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The Peter Principles (Ch. 2): The error of tyranny at Camden Yards

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 2): The error of tyranny at Camden Yards

Posted on 30 March 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

2. A Tyrant Is Born

 

“Our fan support is beyond words. If we had enough seats, we’d surpass every other club. Our expenditures were long overdue in light of the fan support and rather meager compared to the expenditures of other clubs over the years. We felt we had some catching up to do, that the previous ownership had not done all it could to repay the fans, to give them what they deserve. We’re going to operate major league baseball in Maryland in a different way. We’re committed to making the club as competitive as possible, and that’s what we’re doing.”

–  Peter G. Angelos, as told to Ross Newhan of The Los Angeles Times, March 27, 1994

 

IN THE SPRING OF 1994, on the eve of a work stoppage that would cancel the World Series for the first time in the history of Major League Baseball, a book was published that became a handbook for anyone who wanted to see behind the greasy curtains of the business of baseball. This “tell all” for those who could think beyond what was on the back of a bubble gum card wasn’t penned by legendary Major League Baseball Players’ Association head Marvin Miller, but it certainly came from the somewhat sympathetic perspective of the plight of the players vs. the owners in the annals of the sport’s history in America.

The only problem with any “bias” in it was rooted, much like this Peter Principles series, in nothing but facts. Cold hard facts – all well sourced – that reflect the reality of the business of baseball. It told of the institution of institutionalized racism, classism, elitism, intimidation, coercion and lies amongst a world of wealthy all-white males doing business with an anti-trust exemption in the 21st century.

The 1994 book is called Lords Of The Realm and if you take no other advice from this manifesto about the Baltimore Orioles history under Peter Angelos, pick it up and give it a read. It’s impossible to sum up 75 years of baseball history in a few sentences here but to discuss the history and business of Major League Baseball over the last century would require a bar of soap, some disinfectant, warm water and a towel. Drugs, scandals, cheats, louses, greedy and/or crazy owners, racism, violence, civic shakedowns, and lack of government oversight have plagued baseball through the years. But the marketing machines insist on red, white and blue, the American flag, “God Bless America,” hot dogs and virtuous intentions for your children to idolize from crib to grave. Go watch the Ken Burns PBS series, Baseball, and you’ll see that there’s nothing more important in the universe than the sanctity of baseball history, records, heroes and civic connection to Americana.

According to some people, anyway.

Baseball owners have tried to control their public message for a hundred years and then journalists have come forward to expose all of the dirty laundry of the sport over the century.

By any measure of history, Peter G. Angelos fits right into the old boys club of Major League Baseball owners. Now, more than 20 years into his residency, it’s easy to measure his role in the pantheon of tyrannical, egotistical and iconoclastic baseball owners right up against George Steinbrenner, Charlie Finley, Bill Veeck, Auggie Busch or any of the other “Lords” as John Helyar put it in his book 20 years ago this month.

Peter Angelos bought the best and most valuable franchise in Major League Baseball in August 1993. It was the most expensive franchise in North America. Previous Orioles owner Eli Jacobs had hosted the Queen of England and the President of The United States in his shoddy, mezzanine hut on 33rd Street at Memorial Stadium and he had only controlled the team for less than four years. Owning a Major League Baseball allowed him the opportunity to sit with not only the rich but also the famous, infamous and influential. Angelos was a blue-collar attorney from East Baltimore who hit the legal lottery with an asbestos case that made him wealthy almost overnight. So, if his background portended a man who wanted to not only be rich but also desired to be famous and highly influential in the political space, then Angelos got his eternal wish with the purchase of the Baltimore Orioles.

In 1993, no one had ever heard of Peter Angelos outside of East Baltimore. By early 1994, he made sure that everyone who had ever heard of the Baltimore Orioles had heard his name and saw his image.

It started the day that he bought the team and returned to Baltimore a reigning hero and clearly in charge of the new Orioles ownership group. There were more questions than answers that day with so many prominent names involved and such civic interest in every facet of Angelos’ intentions. Angelos only won one election but this was akin to him giving a victory speech and outlining his platform for the future of the pride and joy of Baltimore – its baseball team.

“I’ll have ultimate authority in all matters, from the smallest things to the major things,” said Angelos, who said his title would be managing partner of the Orioles. “But I don’t brandish that as some kind of club, and I would hope it would never have to be used. I don’t think it will be.”

On August 4, 1993, The Sun reported this:

The baseball side of the Orioles isn’t likely to change dramatically with Mr. Angelos in charge. He said he generally supports the team’s current plan of grooming young players, rather than resorting to signing more expensive free-agent players. And he said that his goal as owner would be to give the fans a competitive team that occasionally brings home the biggest prize.

Winning a World Series “should be the goal for every team,” he said. “But that is not the sole

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

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

Posted on 19 March 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

IT WAS HOT AS HADES in that lower Manhattan federal courtroom. Jam-packed with bidders, curiosity seekers and baseball fans, the Baltimore Orioles franchise was up for grabs on August 2, 1993, and the bidding was as steamy as the air in the room once the price began to rapidly accelerate into the stratosphere.

The fact that there was any bidding at all was somewhat surprising to Peter G. Angelos, a Baltimore attorney who had begun a power play five months earlier to purchase the Major League Baseball franchise that was being sold off via an auction nearly 200 miles away from its home on the Chesapeake Bay. In the hours leading up to the auction, Angelos managed to turn his sole competitor from a previous suspended bid for the team during June into a partner. William DeWitt Jr., a Cincinnati native whose father once owned the St. Louis Browns in the 1940s and a minority investor in the Texas Rangers, joined Angelos’ celebrity-led local group from Maryland just hours before the bidding was to begin in the sweltering Custom House. DeWitt was promised a role in the operations and management of the club.

It was an amazing coup for Angelos to pull DeWitt from being a worthy, legitimate competitor into a teammate that morning, after convincing him that he’d be involved and an influential part of the eventual winning group. It was shocking that DeWitt had pulled out because several times over the previous eight months, he was convinced that he was already the winning bidder and new owner of the Orioles.

In February 1993, after six months of lengthy, arduous negotiations on a fair price, DeWitt had entered into a deal with Orioles majority owner Eli Jacobs to buy the team for $141.3 million. Jacobs, who was in his final days of semi-liquidity and quietly on the verge of bankruptcy, didn’t have the legal authority to close the deal with DeWitt once the banks seized his assets in March. Instead, the Orioles wound up at auction five months later and suddenly Angelos – with DeWitt now shockingly a member of his ownership team – believed he would emerge victorious without breaking a sweat in the summer heat of The Big Apple.

But that afternoon, after entering the courtroom in what he believed would be a rubber-stamped win, instead he found himself embroiled in a bidding war with a stranger he never strongly considered to being a worthy foil in the fray.

Jeffrey Loria, a New York art dealer and Triple-A baseball team owner, wanted badly to be a Major League Baseball owner. Baltimore native and former NFL player Jean Fugett represented a group led by TLC Beatrice, which featured a rare minority bid for an MLB franchise on that day in New York. One bidder, Doug Jemal of Nobody Beats The Wiz electronics stores, had early interest but bowed out before the steamy auction.

That August day, the bidding began at $151.25 million, which included a “stalking fee” of $1.7 million which was originally awarded to DeWitt’s team because of his vast due diligence and legal work done months earlier when he thought he had won a deal to secure the Orioles in the spring.

George Stamas, who represented Angelos’ group during the bidding process, opened the bidding at $153 million, which was seen as a good faith gesture from the combined bid with DeWitt, which could’ve been perceived as artificially deflating the sale price by judge Cornelius Blackshear. Loria, who was a stranger to the Angelos group, immediately raised it by $100,000. Stamas barked out, “One million more – $154.1!”

And for the next 30 minutes, the bids drew north from the $150 millions into the $160s. With every bid, Loria would raise by $100,000. Stamas, on behalf of Angelos, raised it by $1 million at a time. After 13 rounds of back and forth money, Angelos had the leading bid $170 million. Fugett, who had been completely silent during the auction, asked the judge for a recess.

The request was granted and the judge headed to his chambers.

And, suddenly, it got even hotter in a blazing courtroom on a sweltering day in The Big

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