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

July 03, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

town for the foreseeable future.

But as expectations of the fans rise, it always winds up on the desk of the leader to get results on the field. Orioles manager John Oates was entering his fourth season as the skipper of the Birds and his seat was quickly warmed immensely by public scrutiny from the new boss.

Angelos’ first season wasn’t into its third month before his meddling and “general managing” of the Baltimore Orioles became public record. Angelos discussed team issues freely in the media on a seemingly weekly basis and had an opinion on everything. On June 18th, The Associated Press reported: “The Orioles are two games out of first place in the American League East. But Angelos has expressed displeasure with the team’s performance, and a newspaper article Friday quoted Angelos as saying Oates was “obstinate . . . not a very good manager.”

Oates lashed out at the media for depicting him as a nervous leader struggling to hang onto his post and impress Angelos. “I’m going to keep being the same manager that I’ve always been,” Oates said. “I’m not going to change my style of managing just because someone thinks I should. It was good enough to get me here. If it’s not good enough to keep me here, I’m not going to make any sacrifices. I’m no different than I was last year.”

But the ownership was clearly different.

Taking a page from the George Steinbrenner ownership manual, Angelos summoned Oates to his office in late July and demanded that the manager bench third baseman Chris Sabo in order to play the younger Leo Gomez, whom Hemond tried to deal in April but was told by the new owner he couldn’t be dealt. The day after Angelos confronted Oates about the change, Gomez hit a late, two-run homer to give the Orioles a 7-5 win over the hated Blue Jays and Angelos was vindicated for his “management” decision.

Angelos was right once again.

Afterward, Gomez expressed his appreciation for the owner’s involvement. “I like him,” Gomez said. “Not because of what he has done for me, but what he’s done for the team, bringing Raffy [Palmeiro] here and bringing Lee Smith here, spending a lot of money to make the team better.”

Gomez, who had been comically angling in the media about making the locker room more fun the previous week said, “Maybe my Uncle Angelos will buy us a ping pong table.” That was a first, a player speaking directly to the owner via the media after the game. Sabo, however, wasn’t thrilled. “I merely exist in a free society,” the veteran third baseman quipped.

Far from any early criticism as a meddler, Angelos instead garnered media and public adulation as a “hands on” owner. After Jacobs’ cheapskate ways, the new boss was embraced as a local owner who actually wanted to win. Angelos had many baseball opinions and wanted to keep good players and pay them top dollar. He talked openly about “saving the Orioles for Baltimore,” even though with a 30-year lease that was still wet with just two seasons of tread it was far from accurate. Much like a top-notch attorney would play the jury into his hands or a politician would angle for votes, Angelos worked his friends in the media for “positive press” at every turn.

In 1994, Peter G. Angelos had the local media wrapped around his finger, especially The Sun. He could do no wrong in his first taste of the public glare and his friends came running to the forefront to say nice things about him and feed his growing and already immense ego.

In May, The Sun wrote a glowing piece regarding his civic pride and efforts: “The reception he’s receiving is like a heroic Roman general returning to the homeland,” Baltimore law school professor and Angelos pal, Francis Valle, told the newspaper. The article stated: “A member of Baltimore’s City Council during the 1960s, the popular and personable Angelos has also been approached about running for governor. ‘He’s just brilliant, a diplomat in a business suit,’ said local advertising executive Hal Donofrio. ‘He’s usually thinking three steps ahead of anyone he’s talking with. He’s a strategist.’ But in Angelos, Baltimoreans trust!”

Even while staring at a pending labor dispute that would become legendary by the end of 1994, Angelos had his sights set on an even bigger prize than the Baltimore Orioles.

“He’s gotten very involved (in the football effort),” said Hal Donofrio, who was identified by The Sun as a close friend of Angelos. “He’s very willing to be a major investor, a minor investor or no investor. His goal is to get a team for Baltimore, owned and controlled by Marylanders. Whether that can be done overnight or whether it takes 10 years, I don’t know. He’s been working 18 hours a day since last February with his law firm and baseball, and he’s dead serious about bringing an NFL team here. A lot of his friends think he could make a contribution to the state as governor, but he might be able to make a bigger contribution in the private sector.”

“He’s the governor of Maryland without the title,” said Ron Shapiro, a Baltimore-based player agent who represented Cal Ripken, Kirby Puckett and several other MLB stars of the 1980s & 1990s, to The Los Angeles Times. “He has achieved legendary respect in our town.” The west coast newspaper then called him, “a feisty reformer who rebels against