Allegany Communications Sports

The legacy of Peter Angelos is complex to say the least, but it really shouldn’t be. He did so many good things for so many people who needed good things, fueled by his deep love for his hometown of Baltimore and the state of Maryland. As one of the most accomplished attorneys in the world, he represented the common man against The Man, and he won, as his pro-labor beliefs were the root of all he accomplished and all he stood for.

Since the death of the 94-year-old Baltimore Orioles owner on Saturday morning, it has been said over and again that he was responsible for keeping the Orioles in Baltimore less than10 years after the Colts left Baltimore. That is not entirely true, because the Orioles had just signed a 30-year lease the year before he bought the team, and they were playing to daily sellout crowds at the new and beautiful Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Regardless, Angelos’ legacy can’t be defined simply by his having owned a baseball team, or his amassing great wealth or his courtroom successes. Closer to the core of his legacy is the philanthropic nature that led Angelos and his wife, Georgia, to donate hundreds of millions of dollars toward community improvements, including the John and Frances Angelos Law Center at the University of Baltimore Law School and specialty medical units at various local hospitals, as well as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Not to mention countless others that we’ll never know about..

Make no mistake about it, his purchase of the Orioles was an enormous thing, because the team was assured local ownership for the first time in 15 years. He was so intent on securing that local ownership that he overpaid for the club by nearly $70 million for what was then a professional-sports record purchase of $173 million.

When the Angelos family recently sold the Orioles to the group of Baltimore native David Rubenstein, it went for $1.74 billion.

Peter Angelos was hailed the conquering hometown hero of blue-collar Baltimore when he bought the team, as he should have been and he immediately stood by his pro-labor roots by rankling the old baseball establishment by refusing to assemble a team of non-union replacement players during the sport’s work stoppage of 1994-95, despite urging from MLB.

What really was his finest hour, though, became his worst moment, as on the night Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak, a night Peter Angelos made possible through his refusal to field a replacement team, he spoke for over 30 minutes during the postgame celebration and was booed for the first time by Orioles fans who merely wanted to see and hear from Ripken.

Still, when Commissioner Bud Selig (more like Ugh Selig) moved to place a National League team into Washington D.C. before the 2005 season, Angelos shrewdly negotiated the creation of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), which broadcasts Orioles and Washington Nationals games with the Orioles maintaining majority interest, as a way for the organization to recoup some of the lost revenue from sharing its territory.

He also made a concerted effort to keep Orioles games as affordable as possible for families, the blue-collar worker and for college students.

The losing, and there have been 20 losing seasons during his tenure, including 14 in a row, had to be hard for him because he did try and so wanted a World Series title for Baltimore. In fact, he might not have gone for the kind of rebuild the Orioles just completed because of the false perception they were trying to lose, which they weren’t, despite what yutzes like Buster Olney claim.

The losing, though, was clearly the residue of a complete organizational rebuild, the likes of which, when done correctly, produces the kind of winning culture the Orioles and their fans are now enjoying, and for that, John Angelos, Peter’s son, deserves credit in spite of his many public gaffes.

Still, during the Peter Angelos Orioles ownership, there were hirings and departures that seemed petty, vindictive and ego-driven, and probably were. First he fired manager Johnny Oates after three straight winning seasons, and when every sound baseball reasoning and every Orioles fan urged Angelos to hire Davey Johnson as the club’s next manager, he hired Phil Regan?

He fired beloved broadcaster and former Oriole John Lowenstein because he “didn’t get” what he was saying, and he railroaded the hugely popular Hall of Fame broadcaster Jon Miller out of town as well, because he believed Miller was too hard on the team, saying a team’s play-by-play broadcaster should be “more of a cheerleader” than a truth teller, which explained Jim Hunter and what we see and hear today in the Orioles broadcast booths. Ask Kevin Brown.

Then after finally hiring Johnson to be the manager, the Orioles ended a 13-year postseason drought by advancing to two league championship series. Yet Angelos, who did not get along with Johnson at all, refused to give Johnson a contract extension and a raise and allowed him to walk on the day he was named Manager of the Year.

The 14 straight losing seasons would follow.

I have contended from the beginning that when it came to baseball decisions, the Angelos credo was.”It doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as it’s me.”

He meddled in the big decisions, as we found out closer to home through the experiences of our old friends Sam Perlozzo and Leo Mazzone. He had every good intention, but more often than not the results failed to meet those intentions.

Yet he continued to champion for the city he dearly loved, even in times when his city didn’t seem to love him. And in the end, Baltimore is a richer and fuller community because Peter Angelos never stopped loving her or believing in her.

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]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT