On March 28, 1999, Peter Angelos had a seat at a baseball game unlike anything most fans — or team owners — can imagine.

At Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana, his seatmate was Fidel Castro. Angelos wore a blazer and dress shirt — Casual Friday for a man who almost always appeared in public in a dark suit and tie. Castro, to his left, was dressed in green fatigues and military cap. Sitting 100 yards away, I could not take my eyes off them.

After the game, the first involving a Major League Baseball team in Cuba in 40 years, I asked the Orioles owner if he’d had a problem meeting one of the world’s most notorious and repressive autocrats. He said, no, “Except I was kind of unhappy he was so much taller than me. That was my first thought.” Angelos was 5 feet 6. Castro was 6-3.

That afternoon in Havana might have been the happiest day of Peter Angelos’ 30 years as Orioles owner. Angelos, who has not run the team since he became incapacitated by health issues in 2018, died Saturday at age 94 — days before a new baseball season as owners appear poised to approve the sale of his family’s controlling stake in the team to a group led by David Rubenstein. The season will begin Thursday, the 25th anniversary of that game in Cuba.

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That day in 1999 may be difficult for some to envision. Angelos was on a world stage. He had pulled levers of power, including one in Bill Clinton’s White House, to achieve what no other team owner could. He was loved, hated and talked about beyond sports.

I was lucky. As a reporter for the Baltimore Sun and later BusinessWeek covering the business of sports, I filled my notebook because of him. For about a dozen years, starting with the earliest days of Angelos’ pursuit of the Orioles, I had frequent audiences with him in his law offices on Harford Road, over lunch at Haussner’s on Eastern Avenue, at the posh Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Orioles investors convened during spring training and, yes, at a ballpark in Havana.

Fans won’t remember Peter Angelos for championship seasons or American League pennants — there were none. Orioles teams from 1995 to 2022 lost more games than they won 20 of 28 seasons. At the ballpark and on talk radio, the angst gradually turned to apathy. In 2021, attendance at Orioles games slid below 800,000 for the first time since 1965, before turning up in 2022.

His decisions about whom to hire and whom to let walk also were less than flawless. Remember, this is the team that wooed Albert Belle and declined to offer a new contract to Jon Miller.

But, during the Angelos years, there were achievements, too. If you’re under 40, you may be unaware that Orioles teams advanced to the American League Championship Series in 1996 and ‘97. After nearly two decades of futility, they were back in the postseason in the wild-card game in 2012 and ALCS in 2014.

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It is not often mentioned, but Angelos made one of the great deals in sports history in buying the Orioles in 1993. With partners including novelist Tom Clancy, he paid $173 million at an auction in federal bankruptcy court in New York, then the highest price ever commanded for a franchise in ANY pro sport. More than the Celtics, Yankees and Cowboys. It was an insane number. Three decades later, Rubenstein agreed to a sale that values the club at $1.725 billion.

More than anything, I’ll remember Angelos as a disrupter. Far more than Edward Bennett Williams and Eli Jacobs, the Orioles owners who preceded him, he ran the team on instinct and often with clenched fists.

Williams could be intemperate — he referred to a manager he’d just fired as “Cement Head.” Jacobs ran the team as if he were CIA director. Once, he replied to an inquiry about the Orioles’ finances by saying, “I don’t answer questions about the kinds of questions I answer.”

Angelos was blunt and outspoken. He rarely shirked confrontation. When he died Saturday, I flashed back to Havana but also to the endless conflicts he found or that seemed to find him.

I did a quick library search and unearthed disputes with the Maryland Stadium Authority over plans to revitalize Camden Station, with the late State Del. Pete Rawlings over minority representation in the Orioles front office, about empowerment of baseball executives to make decisions (“I don’t delegate anything until I fully understand it,” he told me) and with former manager Phil Regan over ownership of a prized lineup card. That’s a partial list, believe me.

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Some of Angelos’s biggest battles were with his fellow team owners. The Orioles’ dispute with the Nationals over Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is far from the first confrontation. In 1994, a few months after Angelos took over the team, MLB was locked in a lengthy labor dispute with players. Negotiations were at a standstill for months. The World Series was canceled for the first time.

Angelos, a union lawyer, publicly challenged MLB’s handling of the negotiations. I remember checking the batteries in my tape recorder to make sure I was getting it all as he critiqued the strategy of Bud Selig, then MLB’s acting commissioner.

“He is a very successful automobile dealer,” Angelos said. “What makes him think he has the abilities to do what he’s attempting to do here is beyond my comprehension.”

It was one of those not-so-rare combustible moments with Peter Angelos. He looked me in the eye as he said it: “Print that.”

Mark Hyman is director of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and the inaugural George Solomon Endowed Chair in Sports Journalism at Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.