Around the Nest: Edition 10 – Ever-growing roots of Angelos & Charm City

On October 4, 1993, Baltimore Orioles owner Eli Jacobs would make headlines by selling the ball club to attorney Peter Angelos and investors for a then sports franchise record, $173 million.

October of 2023 will bring forth the 30th anniversary of the Angelos Ownership Group, and yet fragile ground remains, as CEO John Angelos failed to pick up the five-year lease extension this February

Angelos, now 93, opened a law office that specialized in product-liability cases in 1961. One of his first major cases was representing 8,700 shipyard workers, steel workers and manufacturer employees in a class action asbestos suit that settled in 1992 (It is estimated that Angelos received almost $330 million from the suit).

Angelos would serve a short time on the Baltimore City Council, where he demanded investigations into spending and dispersement of funds. He also ran for mayor in the city’s first interracial ticket, though he would ultimately come up short.

Angelos would represent the state of Maryland multiple times and would establish himself as a big name attorney, who now has offices located in Baltimore, Townson and Cumberland, Maryland, as well as locations in Philadelphia, Bethlehem and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and one in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Angelos family also breeds and races thoroughbreds, as they purchased the 237-acre Ross Valley Farm, which is located in Baltimore County, in 1998.

(Photo: Arial view of the 237-acre Ross Valley Farm in Sparks Glencoe, Maryland.)

Their roots run deep in the Free State, and they have been a part of the Baltimore community for decades, which made even more sense when they purchased the Baltimore Orioles.

Upon entering ownership, Angelos was a hands-on and aggressive owner, as he would role out high-priced contracts to attract big players such as Rafael Palmeiro, Chris Sabo and Lee Smith. Angelos started making enemies within the baseball world, as he refused to be a silent owner and abide by the prestigious rules others wanted him to. 

From a player’s perspective, there was some intrigue. He was willing to put out what was considered elevated contracts at the time, but he also refused to sign the document that canceled the 1994 season.

Angelos’ reasoning for not signing the document was because it blamed players for the impasse. What made things a little confounding was Angelos being left off the group to handle labor negotiations, the one area he specialized in as an attorney.

Angelos was also one of three dissenters who voted against imposing a salary cap. It wasn’t until Angelos adamantly spoke out against fielding replacement players that he became more relevant to the baseball world.   

Going forward, there would be stories, from prejudice against drafting or signing Cuban players, quick hire and fires with rumors of Angelos overruling managers, and even refusing Cal Ripken Jr. a job in which he would help develop younger players (this was refuted by Ripken Jr. and various news outlets).

(Photo: Peter Angelos converses with Cal Ripken Jr. before a pre-game ceremony in 2001.)

The older Angelos got, the more he pulled away from the public. Declining health and struggles to bring a championship to Baltimore took the once-revered owner and made him a lightning rod to the fans.

What many fans are unaware of is the Angelos family’s contributions to the city of Baltimore. From various donations to civic and community institutions, being the largest individual donor to the University of Baltimore, and in 2010, the family donated over $300,000 to keep Baltimore pools open during the extreme heat wave.

Recent years have seen Peter Angelos’ health decline rapidly to the point that Major League Baseball, in June of 2019, demanded that the Orioles provide MLB and the owners with information on who was officially running the organization.

While this was signaling the end of Peter running and controlling the organization, it would open the door for one of his sons, John or Louis, to take over the day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, this would also lead to an internal family feud that would see the brothers end up with court filings against each other. 

Louis would claim that his older brother John and his mother Georgia had pushed him out from being CEO and moving money into an LLC while taking full control of Peter’s assets, including the Baltimore Orioles. Louis also reported that John and Georgia were prepared to move the team to Tennessee or sell the team to an outside investor. 

What made this situation so tense was that the Orioles had the ability to opt out of their lease in February of 2023 or extend for another five years with the Maryland Stadium Authority. John opted out of the lease before the February deadline. 

A new law in Maryland would allow the Stadium Authority to borrow $600 million to invest into upgrades at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, as well as M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Ravens. This would require a long-term lease to be signed in order for the loan to be given. 

The Orioles are believed to be seeking a lease between 10 to 15 years that would also include upgrades to the surrounding community, as well as stadium areas.

“We greatly appreciate Governor Moore’s vision and commitment, as we seize the tremendous opportunity to redefine the paradigm of what a Major League Baseball venue represents and thereby revitalize downtown Baltimore.”

Both Governor Wes Moore and John Angelos have vowed that the Baltimore Orioles are not going anywhere. Of course, fans of Baltimore also know the Orioles arrived from St. Louis in 1954 and the Baltimore Colts left in 1983.

“When Camden Yards opened 30 years ago, the Baltimore Orioles revolutionized baseball and set the bar for the fan experience. We share the commitment of the Orioles organization to ensuring that the team is playing in a world-class facility at Camden Yards for decades to come and are excited to advance our public-private partnership.”

– Maryland Governor Wes Moore

Recent news has come out that the Angelos brothers have dropped their lawsuits against each other, thus clearing up one ugly experience as spring training gets under way in a week. The Orioles head into 2023 fresh off their first winning season since 2016, with the consensus top farm system in baseball.

Things are looking up for the ball club on the field, but it’s the off-field shenanigans inside the B&O Warehouse that make for an uneasy time, though John tries his best to quell any uneasiness.

“It is my hope and expectation that, together with Governor Moore and the new members and new chairman of the MSA Board, we can again fully realize the potential of Camden Yards to serve as a catalyst for Baltimore’s second renaissance.”

– Orioles CEO John Angelos

Tensions between the fans and ownership would ease a lot more if a new long-term lease is signed. Until then, expect the Birds’ nest to hold a lot of broken eggs.

What do you think of the ownership situation in Baltimore? Let us know in the comments below! And make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content!

Like Stephen’s content? Follow him on Twitter – @SRJHeckman

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