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

July 03, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

authority, alienates his peers and caters to the working class.”

For Angelos, the notion of the highest office in the state – the “King of Maryland,” if you will – would’ve sounded like a dream. He couldn’t get enough votes to be the mayor of Baltimore in the 1960s and was mostly an unsuccessful politician. Law and politics were all that ever mattered to Angelos before he saw the opportunity to become a powerful celebrity by owning the baseball team. At this point it was clear that he was intoxicated with the attention and praise heaped on him and he began to believe his “civic hero” status because it was in the newspaper frequently. He spent the first 63 years of his life battling, accumulating victories and piling up millions of dollars but the accolades, public praise and validation of being “rich and famous” had finally made its way to his doorstep. And his power was such that he could get the publisher of The Sun on the phone at a whim and plant any story in the newspaper at any time because he had cozy relationships with Michael Olesker and John Steadman.

Despite Angelos chasing an NFL team, telling the Orioles manager who to put in the lineup and becoming a media darling and still running his successful law firm in 1994, his biggest challenge quickly came in a part of the world he truly knew best: labor relations and unions. Angelos had always been a union man. This time, as the owner of a $173 million sports franchise, he was instead on the side with the fat cat MLB owners in the messiest work stoppage in the history of modern sports.

What happened on the field during the aborted 1994 season was deemed irrelevant once August 12 came and the games on the field came to a screeching halt as the Major League Baseball players walked off the job and wouldn’t come back until the spring of 1995 – washing out a World Series for the first time in the modern era. Despite Angelos’ best efforts to put a winning team on the field – Palmeiro’s first year with the club was a success and Cal Ripken was coming up on the longest Ironman streak in the history of the sport – the Orioles’ 63-49 record and second-place standing meant nothing with no more games to be played and fans picking sides and simply wanting the games on the field to continue.

Once the fall came and went without a conclusion, baseball fans were universally livid, but helpless. The labor issue was front, center, and ugly.

Continuing on all of the themes made clear in Lords of The Realm, the nasty power squabble was compounded by the complexity, politics, economics and lack of trust between the owners and the players. In many cases, the owners didn’t trust each other and had radically different agendas, revenue streams, stadium deals and expenditures. And, of course, on both sides of the fence many couldn’t agree on what issues to fix, adjust or fight for over the course of the protracted battle.

From 1985 until 1987, the MLB owners had illegally colluded to artificially suppress salaries and weaken the MLBPA. “The Union basically doesn’t trust the Ownership because collusion was a $280 million theft by Selig and Reinsdorf of that money from the players,” said ousted commission Fay Vincent at the outset of the work stoppage. “I mean, they rigged the signing of free agents. They got caught. They paid $280 million to the players. And I think that’s polluted labor relations in baseball ever since it happened. I think it’s the reason [MLBP head Donald] Fehr has no trust in [commissioner Bud] Selig.”

It’s unclear how much Peter Angelos knew about the history of baseball, its labor squabbles or the etiquette of the business of Major League Baseball when he bought the team in that steamy Manhattan courtroom. Many of his closest associates at the time would say he was intoxicated with the power and the fantasy of being the owner of the Baltimore Orioles. And at the time, when every round in the 1993 auction was driving the price up in million dollar increments, it never seemed as though profit was a significant driving force in his game plan.

“None of the owners I know went into this with the primary goal of making money,” said David H. Bernstein, chairman of the board of Duty-Free International, who was one of the original 20 investors in Team Angelos in the summer of 1993.

Seminal sportswriter John Steadman wrote in The Sun: “Angelos is new to baseball. It’s a game he rarely followed as a child or adult. His interest in buying the Orioles was admirable. He was signifying a love for his adopted hometown of