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Angelos, Selig Last Men Standing in D.C.'s Way

"We can get it done like that," Williams promised, snapping his fingers, according to Robert D. Goldwater, the former president of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, who was at the meeting.

On July 15, Williams and his aides attended the All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. So did Gabe Paul Jr., executive director of the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, and other members of the Northern Virginia bid effort. But baseball's self-imposed deadline passed without acknowledgement.

The Major League Constitution was rewritten to give Allan H. "Bud" Selig increased authority over economic issues. (Morry Gash -- AP)

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The delegation returned home to "radio silence," Goldwater said. For the next month and a half, calls from District officials to Major League Baseball went unreturned, he said.

"We're just saying to baseball, 'Please bring a team here,' " Williams said last fall. "But who owns it, or what team, is up to them -- the man behind the door. But we don't seem to have very good communication with the man behind the door."

Baseball officials explained that no location had come forward with a good enough offer. "There's no spanking new stadium ready . . . where it's, 'Here's the key, let 'er rip,' " DuPuy said last October.

Unstated was the fact that the three locations were competing not only against each other but also against Angelos.

The Phillies' Giles said he "personally always wanted a team in Washington. Our nation's capital should have our nation's pastime." But the owners, Giles added, are "friends, and partners to some extent, and people just don't like to hurt other people. And if Angelos thinks he's going to get hurt, I think he'd get support."

After the 2003 baseball season ended, the field of potential relocation sites expanded to include not only Washington, Northern Virginia and Portland, Ore., but also Norfolk; Monterrey, Mexico; and Las Vegas.

Baseball was scrambling. "If I promised to build a stadium in my backyard, baseball would come and look at my backyard as the potential new home for the Expos," said an investment banker involved in the process.

Selig, according to a major league official familiar with the process, had asked the relocation committee to look for alternatives to the District and Northern Virginia. Washington and Northern Virginia, he said, were not allowed to be "meaningfully discussed" because of Angelos's opposition and Selig's "unwavering support of Peter," the official said.

The official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said the only way to persuade Selig to confront Angelos was for Washington or Northern Virginia to present an overwhelming bid.

"You have to ask yourself, 'Will Bud fight that fight?' " the official said. "And I'm telling you there is not a chance in hell he will fight that fight unless he's backed into a corner."

Then, in May, Williams offered baseball a fully funded ballpark. A month later, Northern Virginia announced plans for a $360 million ballpark as part of a 400-acre development project near Dulles. That project called for the team that occupied the stadium to help pay for its construction through annual $10 million rent payments.

"Major League Baseball . . . will make more money at the Dulles site than any other site or market they are considering," a project briefing prepared by the development team promised.

Mark K. Tuohey, the chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, said the mayor decided to offer a fully funded stadium after it became "clear to us that they were going to get 100 percent financing" from another city. The evidence for that determination was unclear. Tuohey said District officials became convinced after reading press reports and talking to baseball executives. "I'm told Monterrey has that kind of proposal," Tuohey said. "I'm told that Las Vegas does."

Asked if he was concerned that the District was bidding against itself, Tuohey said: "No, I don't think we are. Because we looked at the 100 percent and it was doable."

In attendance when Williams presented the proposal to the relocation committee on May 6 was Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), chair of the D.C. Council finance committee, who last June brought the process to a standstill by refusing to act on a financing package until the franchise had been officially awarded.

Evans said he was encouraged by committee chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's assurances that Angelos would not stop the Expos from moving to the District.

But Evans said he told Reinsdorf that it was impossible for baseball to make that claim unless baseball officials had already discussed the issue with Angelos.

"I said, 'Listen to this logic: If you're here seriously considering us, before you got here you have to have solved the Angelos issue,' " Evans said. "You can't be seriously here talking to me if you haven't."

Reinsdorf insisted that Angelos would not be a factor.

In Baltimore, meantime, the owner was quietly accelerating efforts to turn the Orioles into a regional franchise. During this past offseason, the word "Baltimore" was scrubbed from the home dugout roof at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Auxiliary scoreboards displaying an in-game linescore -- which once represented the Orioles as "BAL" -- now designated the home team as "O'S."

The team's broadcasters had been told in recent years: "We don't refer to [the team on the air] as Baltimore. We refer to it as the O's or the Birds," said Michael Reghi, the team's television play-by-play man until last season.

Even the club's news releases no longer carried a Baltimore dateline and uniformly began, "The Orioles announced today."

The fans who entered Camden Yards -- the thousands who came from the District and Virginia and suburban Maryland to see the Birds -- all were hard-pressed to find any mention of the Orioles' home city.

To those around the team, the message was unmistakable: Angelos was claiming Washington.

Staff researchers Julie Tate and Margot Williams and staff writer Dave Sheinin contributed to this report.

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