pro Football Hall of Fame….Plus give back the horseshoe and the blue and white colors and name Colts to the City of Baltimore…Roger Goodell are you listening???…This is just punishment for Jimmy Irsay since owners should be held to higher standards….The apple does not fall far from the tree… Robert & Jimmy Irsay are one in the same…absolute garbage….But the Commissioner will simply slap him on the wrist!!!…Jimmy Irsay tried to ransom Art Modell for $44Million for the marketing rites to OUR Baltimore Colts….Voluntarily checked himself into what REHAB clinic?

    Regards,

    FRANCHISE

    Franchise

  3. unitastoberry Says:

    Franchise in the last few days I have heard many taking up for Jimmy. I had nothing against him until he was offered a sizeable amount of money to make things right and return the name to Baltimore. This was before Manning arrived to rescue the Irsays. After he turned that offer down he became garbage in my mind just like his daddy. His genes finally caught up with him and I’m glad he didn’t kill anyone driving around wasted. Sorry no sympathy for him.

  4. Steve from Sandpoint Says:

    Irsay, a A-HOLE just like his dad, wishing the worse for him !!!

  5. charlie Says:

    another important triumph in baltimore sports history, for wnst and nestor. THANKS.

  6. Go Tigers Fan Says:

    Steve from Sandpoint, you may want to check your wishes. What you wish for Irsay, someone could wish the same for YOU.

    The Colts are gone, get over it. You have the Ravens now so the past is past, the present is present.

    Robert Short stole the Senators from me so what did I do? I chose to root for the next closest team to P.G County where I lived at the time. That team I chose was the Orioles and no I don’t give a darn about the Nationals.

    My advice to you – live for the present, not the past.

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