MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

It was August 2, 1993, ironically the 14-year anniversary of the prominent Washington criminal attorney Edward Bennett Williams buying the Baltimore Orioles. That news was rightfully overshadowed that day by the news of the death of New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, who was killed in a crash while piloting his Cessna aircraft.

Funny how we remember dates of note, but it was on August 2, 1993 that I was having lunch at the bar of the world famous When Pigs Fly Restaurant on the West Side when Cas Taylor, the powerful Maryland delegate who was on the verge of becoming Maryland Speaker of the House, came downstairs from his upstairs office to have some lunch himself.

“Any word on the Orioles?” Cas asked as he sat next to me.

“Yes,” I said enthusiastically, “a group led by Peter Angelos bought them. Local ownership. Good news.”

The Orioles had been purchased at auction in Manhattan that day by the Angelos group from the estate of bankrupt financier Eli Jacobs for what was then a record $173 million (the current value of the team is estimated by Forbes to be $1.375 billion) and I, being a younger idealistic version of myself, believed this to be a very good thing for Baltimore and for the state of Maryland – Baltimore ownership of Baltimore’s beloved Orioles.

The local man and our friend here who was about to become the most powerful lawmaker in the state, however, informed me (we won’t use his exact choice of words here) that he did not view this development to be a good thing at all, as I can only assume Cas had had previous dealings with Mr. Angelos, the wealthy Baltimore attorney and native of Highlandtown who has made his fortune on securing vast settlements for asbestos victims.

To make a very long story short, Cas Taylor was spot-on correct about this from Day 1, as any fan of the Orioles for the past 29 years will attest, for despite some early beginner’s luck, which ended up being damaging in the long view, the Angelos ownership has been a disaster for the Orioles and for their fans.

Since firing good men and great managers such as Johnny Oates and Davey Johnson and replacing them with the likes of Phil Regan and Ray Miller, not to mention running Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick out of town, I have long deduced the Peter Angelos creed for leadership has been, “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as it’s me.”

The first public indication of this came on September 6, 1995, the night Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s unbreakable consecutive-games played record. During the postgame ceremonies, the diminutive Orioles owner spoke on and on and on as though the nation had tuned in to see him, until what had been an exuberant sellout Camden Yards crowd turned outwardly testy.

(To be fair, that night would never have even taken place if not for Peter Angelos and his refusal to allow the Orioles to use replacement players during the 1994 MLB work stoppage.)

Other than the last-place finishes, much has changed since then. The 92-year-old Peter Angelos is gravely ill and control of the club has been turned over to his sons, John and Louis, and, well … it seems to be a different kind of hell with these two jaspers.

Last week, Louis Angelos, whom my friend Bill believes to have “a bit of a Fredo complex,” brought a lawsuit against his brother alleging he was trying to seize control of the team and the rest of his father’s holdings. The suit also named their mother, Georgia Angelos, as a defendant.

The lawsuit included the claim from Louis that John would consider moving the team to Tennessee if he gained full control, as John has a home there with his wife, a country music singer-songwriter who owns a Nashville-based entertainment company.

Monday morning, John, who is the Orioles chairman and CEO, issued a statement, asserting the Orioles “will never leave” Baltimore, reiterating his stance that the Orioles will remain in Baltimore “as long as Fort McHenry is standing watch over the Inner Harbor.”

(Given the torment the Nationals franchise has brought the Orioles and Baltimore from the beginning, I’m sure the Lerner family will now buy Fort McHenry and develop another unnecessary shopping mall.)

“Since I was appointed Chairman and CEO according to my parents’ expressed wishes, and voted as the control person for the team by the 30 Major League Clubs,” John Angelos wrote, “I have taken significant steps to ensure that our beloved franchise’s future remains in Charm City.”

The Orioles “will continue to play right here in Baltimore for generations to come,” the statement read.

“Maryland is committed to keeping our team in this great state, and I am equally committed to keeping the Orioles at the heart of our state.”

The Orioles’ lease with the Maryland Stadium Authority for the state-owned Camden Yards expires at the end of next year, and despite lengthy negotiations, there has yet to be an extension.

“There is nothing uncertain about the future of the Baltimore Orioles,” John Angelos wrote.

“I want to assure our Orioles players and coaches, our dedicated front office Senior Leadership Team and staff, and our devoted fans, trusted partners, elected, civic, and non-profit leaders, and our entire community, that the Orioles will never leave.

“From 33rd Street to Camden Yards, the Birds of Baltimore, the iconic team of Brooks, Earl, Jim, Frank, Cal, and Eddie, will forever remain in the only city that our family and our partnership group has called, or will ever call, home – the finest city and birthplace of our national anthem of which we are enduringly proud and to which we are forever committed.”

While the sentiments are grand, the overemphatic and flowery rhetoric feels unsettling for some of us. You know, kinda “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”?

He travels an awfully long way in this statement to say one important yet simple thing: The team will never leave Baltimore. End of statement.

Which, of course, is something we have heard here once before. It was said 38 years ago and it was said by a cretin from Mars by the name of Irsay.

Stay tuned. We’ve not heard the last of this.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT