(Author note: This is Chapter 8 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)
8. That time Peter Angelos tried to buy the Washington Redskins
“Anyone interested in purchasing a sports franchise would have to be interested in buying the Redskins. It’s a storied franchise, in the nation’s capital – it’s one of the premier franchises in the NFL, and that automatically would make it attractive.”
– Peter Angelos to The Sun 1998
PETER G. ANGELOS WAS FASCINATED WITH more than just baseball at the end of the disappointing 1998 season. In November, when he was jockeying with Wren for control of the free agency situation, Angelos was also once again moonlighting in areas where he could exert his massive wealth and influence to boost his ego and status.
With the Baltimore Ravens of Ted Marchibroda mired in their third straight losing season since coming to Baltimore and being led by veteran quarterback Jim Harbaugh, Angelos talked openly in the media about still wanting an NFL franchise. And with a quarter of his Orioles fanbase – remember they were never to be referred to as the Baltimore Orioles, just “The Orioles” – coming from the Washington, D.C. area, Angelos thought it prudent and profitable to become a suitor for the true love of the nation’s capital – the Washington Redskins.
On Halloween 1998, Angelos threw his name into the media circus as a bidder for the team that was mired in estate debts left from the death of longtime owner Jack Kent Cooke in April 1997. Angelos had two major hurdles to clear: the NFL desperately wanted the family of Cooke to retain control, and the football owners made it clear they didn’t want cross-ownership issues with Major League Baseball, especially in a different local market.
Of course, that didn’t deter Angelos. The MLB baseball owners didn’t want him to be a part of their little club but he pushed his way in during a bankruptcy auction in 1993. The rules of the NFL owners were pliable, Angelos insisted.
Asked by Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post, if he would relinquish control of the Orioles to own the Redskins, Angelos said: “No, I would not. But I don’t think that question is even applicable. The rule states that in order to own a team in another sport, you have to be within the same market area as the football franchise.”
Angelos was essentially saying that Baltimore and Washington were the same market, a tune he would continue to hum years later when Major League Baseball would seek to put a team in the District of Columbia. During the summer of 1998, speculation suggested that the Redskins would fetch at least $400 million and perhaps as much as $500 million if the spending got aggressive amongst billionaires who would want an NFL membership. “Anyone interested in purchasing a sports franchise would have to be interested in buying the Redskins.” Angelos added. “It’s a storied franchise, in the nation’s capital – it’s one of the premier franchises in the NFL, and that automatically would make it attractive.”
Of course, in Baltimore to mention the word “Redskins” is akin to civic heresy amongst many longtime football fans who grew up on the Colts and hated anything burgundy and gold. The Orioles got plenty of pushback from Baltimoreans over the years as the team wooed D.C. baseball fans. After the Colts departed the Charm City, the subject of “market” was a source of major civic consternation from 1984 through 1995 when Redskins games were shown as “local” games on Sunday NFL viewing, despite Baltimore’s disdain