Much has been written recently about the possible return to Washington of major league baseball.
Most of these essays have left erroneous impressions in the minds of readers.
We have been told that major league baseball left Washington because this isn't a good baseball town. Nonsense!
We have been told that baseball hasn't returned because owners think RFK Stadium is situated in a high-crime area, and because "nobody in Washington has the money to buy a franchise." Utter poppycock!
The truth is that if an existing franchise were available at a price that made economic sense and if that team were not tied to a long-term stadium contract, several groups of Washington businessmen would immediately begin bidding for that franchise. The problem lies in those town "ifs."
There are almost always major league teams available for purchase because, in any given year, some ownners make money and some wonder why they ever got themselves into such a costly venture. So the question isn't whether a team is available but at what price.
Generally speaking an owner who paid $5 million and would like to sell his tail-end rinkydrinks for $15 million will not be as quick to find a buyers as one who paid $8 million and would like to sell out for $9 million.
The exception to this general rule would be a purchase by a buyer who has raised his capital throught the public sale of stock. One who is risking the public's $15 million rather than his own can afford to be more daring in his bidding.
However, it should be noted that a team financed in this manner can quickly exhaust its resources and be forced to fled to greener pastures, as Bob Short's underfinanced Senators did.
The Oakland A's are also a good case in point. Not too long ago, they wer accustomed to winning world championships and playing before big crowds. But in the entire 1977 season they drew only 495,578 people, some of them at half price.
The second "if" is also important. To the best of my knowledge, only one team in the majors is not tied to a long-term stadium contract, and that is Baltimore. The Orioles have been committing themselves to a series of a two-year oral agreements. At present they are midway through one of these and consider themselves morally bound to respect its terms.
But if you're talking about moving the Oakland Athletics or any of the other clubs mentioned as "available," let me suggest that you reserve judgment for the moment. All of these teams are tied to long-term stadium contracts. We have no way of knowing whether Oakland's city authorities would accept a cash settlement to permit the A's to leave town, or whether authorities in any other major league city would. After the Danzansky group bought the San Diego Padres, they discovered they couldn't get the team out of San Diego. The city sued them for $75 million for trying to breach the stadium contract and make San Diego a minor league city.
It therefore appears obvious that before any Washingtonian with an ounce of sense would be willing to buy the A's, he would want assurance that the city fathers in both San Francisco and Oakland understand that if one team doesn't leave the Bay Area pretty soon, the Giants and A's will both face the possibility of bankruptcy. Top officials out there would have to resign themselves to the fact that it is better to let one team leave so that one healthy team can remain than it is to risk losing both teams.
Baseball won't be returned to Washington as a result of our holding peprallies or bringing pressure on anybody. Nor does the return of baseball depend on the raising of venture capital.
There is no shortage of capital in the Washington area. I know a dozen Washington men who have an interest in baseball and the means to buy a team, either by themselves or in concert with one or two friends. Any of the dozen could do in a day what the public stock sale hasn't been able to accomplish in months.
But even the millionaries are helpless unless a team is available at a fair price and top officicals in that team's city are willing to accept a reasonable cash settlement for permitting the club to leave. Nobody can force Charlie Finley to sell; nobody can force Charlie's landlord to renegotiate his lease.
Not even Congress Or Commissioner Kuhn . It's as simple as that.