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6. Wire to wire, champagne and the Dumb Dumb divorce

“There is no threat he’s going to lose his job. He has a contract that is binding, and I plan to fulfill the conditions of that contract. One thing is for certain: I have never said that Davey (Johnson) would be fired. I have never said he had to get to the World Series to keep his job. Yet the focus of this is on me. That I don’t understand. None of this has come from Peter Angelos.”

 

Peter G. Angelos – October 24, 1997

IN 1997, SOMEHOW, AMIDST ALL of the chaos, drama and incredible mixed emotions of the fan base toward the emerging megalomaniac, micro-managing, all-powerful Peter G. Angelos, the one thing that remained constant was his ability to buy the best baseball players in the world and get them to the field at Camden Yards.

All the team did was win games in 1997. The team started 4-0 and had a winning record in every month of the season. They went wire-to-wire in first place, finishing 98-64, and a runaway winner of the American League East.

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Other than Mike Mussina having a no-hitter broken up in the ninth inning on a warm night in May and Roberto Alomar spending parts of the second injured, most every aspect of the team on the field was perfect. The Yankees finished 96-66 and were forced to visit the loaded Cleveland Indians and lost in the ALDS. The Orioles were dispatched to Seattle in the first round of the playoffs, where they quickly won a pair of games in the thunderous Kingdome, only to lose Game 3 at Camden Yards before Mike Mussina vanquished Randy Johnson in Game 4 to lead the Birds back to their second straight ALCS.

Once again, all of the sins of Peter Angelos seemed to be forgotten. The Orioles were four wins away from the World Series. It had been a magical season, bringing back memories of the Earl Weaver teams of the 1969 to 1971 era when great pitching and defense won championships.

The Orioles had defeated the Indians in 1996 and the Cleveland disdain for all things Baltimore had grown exponentially as the Ravens played into their second fall under Art Modell. But the O’s couldn’t get the job done against the Indians, who won four one-run ballgames in the series, including a 1-0 heartbreaker in Game 6. Mike Mussina threw eight innings of shutout baseball before watching Armando Benitez give up an 11th inning home run to light-hitting Tony Fernandez to extinguish the Birds’ dreams of its first World Series since 1983.

The series with Cleveland was a classic, but one that went the wrong way for Orioles fans.

Despite the success on the field, the turmoil behind the scenes was palpable if mostly

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