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

July 03, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

a bankruptcy auction.

Selig and the owners were about to experience their worst nightmare. Peter Angelos would soon prove to be an outsider; one who had his own thoughts about the future of Major League Baseball in Baltimore.


ON THE MORNING OF FEBRUARY 26, 1993, Peter G. Angelos showed up at his law offices in downtown Baltimore and began reading The Sun, just like every other morning. He saw the headline – “DeWitt agrees to buy Orioles for $141.3 million” – and bristled.

The Baltimore Orioles were the toast of the town – by far the most significant diversion for local sports fans and families, truly a civic institution – and somehow they were being sold to yet another “out of towner,” Angelos thought.

Angelos, who had just started to receive a flood of money from his litigation of asbestos cases throughout the late 1980s, wondered aloud why someone from the Baltimore area didn’t want to own the prized possession of the city.

Sure, the price had a sticker shock quality, but if a Cincinnati oil man thought it was a good investment and wanted to own Baltimore’s civic treasure, it must worth investigating. So, Angelos, who always fancied himself a deal maker and an architect from his political days in the 1960s, went to work trying to put together a “dream team” of Orioles owners.

Angelos made some calls to his friends in the local government – he had plenty of political allies because he was one of their first calls for contributions on the Democratic side of the ticket – and found out who Eli Jacobs was, and where to find him.

Angelos later said that he was rebuffed by Jacobs and was told the sale to DeWitt was a fait accompli. “The attitude was that local people need not apply; this is a done deal,” he told author John Helyar in the 1994 book, Lords Of The Realm. “That didn’t set well with me.”

“If you allow your major league club to be owner by out-of-towners you’re not really a major league city; you’re a branch-office city,” Angelos bellowed. It was always easy to play to the intensely provincial sports crowd in Baltimore, a city that had seen the NBA Bullets taken out of the city in 1973 by a D.C. owner in Abe Pollin. And when the Colts snaked off to Indianapolis by Irsay, the local fans’ hearts were heavy and the abandonment was painful.

Angelos later told The Sun, “I was being discouraged by local people, who had good information, who said it was a done deal. So for a while they put me off. But then I decided that I would attempt it anyway. I wouldn’t accept the proposition that everything was finished.”

Three weeks later, with the Orioles at spring training in Florida, Jacobs defaulted on loans to seven banks, which forced him into bankruptcy and wanted to maximize the sale price of the Orioles. The banks believed that the open market would drive the sale price north of Jacobs’ agreement with DeWitt. This opened the door for Angelos – or anyone else who had enough money – to get involved in an open bid.

On March 11, 1993, Peter G. Angelos jumped into the sports business, informing The Sun of his intention to buy the team if it hit the open market. “I am just another Baltimorean who would like to see the club owned by