We have taken a wimpy wish and elevated it into a live possibility. We have looked into our billfolds and appointment books and said heck, yes, there's room in our lives for the grand old game. We have trooped forward in wonderfully abundant numbers to shout:
Let's bring baseball back to Washington.
For the last couple of weeks, this coat closet they call my office has felt more like a dugout than a word factory. More than 1,000 readers have called to respond to my Oct. 30 poll on the proposed return of baseball to the Nation's Capital. Another 969 responded by letter. Their voices were nearly unanimous.
We will support baseball here.
We will support it even if the team loses, and loses heavily.
We will support it at the concession booth and the parking lot as well as at the gate.
We will support it despite -- and alongside -- our support for the Capitals and Bullets.
And we will shift a large hunk of our allegiance away from the Baltimore Orioles the minute someone at RFK shouts "Play ball!"
If you are statistically inclined, here's the way the written surveys broke down:
If baseball were back, would you go to at least one game the first season? (YES 960, NO 9).
Three games? (YES 948, NO 21).
Even if the team were a loser? (YES 948, NO 8).
Metro now goes to RFK Stadium. It didn't the last time a baseball team played here. Would you use the subway to get to and from baseball games at RFK? (YES 813, NO 141).
Would the existence of the subway make you more likely to attend games than you would be if you had to drive to RFK? (YES 648, NO 287).
Night baseball games would probably begin at 7:30 or 8 p.m. That would make it difficult for many fans to go home from work, eat dinner and still make it to the game in time. Would you be likely to eat dinner at a night game? (YES 741, NO 201).
A Washington baseball team would play the early part of its season at the same time the Capitals and Bullets play the final parts of theirs. If you now attend Capitals or Bullets games in April, May or June, would you attend a baseball game in those months instead? (YES 501, NO 104).
In addition? (YES 395, NO 88).
The Baltimore Orioles of the American League now draw about one-third of their fans from the Washington area. If a National League team came to Washington, would you still go to Orioles games? (YES 469, NO 412).
If yes, what percentage of the games you attend would be Orioles games? (BETWEEN O and 33 PERCENT, 324; BETWEEN 33 AND 67 PERCENT, 71; BETWEEN 67 AND 100 PERCENT, 19.
Granted, this survey will not win any seals of approval from the American Statistical Association. People who don't care about baseball weren't motivated to respond, and neither were very many people who are actively hostile to it.
But you can't consider the possible return of baseball as a statistical matter alone. It's a matter of the hot dog and the heart, an issue of history and civic pride, a question of continuity and passion. As one fan from Adelphi wrote, "They don't tell you to buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks at a Redskins game."
The D.C. Baseball Commission, appointed by Mayor Barry earlier this year, goes to Houston on Dec. 1 to meet with the major league owners. We're prominently featured on the agenda as a possible site for expansion. Here's hoping the commission takes these figures along. They speak forcefully of a major city whose fans have been too long denied.
Tomorrow: D.C.'s baseball fans speak about the game they love.