Replies and rebuttals to recent columns . . . .

BASEBALL AND BUFFALO: It's apparently between us and Buffalo, N.Y., for an expansion National League baseball franchise, I wrote, on Oct. 3. But Buffalo looks like the favorite, I said, with tongue firmly in cheek, because it's the home of Buffalo chicken wings. Washington may have lots more disposable income, I noted, but it doesn't have a well-known home-grown food.

The mail was a surprise. People took me seriously. Especially people from Buffalo.

Charles Burgher, once of Buffalo, now of Woodbridge, wondered why Washington considers itself so deserving of a team -- or of the adjective "sophisticated."

"To think that Washingtonians would find it 'tempting to snicker' at Buffalo is laughable," Charles wrote. "It's true Buffalo suffers from a lot of negative press, but there's more to the city than chicken wings." His former home town has what "Washington can only aspire to: a real sense of community."

Mildred McNulty, of Northeast Washington, said that, by focusing on this area's relative wealth, I unintentionally showed why Buffalo is a better bet for a baseball franchise than Washington.

"In Buffalo," she wrote, "baseball fans worry about baseball. In Washington, they worry about whose BMW looks better in the parking lot."

Al Edel, a born-and-bred Buffalonian who now lives in Falls Church, said I was so far off base that I even stubbed my toe on the question of Buffalo food.

According to Al, truly appetizing ambrosia in his birthplace is something called "beef on weck." That's slices of hot roast beef slathered with horseradish and served inside a Kimmelweck bun (whatever that is). Beef on weck "is a taste treat beyond description," says Al, who invited me to munch a few BOW's with him on opening day, 1993 -- about 450 miles northwest.

I still say the overlords of baseball are more likely to place a new team in a metropolitan area that's twice as big and several times as rich. However, I secretly hope my Buffalo correspondents carry the day. "Beef on weck" sounds a whole lot better than the limp, cold hot dogs that I'm sure Robert F. Kennedy Stadium would have in store.

AREA CODES FOR LOCAL CALLS: I grumped, I moped, I pouted, I groaned. Did the phone company really have to do this to us, I asked, on Sept. 27? Another once-simple process made hard! Sigh!

Gary Langston, of Fairfax, agreed, in pointed fashion. "Now the phone system can be added to the list of ways Washington is becoming more and more like New York," he complained.

However, Milt Copeland of Arlington accused me of being a spoiled brat. "What do those extra three digits cost you? Maybe half a second for each call? Is your time so precious?" Milt wrote.

Lynn Richard, of Alexandria, was even more caustic. "Your inflammatory, inane complaining . . . . is so incredibly absurd that we're worried about you, Bob," she wrote. "Did someone else write today's column while you were away?"

I'm afraid it was the real Levey, Lynn. And I'm afraid you've missed the point, Milt. It isn't a question of time. It's a question of hassle.

Yes, in just the first few days of the new system, I have more or less gotten used to punching in the area code first. But the other day, I had an appointment in Washington first thing in the morning, an appointment in Virginia second thing and an appointment in Maryland third thing.

Before the third appointment, I took a few minutes to return a few calls from a pay phone. But because of all my travels that morning, I had to say to myself as I began each call: "You're standing in 301, Robert, old boy. So any call to 202 or 703 needs the area code."

No, that's not a titanic pain in the neck. But it's a nagging pain in the neck, and that's precisely the point. Nagging pains last longer, and annoy more.

By the way, Paul R. De Lancey, of Arlington, welcomes the new system for the best of reasons: Peace is once again his.

Paul moved to Arlington in March 1989. From the first moment he was hooked up with phone service, he began receiving calls for a company in Severna Park.

Paul's seven-digit number and the Severna Park company's seven-digit number were the same. But Paul was in area code 703, of course, and the company was in 301. He spent many hours over the next 18 months telling would-be company callers to dial 301 first.

On Oct. 1, Paul's life took on a rosy glow. The Severna Park calls all went straight to Severna Park, instead of straight to him first.

So Paul is a happy clam, as well he should be. And once I figure out which calls need a 1 before them and which don't, I might be clamlike myself. Until then, the new system is twice as confusing and -- once you count all the misdials and redials -- twice as slow. That's progress?