R.I.P. to Art Angotti, an Indiana-born businessman who tried to bring Major League Baseball to Indianapolis. He died on March 6 after a 10-month battle with cancer. He was 74 years old. Had he been successful, baseball would have the Indianapolis Arrows today.
Arthur Angotti Jr. Was born in Gary, Ind. on September 25, 1944. He was an excellent athlete at Horace Mann High School and Indiana University. He was the quarterback of his high school football team and ran track at IU while earning a business degree.
Angotti served in Vietnam and was wounded as part of an armored cavalry unit. He was decorated with a Bronze Star for Valor, a Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal, according to his obituary. Once he returned home, he began his business career in earnest, first in Philadelphia and then back home in Indiana.
He founded, among other ventures, Heritage Management Inc., Heritage Venture Group, Indianapolis Cablevision Company and Artistic Media Partners, which owned 20 radio stations around the country. Angotti was also an executive vice president for Syndicate Glass, a director of Indianapolis Cellular Telephone Co. and an associate professor of finance at Butler University.
Sports, particularly baseball, was always close to his heart. His family was friends with Kansas City/Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley, and he attended the 1972-4 World Series as Finley’s guest. He served as president of Indianapolis Baseball Inc., which was formed for the express purpose of bringing major-league baseball to Indiana, one way or another.
“I would be happy to talk to anybody, anyplace, anytime to buy a major league baseball team,” he said in November 1984.
At the time, there were a couple of options for Angotti and groups in other cities that were courting MLB. Along with Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Denver and St. Petersburg were also looking to bring a team to town. There were at least three existing teams that were looking for new owners then. The Pirates were the most widely known, but their lease agreement with Three Rivers Stadium would ultimately keep the team in Pittsburgh. That left the possibility of an expansion team.
“We are focusing our efforts on the next nine months, because if baseball resolves some of its current problems, expansion may be a high priority for the August, 1985 meetings in Anaheim,” Angotti told The Indianapolis Star in December 1984. “A lot of work still has to be completed but we have an excellent foundation to build on. We will be making announcements over the next few months that will get baseball’s attention.”
Soon, the team that didn’t yet exist had a name — the Indianapolis Arrows — and a group of local investors. Joining Angotti was Indiana philanthropist Tom Binford, WTTV Channel 4 and 11 and other minority investors. WTTV would broadcast the games. The group launched a season ticket drive in June of 1985, asking people to send in a $50 deposit for the right to buy a half-season or full-season tickets. It eventually received 11,000 reservations after just a couple of months.
The only thing the Arrows didn’t have was a place to play. There was a thought that the Hoosier Dome, home of the Indianapolis Colts, could have been reconfigured to accommodate baseball with an $8 million renovation. Ultimately, that plan failed, and there was no possibility to build a downtown baseball stadium. The Arrows refunded the $50 (with 5.5% interest) to their would-be season ticket holders, and Angotti left Indianapolis Baseball in 1988. MLB didn’t even begin serious expansion talks until 1990, and Indianapolis did not submit a proposal.
Angotti had many more successful business ventures. Artistic Media Partners would own the flagship stations for IU, Purdue University and Notre Dame. He was inducted into the Indiana Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2008 and also won the IU Kelly School of Business Distinguished Entrepreneur Award.
Even if he had successfully brought Major League Baseball to Indianapolis, Angotti didn’t have much of an interest in being a baseball mogul.
“I’d like to get it started, then sit in the stands and eat hot dogs,” he said.