Scott Evans remembers the soft glow of the small television set, and the way his stepfather tried to calm him and his sister for the benefit of the neighbors in the apartment below.
But who, on this night, was not celebrating?
It was 1983 and the Baltimore Orioles had won the World Series.
Evans, now 34 and a plumber living in Essex, has "always been an Orioles fan."
"I cried the day Cal Ripken retired," he said. "I remember the smell of Memorial Stadium."
But two years ago, Evans grew so frustrated with his favorite team that he logged onto Facebook to start a group he called "O's fans Peter Angelos has to GO."
The Orioles will begin a new season Friday, taking the field at Camden Yards to inaugurate what would become — barring some diversion from a streak that has persisted throughout the 21st century — a 15th straight losing season. On Baltimore's annual baseball holiday, where dreams of pennants and World Series glory once sprung eternal, Evans finds hope in his dream that perhaps someone else will someday own the city's baseball team.
And he is not alone. More than 1,300 people "like" his page for disgruntled fans, and the chatter there centers mostly on finding a way to effect sea change rather than the tweaks needed to the bottom of the lineup. The complaints aired on his board, meanwhile, are echoed at sites across the Internet and in office break rooms and bars throughout the city.
The Orioles, in a statement, said the team is not for sale. Attempts to reach Angelos, through both his law firm and the ballclub, were unsuccessful. Neither of his sons could be reached. John, an executive with the Orioles, and Louis, a lawyer at his father's firm, could inherit the team.
Those who know Angelos and industry observers say there is no indication that the 82-year-old lawyer, who made much of his fortune representing workers exposed to asbestos, has any desire to sell the team. Exploring a sale during the offseason would have been folly, anyway, because one marquee franchise — the Los Angeles Dodgers — was for sale and another — the New York Mets — was in limbo because of financial problems.
A group led by Magic Johnson purchased the Dodgers last week for a record $2.15 billion. The Mets' ownership group agreed in March to a $162 million payment to victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme — an original lawsuit called for payment of $1 billion — and also sold $240 million worth of shares in the team, leaving the organization stable for the foreseeable future.
So with the market potentially reset, Angelos and his fellow owners could be re-evaluating whether to sell. Jim Duquette, who once served as the Orioles' vice president for baseball operations, believes a trickle-down from the sale will be felt.
"To see a team go for that much, that just increases the value of every other team," he said. "Guys who might not have thought of trying to sell will at least give it a look now. Everything is for sale for the right price."
Duquette finds Angelos' inclusion on an owners committee that vetted potential buyers for the Dodgers interesting.
"He knows the process now, and he knows what kinds of potential buyers are out there," said Duquette, who co-hosts a radio show on MLB Network Radio. "Do I know his inclusion wasn't coincidental? I don't. But very few things Peter Angelos does are not by design."
What would happen if Angelos changed his mind?
How a sale would work
Angelos long ago built a reputation for doing things his way.
So Sal Galatioto, a sports banker who has worked with dozens of professional teams and recently brokered the sale of baseball's Chicago Cubs and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, wouldn't be surprised if Angelos tried to orchestrate the deal himself.
"But if he's smart," Galatioto said, "he'd call me. Or one of my competitors."
Galatioto, founder of the New York firm Galatioto Sports Partners, said he has been approached by several buyers who would be interested in the Orioles if they were for sale.
"One call from Peter, and we'd go right to our Rolodex and pull out people we know would like to buy the team," he said. "These are people with the desire, and the money, to write a check right away."
While the Dodgers' sale will have an impact on the market for pro franchises, the sale price has been characterized by many economists as an outlier (most expected the team to sell for about half of what it fetched). Smith College professor of economics Andrew Zimbalist called it "extraordinary and surprising." Mark Rosentraub, a University of Michigan sports management professor, told ESPN it was "the craziest deal ever; it makes no sense."
But in the buying and selling of pro sports teams, the supply doesn't meet demand. Angelos bought the Orioles in 1993 for $173 million — $70 milliion more than had ever been paid for a baseball team.
Galatioto could not say how much the Orioles would sell for on the open market. Angelos' share of MASN, Galatioto said, is likely worth more than the club itself. MASN's revenue reached almost $159 million last year, according to an estimate published by The New York Times. Angelos began by owning 90 percent of the network, which televises Orioles and Washington Nationals games, but that percentage decreases each year until it reaches 67 percent.
When the Nationals relocated from Montreal, Angelos negotiated a guarantee from Major League Baseball that he would get at least $365 million in any sale of the Orioles. He would likely get much more.
"What would the team and network sell for? It's a big number," Galatioto said. "I haven't seen the books, so I'd hesitate to say, but it's a big number."
He guessed that a potential ownership group would have to be willing to put $500 million cash down on the purchase. Forbes placed the Orioles' value at $411 million last year but has also reported that the team's relative value has dropped. In 2001, Forbes considered the Orioles the 12th-most valuable team in the major leagues. Last year, they were 18th.
Whereas Angelos bought the Orioles at a time of relative uncertainty, a new owner would be investing in what Galatioto characterized as a stable franchise with upside.
"It's not going to be a hard turnaround story," he said. "You have an established market, where baseball once meant so much. You have a stadium that has been proven over time as one of the best, in an area that is attractive to visit. You have the media rights deal. The team — the brand — needs to be fixed, but when you're looking at a purchase like this, that's the easy part."
John Moag, a Baltimore investment banker who founded Legg Mason's sports investment division and now runs his own firm, told The Baltimore Sun in 2010 that the team and MASN would be worth $1 billion or more (he did not return calls seeking comment for this article).
"You've got 350 million people in the Boston-to-D.C. corridor," Galatioto said. "There's a good number of them in Maryland and D.C. and even Pennsylvania that grew up knowing the Orioles as something unique. There was 'The Oriole Way,' and it stood for something. You reignite that and couple it with the strong foundation of the stadium and the network, that's really, really valuable."
Would Angelos do it?
Angelos maintains a tight inner circle and has rarely spoken on the record to The Sun or other outlets in recent years.
Those who have done business with him, though, see an owner still intent on turning the Orioles into a winner.
"This is a man who is engaged," said Bob Leffler, whose advertising agency lost the Orioles as a client recently. "Very engaged. He is not tired at all. He is aging the way all of us wish we could age."
Those close to Angelos can't fathom him walking away from the team in the midst of such profound on-the-field struggle, his legacy therefore in question. Shortly after buying the team, Angelos told Evening Sun columnist John Steadman that he and the other investors in the team were "the trustees of the franchise."
"I feel privileged to be in this position," he said. "Rarely does any person have a chance to do what the multitudes consider a victory for them."
Leffler has known Angelos for about 10 years, he said, and has never seen the latter's fervor for the job wane.
"One of the reasons people are wealthy is they're competitive," he said. "Peter remains competitive. He's created this empire and, granted, there's a lot he has to do. But he's not going to let one side of it crumble.
"Owners get over the 'wow, wow' factor, usually. Peter knows the game. He knows what to do. It's just a lot harder than people realize."
In late September 1993, before his purchase of the team was even approved by the MLB owners, Angelos told The Sun that he didn't foresee ever wanting to sell the team and that if he did, he would not sell to an out-of-town group.
That could be a reason, Galatioto acknowledges, for Angelos to attempt to orchestrate a sale on his own. But there's no longer any danger the Orioles would skip town — the specter of which seemed to weigh heavily on fans when Angelos stepped in — because of Camden Yards' success and the revenue produced by MASN.
What would it mean for the fans?
To Angelos, the Orioles are a passion but also a business.
Fans need only to consider how their favorite sports teams make them feel. They're not privy to the intracacies of running the operation, and probably wouldn't want to think purely rationally about sports, even if they could.
Evans, the lifelong Baltimorean (he attended Calvert Hall and Villa Julie), believes a sale would immediately stoke new optimism — and willingness to spend money — in fans. He yearns for the leadership of a former player who has said in the past that he would consider being part of a future ownership group.
"I guarantee you if a new group buys it, and that group includes Cal Ripken, Camden Yards sells out for the next three months," he said. "Same players, same team. Nothing's changed, but the fans would care again."
Tony Pente said the fans he speaks to — his site, orioleshangout.com, gets 50,000 unique visitors per month — have never been so demoralized.
"There's no sympathy for Peter Angelos anymore," he said. "There's no one giving him any benefit of the doubt. And that hasn't always been the case. Most people remember how they felt when he bought the team."
Attendance numbers reflect, at the very least, an ambivalence toward the team. The Orioles led baseball in attendance for four consecutive years starting in 1995, peaking at 3,711,132 in 1997, the last time the team made the playoffs or had a winning record. Last year, 1,755,461 fans entered Oriole Park. That ranked 26th in baseball, according to ESPN; the Orioles' average of just under 22,000 per game meant they filled just 48.6 percent of the stadium. Only the Toronto Blue Jays used a smaller percentage of seats.
Ed Kapinos, a 34-year-old from Rosedale, worries that his two sons, ages 2 and 2 months, won't ever understand why their father cares so much about the Orioles.
"What I did as a kid was go down to 33rd Street and watch the Orioles," he said. "But now, it just seems like we'd have more fun at a minor league game in Aberdeen. It's more of a family atmosphere, it's cheaper and you're not wondering whether the owner even cares about the fans or the product on the field."
Galatioto believes the Orioles have probably already lost a number of fans, in part because the Nationals have shown an inclination to spend money on players to complement the two most exciting prospects in baseball, pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper.
"You suck for 10 years, you've lost a generation," he said. "There's too much else for them to root for, to fall for in that time."
Barring a drastic turnaround under Dan Duquette — Jim's cousin, and the eighth man Angelos has employed in the task of rebuilding the Orioles — it seems that the story of Angelos, the kid from Highlandtown who made a fortune and rescued his hometown ballclub, will be forever smudged.
But maybe Angelos knew that would be the case.
Speaking of Eli Jacobs, the man he bought the team from, Angelos once said: "He made a lot of contributions to the Orioles, but, like in politics, you don't get much credit when you go out."
An audience with the owner
Try clapping your hands for 10 or 15 minutes straight. It's not, it turns out, a very comfortable feeling.
Try doing it as loudly as you can. Loudly enough so that you can hear clearly your own part in a stadium — no, a city — erupting in celebration of the quintessential Baltimorean.
But Terry Cook holds few experiences in his life as dear as the time his hands were left red and raw by the 20-minute standing ovation he and 46,271 other people gave Cal Ripken Jr. on Sept. 6, 1995.
"One of the best days of my life," he said. "The sort of feeling you're not sure you'd have."
Cook, 34, grew up in the Baltimore area, attending Loch Raven High School and Towson University. He still has a replica of the Orioles' 1983 World Series ring, given away to fans entering a game the next season. It can be found nestled within his gobs of Orioles paraphernalia. The account manager for a staffing company wears a necklace with an Orioles symbol hanging from the middle.
He was, for many years, a holdout among his friends. Trust Peter Angelos, he'd tell them. Cook easily recites the reasons the Orioles have struggled — revenue disparity compared with big-city teams, bad luck in the amateur player draft and free agency, the rise of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees — and has catalogued the various ways in which Angelos and his front-office people have tried to resurrect the franchise.
Cook's resolve broke when Tony LaCava, one of the top young executives in baseball, opted to keep his job as an assistant in Toronto rather than become the boss in Baltimore.
"Here's a guy with a dream job, and there are only 30 people that can give you that dream job," Cook said. "And he says, 'Nah.' That tells you what baseball people think about this job, this situation, working for Angelos."
The Orioles hired Dan Duquette, who had been out of major league baseball since being fired by the Red Sox in 2002. Any faith Cook had in Duquette — who had been touted for his international contacts and ability to mine talent from far-off places — dissolved when the Orioles botched the signing of South Korean high school pitcher Kim Seong-Min.
So Cook started a group he dubbed "Occupy Eutaw Street" and had shirts designed featuring a frowning cartoon Oriole Bird with "NO's" emblazoned on his hat. Though Cook and his cadre of the disgruntled plan to gather on Opening Day, they'll do so peaceably. Their lone demand is simple: contact from Peter Angelos.
"The realistic goal is that we get a statement, and it probably won't even be directed to us," Cook said. "But all we request is that he be truthful with us. Let us know he still cares. Better, if he doesn't care, let us know. If it's just about the money for him now, if he's given up thinking it's reasonable that the Orioles can compete, just let us know. That's how we are: Baltimore fans would rather have it be in your face. No more of this closed-door stuff."
Greg Bader, the Orioles' director of communications, said the team "remains engaged with our fans through various means — email, phone, social media — and will continue to do so."
As to the question of whether the Orioles remain focused on winning, he said:
"We're extremely hopeful that the team we field is as exciting as we think it can be. We recognize the frustration some of our fans feel after the last 14 years. The results are not acceptable to any of us, which is why we remain committed to making improvements organization-wide so that we can bring the sort of winning team they expect to Orioles fans."
twitter.com/chriskormanYearRecord (Division finish)Attendance199463-49 (second)46,951199571-73 (third)43,034199688-74 (second)45,024199798-64 (first)45,816199879-83 (fourth)45,496199978-84 (fourth)42,914200074-88 (fourth)40,681200163-98 (fourth)38,686200267-95 (fourth)33,122200371-91 (fourth)30,303200478-84 (third)34,344200574-88 (fourth)32,404200670-92 (fourth)26,582200769-93 (fourth)27,060200868-93 (fifth)24,376200964-98 (fifth)23,545201066-96 (fifth)21,663201169-93 (fifth)21,943Which Marylanders could buy a team?
Sal Galatioto brokers the sale of sports franchises and spends much of his time crisscrossing the country speaking to people with the money and wherewithal to buy teams. He says numerous buyers have approached him about the Orioles.
He wouldn't give names of his possible future clients, though.
Peter Angelos acknowledged having paid a "premium" for the Orioles when he purchased them for $173 million — then a record for a pro sports team — in 1993 but said he was willing to do so to bring the team under local control. If he would like to sell to another Marylander — or, more likely, a group of Marylanders — there are a few options:
Founder and former chairman and CEO of Legg Mason
Like Angelos, Mason is seen as an up-from-the-bootstrap success story who showed loyalty to Baltimore. Fans have floated his name hopefully for years, and they would view him as having the clout and savvy to return the Orioles to winning. Mason did not respond to requests for comment.
Bisciotti, whom Forbes estimates to be worth $1.4 billion, told The Baltimore Sun he has his "hands full as far as how much interest and time and money" he dedicates to owning the Ravens and would not be able to invest in the Orioles.
Under Armour founder
The former Maryland football player has invested in Maryland horse racing with the goal of returning it to the forefront of the sport. Why not the Orioles? According to Forbes, Plank is worth $1.1 billion. Plank did not respond to an interview request.
CAL RIPKEN JR.
Hall of Famer and former Oriole
Fans clamor for Ripken, who has stayed involved in baseball through charitable work and with investments in minor league teams. He has said in the past that he would be interested in joining a potential ownership group.
The Angelos eraCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times