In the full accounting of Peter Angelos’ stewardship of the Baltimore Orioles, numbers flesh out one side of the story.

Six times the Orioles got to the playoffs in 30 seasons. Fourteen consecutive seasons with losing records from 1998 to 2011. Eleven managers, five of whom held the position for three seasons or fewer. Zero World Series titles — not even one appearance on the biggest stage.

But numbers, even the demonstrative, damning ones, feel trifling to gather the full measure of Angelos, a feisty iconoclast who never backed down from his fiercely held beliefs.

Peter Angelos was, first and foremost, a man who wanted the best for Baltimore. Even as he made mistakes with his baseball team, he felt in his bones he knew what the best thing was. He had power that most of us only dream about. Though he didn’t always use it deftly, his core values never changed.

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Even through dementia and now death, his wishes are being carried out. His family, as he once hoped, is selling the team and getting out of the baseball business. The franchise he once bought at auction in a New York courtroom will remain in Baltimore long after his death. The team will pass to David Rubenstein, a city native; Angelos originally acquired the team to keep it from out-of-state ownership.

They still call the stadium Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a rare sporting venue without a corporate name stamped upon its sign. That’s how Peter wanted it, so that is how it has been.

Alan Rifkin, an attorney who represented the Orioles for many years, said that, before Angelos receded from public life, he came to accept the truism of sports owners that they will ultimately be judged by their win-loss record. But that fails, in so many ways, to capture the man.

“He was extraordinary,” Rifkin told me Saturday afternoon, “the likes of which we’re never going to see again in the city of Baltimore.”

He might be right. It’s hard to imagine another one like him.

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Peter came of age in his father’s Highlandtown bar around blue-collar workers, the kinds of people he would one day represent in his law firm. He still would have meetings at his Perring Place Restaurant, which served such high fare as liver and onions.

When he became wealthy beyond imagination, he still counted himself in the ranks of salt-of-the-earth folks, one of the reasons fans are still allowed to bring their own food into Camden Yards.

“He never really outgrew his roots,” said Joe Foss, the longtime Orioles chief operating officer. “One on one, he could be outrageously funny. He had this twinkle in his eye, and a bullhorn of a laugh. … He had this tough negotiating image, but there was a man beneath all that that could make people laugh and made them feel relaxed.”

And Peter loved the Orioles, fanatically so. That might have been what made him a mediocre owner.

After a splash of success early in his tenure, reaching the American League Championship Series in 1996 and 1997, Angelos wound up trusting his own impulses more. Davey Johnson resigned on the day he was named the AL Manager of the Year, and general manager Pat Gillick followed not long after. It could be tough to coexist with the experienced litigator who didn’t seem to think much of baseball minds.

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Managers and executives went through a revolving door for more than a decade before the franchise found stability again. The few times Angelos tried to spend money, it seemed to backfire — typing the names Albert Belle, Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Davis in sequence is bound to work the franchise’s most dedicated fans into a froth.

By the 2010s, Angelos had gone from a celebrated native son who saved the franchise to a villainized, meddlesome owner who was mired in losing seasons.

But Angelos had his reasons for going in these directions, whether they made sense from a baseball perspective or not. He hated the idea of tearing down the franchise for a full rebuild, for example, because he thought the paying public deserved to see the best team the Orioles could muster (even if those teams wound up being forgettable).

He admitted mistakes, Foss said, but he didn’t seem to take the curdling public opinion to heart.

“I cannot honestly say I saw him behaving any differently or having any remorse or sadness about how people were characterizing him,” he said. “The first four or five seasons, we had among the most competitive teams in baseball, and the ballpark was at capacity for years — he had great pride in that. As the team started to underperform and the attendance dropped, he kept coming.”

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At the ballpark, Angelos hosted politicians and Supreme Court justices, actors and entertainers. Even when he had drag-out fights with his own commissioner or the other owners in baseball, they still sought his opinion. For all his warts as a baseball decision-maker, those on the other side of his battles usually held a grudging respect for his integrity.

In the TV-rights battle that led to the creation of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, Rifkin said then-commissioner Bud Selig at least understood that Angelos was fighting for the viability of the Orioles in the market.

“He was such a principled man, people really understood he was standing on principles,” Rifkin said. “They were deep-rooted, fundamental, bedrock positions that he took because they were morally or ethically right.”

The people who knew Angelos well also want the world to know something. He never talked much about himself. He gave away lots of money, often with little fanfare, often anonymously. If there is a paper trail that gives away the full scope of Angelos’ philanthropy over the years, it will be difficult to assemble.

According to Rifkin and Foss, Angelos paid medical bills for people his firm represented. He helped people who had lost their jobs. He bought cars for people, helped with their tuition payments or made payments for their kids. Within the Orioles franchise, Peter and his wife, Georgia, cared for team employees when they struggled with health problems.

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Many of these tokens, Foss said, were anonymous.

“I don’t think the community knew the amount of money that Peter gave away to people, because he wasn’t ever looking for the recognition of that,” Foss said.

Real power is about the ability to shape the world and, for better and for worse, Peter Angelos did that — in the courtroom, in the ballpark and in quiet ways with his checkbook. His vision for the Orioles is still being carried out today, even after death, and that’s a testament to how dynamic he was.

Rifkin keeps a framed picture at his house of Angelos in the Orioles clubhouse in 2012, after they fell to the Yankees in the American League Division Series. Angelos went down to shake the hand of every player at their locker, thanking each for a resurgent season.

“It said all you needed to know about a man like him,” Rifkin said.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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