For the last few days I’ve had an old country song in heavy rotation. It’s “The Streets of Baltimore” as warbled by Gram Parsons. That’s a tune about a guy from Tennessee who sells the family business and leaves his kinfolk behind to follow the woman he loves, who wants to move to Baltimore.
God, I love Gram Parsons. (For the unawares: Parsons was a country rock pioneer so charismatic and talented that he got the Rolling Stones to take a brief break from being the greatest rock and roll band in the world and go country about a half-century ago. Parsons overdosed in 1973 at just 26 years old after a couple years of trying to party as hard as Keith Richards. Parsons’s pals then stole his body before a planned funeral and took it to the desert and burned it. How metal is that?) And, what a song!
So I gotta thank the people responsible for making me seek out “Streets of Baltimore” after some time apart: Louis “Lou” Angelos and the rest of Baltimore’s battling Angelos family. Late last week, Lou sued his older brother, John Angelos, and mother, Georgia Angelos, in Baltimore County Circuit Court. It seems like Lou would have also named country music as a defendant if he could have.
The lawsuit is as sad as the saddest Reba song. Lou accuses his only brother of various frauds and deceits as well as manipulating their mama into supporting what he describes as John’s hostile takeover of the Baltimore Orioles after family patriarch Peter Angelos had open heart surgery in 2017 and his “mental abilities began to deteriorate.” Lou alleges that since their dad’s incapacitation John has been scheming to pull off what I would call a reverse “Streets of Baltimore,” and move the family-owned team from its Charm City home to Tennessee, all to please the woman he loves. That would be John’s wife, Margaret Valentine. As pointed out in the complaint, John’s “wife’s career is headquartered” in Nashville, where she has incorporated a talent management business for country artists.
Lou alleges that John got the Angelos family’s lawyer, Chris Jones, to turn on Lou and all Angeloses other than John, simply by promoting the career of aspiring country music singer Carter Faith, who happens to be Jones’s daughter. Lou says that John and Margaret gave Faith a slot singing the national anthem at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 2018, when she was still in high school (and going by “Carter Faith Jones” on stage), and later multiple postgame gigs at the stadium.
“[Carter] has had far more exposure as an artist through John and Margaret’s efforts than she ever could have achieved on her own talents,” the suit says.
And soon after the high-profile O’s gigs, Lou claims in the suit, Chris Jones would only do John’s bidding: “Without ever announcing a chance in the relationship, or disclosing the conflict of interest created by John’s promotion of Carter Jones’ career, Jones silently shifted from group representation to the exclusive representation of John’s interests.”
Back to me: Reading Angelos v. Angelos reminded me of my last trip to Camden Yards. I went with my family to see the O’s against Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels on a Friday night in June 2018. All that struck me was that the crowd was really small for a summer weekend game, and that there was a show featuring an unknown performer singing country songs after the game for reasons that were not obvious to me. But that memory made the contention in the suit that John Angelos was mixing his family’s baseball business with his wife’s country music business ring true.
There were, for example, country shows at Camden Yards after every Friday night home game from June through August in both 2018 and 2019. I could find no record of Peter Angelos’s thoughts on country music. However, the series of postgame shows, which according the Baltimore Sun were the brainchild of John Angelos and Valentine, seemed to go against the “no concerts!” edict Peter Angelos foisted on the Maryland Stadium Authority for Oriole Park shortly after he bought the team in 1993. According to a 2000 story in the Baltimore Sun, the O’s owner told the stadium’s overseers he was “not going to have it become some kind of honky tonk.” John and Valentine, meanwhile, seem pro-honky tonk. (The stadium didn’t host its first major concert until Billy Joel played there in 2019.)
And the Orioles under John Angelos also put on country music shows away from Baltimore. Beginning in 2016, the team produced a country concert series each March called “Nashville’s Music Row Comes to the Ballpark” in Sarasota, Fla., the O’s spring training home. In 2019, country superstar Cole Swindell headlined the Florida showcase (and the opening act was, who else, Carter Faith). And the lineup of performers at the 2017 and 2020 spring training shows included none other than Margaret Valentine. Along with being married to the team’s CEO, Valentine gets songwriting credit for “Don’t Miss the Magic,” a tune described on MLB.com as “the official anthem of the Baltimore Orioles.” Here is a video of Valentine singing the tune at a Nashville club with Jenae Cherry, a country singer and, speaking of commingling, is also the wife of former O’s reliever Brad Brach. Sample lyric that has no place in an O’s theme circa 2022: “Let’s hit the road!”
Hell, maybe Lou’s onto something with all that country stuff! If John Angelos and Valentine get their way, the O’s might soon take the field in Nudie suits! And far away from the streets of Baltimore!
Rumors about the O’s migration to Tennessee started a few years ago when word got out that John had a home there. According to Nashville Scene, he and Valentine paid about $2.3 million in 2016 for a house and four-acre lot in Franklin, a ritzy region of the Music City metroplex. Public records indicate they sold that house last year for $3.4 million and moved into Nashville proper. Lou clearly plays on fans’ fears, where in the header of the lawsuit’s complaint he lists a Nashville address for his brother; that address is also the location of the corporate headquarters of Pound It Out Loud LLC, Valentine’s country artist management firm.
Nashville would be at or near the top of the list of cities next in line to get a Major League Baseball franchise even without John Angelos’s apparent country music fixation. A group called Music City Baseball LLC was formed to find a team for the city by 2025. Darius Rucker and Bobby Bones are among the modern country music personalities that have signed on with the baseball effort, along with occasional country music personality Justin Timberlake. The group’s mission statement: “Our focus is to secure Major League Baseball approval of an expansion franchise in Nashville, although relocation and rebranding of an existing franchise would also be considered.” In other words, they’re not above taking another town’s boys of summer “Jolene”-style: just because they can.
Baltimore is scarred by departures of sports franchises like no other city. The town already lost the Bullets to Washington, D.C. in 1973 and the Colts to Indianapolis in 1984. Baltimore just hosted the 147th edition of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, but talk of the big race being taken away from Pimlico and given to the another city has been growing for years. And if not scenery, the Orioles need something to change: A Forbes article on the value of professional sports franchises published in March 2022 contended that the average MLB team’s worth went up nine percent in the previous year; the O’s worth, however, plummeted four percent, making Baltimore the only MLB team that lost value since the last Forbes survey.
And in at least one way, Nashville would be a greener pasture than the O’s current home: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household annual income in Nashville in 2020 was $62,087, or nearly $10,000 higher than Baltimore’s.
Lou has asked the court to issue an injunction preventing John Angelos from moving or selling the Orioles while the case is being litigated and financial damages Lou thinks he’s owed because of his brother’s alleged transgressions are considered. Jeffrey Nusinov, the attorney for Lou Angelos, declined to comment on the likelihood that John Angelos would actually try to move the O’s to Tennessee with the family in such turmoil.
“The purpose of this lawsuit is to fulfill Peter Angelos’s intentions,” Nusinov said. “I have no further facts to add at this time.” But the lawsuit does seem to have gotten John riled up. This morning, he released a lengthy statement that begins pointedly: “As I have said before, as long as Fort McHenry is standing watch over the Inner Harbor, the Orioles will remain in Baltimore.”
Lou Angelos definitely seems anti-country music these days. But while waiting for this dark period to pass, he could do worse than listen to some Gram Parsons, even “Streets of Baltimore.” Because by the end of that song, the protagonist has realized he never should have left his kin and his hometown, and is headed back to where he came from. And, regardless, and again: What a song!