HE KNEW THE budget was lost.

He know knew it as long ago as Election Day, when Reagan beat his guy, 44-6.

Sometimes he forgot a player's name and sometimes his pre-game talk rambled a bit, but he could always count runs, hits and errors. And when it got to the bottom of the ninth, he always knew which big bats he had left. This time, even before the assassination attempt, he knew he didn't have many; and after, he had absolutely none.

The power had swung to the right.

Tip O'Neill weighs almost 250 pounds, but he could feel the wind blow.

So he wasn't surprised when, on May 7, in Washington, 63 Democrats -- 63 of his Democrats -- leaped over to the other side and gave the Republican president the budget he wanted.

And he wasn't defensive when, on May 8, as he walked to his car in the parking lot of The Boston Globe after a lunch with that paper's editorial board, one of his constituents, Dick, a pressman, a workingman from North Cambridge, approached bolkly, with a big smile and a handshake, like Tip's constituents usually do, like family. And Tip, as he usually does, placed the name and the face and asked the kinds of specific personal questions -- about a marriage or a home -- that only someone who knew could ask.

And then Dick said, "So, Tip, what's all this budget stuff I'm reading about in the papers? What's happening to you in Washington, Tip?"

And Tip, because he gives it to you straight, gave it to him straight.

"What's happening to me? What's happening to me in Washington? Dick, what's happening to me is, I'm getting the s--- whaled out of me."

Although he is fiercely partisan and thoroughly committed to liberal philosophies, it seems impossible to find anyone who doesn't like Tip O'Neill. He is described by proponents and opponents alike as the classic what-you-see-is-what-you-get person.

"The secret of his success is that his word is good," says Marty Nolan, editor of The Globe's editoral page.

"He is easily the most respected member of Congress," says Rep. Phil Gramm (D-Tex.), the conservative Democrat who cosponsored the Gramm-Latta budget and led the charge to the other side.

"He still commands the most silent attention of and speaker in the House," says Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.), a fierce conservative.

"He's very sensitive, very perceptive and a whole lot smarter than people give him credit for," says Rep. Dick Bolling (D-Mo.), a liberal. "The classic liberals look down their noses at him because he's not an ideologue and he's not a great orator. He's a plain and simple people guy."

"Loves people, loves to help people," says Charles Ferris, former FCC chairman and a longtime friend. "If he were a priest, he'd hear confessions 24 hours a day."

One of the words you don't hear about Tip O'Neill is "humble."

Humility has nothing to do with national politics. These guys are sharks, and you don't get to be speaker of the House by coming on like Charlie the Tuna; Charlie would go belly-up in the caucus so fast he'd be cleaned and canned and on the way to Safeway before the first roll call.

(O'Neill on humility: "I was the first Democrat to become speaker of the Massachusetts legislature. I made the Massachusetts legislature Democratic. I actually went out and got 40 people to run for office, financed them and won with 36 of them.")

He went into the family business, politics and, when he could, he played softball. But when he hd to, he played hardball. And he never forgot how to slide with his spikes high. "I'm old enough to remember the signs in Boston that said: 'No Irish Need Apply.' The last one didn't come down until 1938. I remember walking in the parade with the Holy Name Society and as we walked down Beacon Street the Yanks would pull down their window shades so they didn't have to see us. . . . I was speaker of the House in Massachusetts in 1950 when I walked into my local bank and a young man came up to me and said he'd just quit his job to take a job as vice president and operations manager of the bank, and now they weren't giving it to him because they'd found out he was a Catholic. Well, I knew the boy; I'd served with his father in the legislature. And I went into that bank and saw the president, and I said, 'My family bought oil and coal from you all my life. We have our money here. Now you tell me this young man isn't getting this job because he's Catholic? Let me tell you this: You've got three days to straighten this out. If it isn't, then on Monday, $34,000 of our St. Peter and Paul Society money is coming out. And I'll walk this entire district to tell people what a bigoted bastard you are in this bank. I'll have a run on your goddamned bank like you've never seen."

Tip O'Neill is shouting by the end of that story.

"My father's gizzards have been all over the street the last few weeks," says Tip's son Tom, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

"He's been the focal point for all the attacks on what's wrong with the Democratic Party -- past, present and future," says Tip's son Kip, a lawyer in Washington. "Nobody's focusing on anybody else."

These are hard times for Democrats. Harder still for liberal Democrats.

And Tip O''Neill, 46 years of politics behind him and the speaker's chair beneath him, is a liberal and proud of it.

The Capitol Hill consensus on O'Neill's politics goes something like this:

He has spent a lifetime believing in Work and Wages, believing that the Democratic Party is the party of the people, believing that government has the moral obligation to provide a safety net for the have-nots, believing that government is great and good and is, in the words of his good friend, Charles Ferris, "A process to constantly provide for people who are left out, who are left behind -- to redress problems and provide relief in a general sense of equity."

Tip O'Neill's kind of liberalism sees government as a brotherly hand to pull what he calls "the little people" out of the swamp of poverty, to help care for "the basic problems -- the problem of food, the problem of education, the problem of health and the problem of home."

Tip O'Neill's kind of liberalism was born in the New Deal, almost 50 years ago, when America's resources were assumed to be limitless.

Tip O'Neill's kind of liberalism sees government as a solution.

Tip O'Neill's kind of liberalism is in cement.

"If you define Democrats the way the speaker does," says Gramm, "there are none in my district."

"The elections produced a clear conservative majority," says Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), a liberal. "We are a minority in the House; we can only affect the outcome by inches."

The thunder on the right is obvious. The Great Society, which came in on a bullet in 1963, went out on one two months ago. Ronald Reagan has been running at 92 in the shade in the popularity polls, and Obey says, "After the way he came out of the assassination attempt, he's a combination of Teddy Roosevelt and Mt. Rushmore."

A popular Republican president, a Republican majority in the Senate and what seems to be a Republican/conservative Democrat majority coalition in the House. "Tip's not really the speaker -- Bob Michel is," says Dornan. "Tip's got no control. He's got 180 votes and that's it. . . . I just can't believe he's not going to retire. It's taking the heart out of him -- and he's got a gigantic heart -- that he's being asked to preside over the dissolution of things it took him 25 years to build."

And from Rep. John LeBoutiller (R-N.Y.): "Tip's party is breaking up, and he's on the part that's done. He's out of synch with the soul of his party. He's a man whose time is gone. . . . I'm starting a nationwide committee, 'Repeal O'Neill.'"

(O'Neill on Leboutillier: "I wouldn't know him from a cord of wood.")

And is is not just thunder on the right. Occasionally there is some heat lightning from the left. Many liberal Democrats were critical of O'Neill's apparent disdain for a budget fight; they knew he counted the runs right, but they thought he should have played a bluff. (O'Neill on the vote: "I knew where my votes were. If I'd said we'd win by 35, 40 votes, they'd say: 'What the hell kind of man is he? He hasn't any idea. He can't count the House.'") In a newsletter to his constituents, Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.) wrote, "I regret to say, Tip is reeling on the ropes . . . he's in a fog."

In partial response to the intraparty criticism, O'Neill has said that he has no intention whatever of retiring, that he sees himself as the keeper of the flame of the party's ideals, the he intends to be the speaker at the 1984 convention. And there doesn't seem to be any real sentiment to oust O'Neill as speaker. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of Democrats feel as Rep. Toby Moffett (D-Conn.) does, that "we don't have the numbers, and that's no reflection on Tip." They seem to agree, too, with Rep. Peter Peyser (D-N.Y.), who says, "Probably today there's nobody who can hold the party together better than Tip."

But Peyser and many other liberals feel that O'Neill believes too much in The Umbrella Theory -- that his responsibility is to keep the party together at all costs; they think he should be tougher with the conservatives who aligned with Reagan on the budget vote. "I get the sense that Tip is not a wartime consigliere," says one liberal congressman. "And this is a war. We need a guy who can tell you he's going to cut your ----- off and shove them down your throat."

(O'Neill on vengeance: "Those days are gone. You can't punish 'em . . . I have to prevent my coalition from falling apart. I have to keep everybody talking to each other.")

But by far the biggest storm has come from the media. (O'Neill on power: "Power is when people think you have power. . . . Some people say that I have power, and some people say that I haven't.") William Safire wrote in The New York Times that Tip was "rumpled, shaggy, growling like a petulant bear," that "he has the aura of defeat upon him." Robert Ajemian wrote in Time that Tip "had been badly, perhaps even fatally, wounded" by the budget vote. Haynes Johnson wrote in The Washington Post that a congressman said the Democrats would elect a new speaker in 1982 if the party retained control of the House. Newspaper and magazine stories and editorial cartoonists have carved O'Neill up and down like a Thanksgiving turkey. (O'Neill on recent coverage: "I have been subjected to two weeks of the most brutal publicity, cartoonwise, stories -- 'O'Neill Over The Hill' -- that you've ever seen.")

And yet, when you read him the quotes and you ask him how it feels, he smiles and says, "Rolls off me like water off a log."

His smile hangs there.

So you tell him that his sons and his aides and his friends in government have all said that it hurts him, that sometimes it hurts the hell out of him.

And he says, "Of course it hurts. Of course it hurts. I'm just as human as anyone else." And then he starts talking about alternative programs. Or about the public service programs he ran back in the days of the WPA. Or about some great old story that he knows you'll like.

He'll give you a little schmaltz and a little smoke, and maybe even some of that great, deliberate polar bear walk and growl of his, but he will not let you in.

After 46 years in politics, after becoming "a political being in every way you can measure," you don't just grow thick skin; you grow hide.

Tip as Target (Part I):

The Republicans started it during last year's election campaign when they made a commercial casting an O'Neill look-alike as a Washington establishment politician, driving around in a huge gas-guzzler, wanting to spend, spend, spend, but not having enough sense to fill his car with gas. "They posture him as part of a liberal no-growth policy that doesn't speak for the middle class," says Kip O'Neill. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

But O'Neill himself tells Democratic congressmen: "I want you to get reelected. Anytime you want to criticize Tip O'Neill, anytime you want to go home and attack Tip O'Neill as an old codger from the 1930s, as the world's greatest spender -- if you think it'll do you well at home, believe me, I won't get offended."

Now that says two things about O'Neill.

It says he knows who he is.

And it says he knows who you are.

Tip, This is Your Life:

On the day he was born, who was a bricklayer then, was walking a picket line around Harvard, protesting that Harvard wasn't willing to bargain collectively with the construction unions. Thomas P. O'Neill Sr. was a union man. Later, he became a politician, serving on the Cambridge city council, and his son, the boy they called Tip, would inherit both passions: unionism and politics.

It was during high school that Tip O'Neill got his first taste of participatory deomcracy, knocking on doors and canvassing in 1928. Between high school and college O'Neill drove a truck for a brick company, then entered Boston College. As a senior there, he tried to follow in his father's footsteps by running for the Cambridge city council, but he lost his bid for a seat by 276 votes. It was to be the only election he ever lost.

In 1936, at age 24, he ran successfully for the Massachusetts state legislature from North Cambridge. (O'Neill on the system then: "If there was a snowstorm in my area, they started lining up in front of my house at 5 in the morning for snow buttons. If you had a snow button, you could shovel snow and make some money. I got 50 from the state, 50 from the city and 50 from the Boston Elevated. And I passed them out. That was the patronage system. The first 100 people got city and state buttons, and they got $4 a day; the next 50 got $3 a day. It was the days of the WPA. Everything was a patronage game.")

He married Mildred Miller in 1941, and together they have five children -- three sons and two daughters. By 1948 he was elected speaker of the Massachusetts legislature, and in 1952 he was elected to John F. Kennedy's old seat in the House, which Kennedy vacated to run for the Senate.O'Neill later became his party's whip, then its majority leader in 1972 and speaker of the House in 1976. He was supposed to be opposed for speaker by Rep. Sam Gibbon (D-Fla.), but on the day of the vote Gibbon went up to O'Neill and said, "I can tell you something that nobody else here can say: You don't have an enemy in this room." Gibbon then withdrew his candidacy.

It was a three-cigar night. O'Neill threw a lavish party in a downton hotel. He told the guests -- many of them having come down from Boston -- that he had achieved his lifelong ambition by being elected speaker.

Five times Tip O'Neill has run for a leadership position in his party. Five times he has been elected unanimously.

Tip as Celebrity:

"Nobody can move through an audience like I can move through an audience. Nobody. For the Democratic Party there's nobody in America in demand like I am. I go down to Earl Hutto [Democratice congressman from Florida] and I draw the biggest crowd he's ever had in his district. I stand in the door and shake hands with 800 people, and give this one a hug and a kiss, and put my arm around this one, and autograph this for that one, and have my picture taken with this one. A certain style, huh? I ride down the street, people come up and say, 'Stay in there, Tip.' 'They giving you a hard time? We're with you, old pal.' . . . Lemme tell you a story: I go down to Oklahoma the other night for a fund-raiser for The Carl Albert Center, which is going to be devoted to the study of Congress, and I'm there with Carl Albert and Jerrty Ford. 'Now this crowd,' my people tell me, '95 percent of this crowd, Tip, they hate you -- the most conservative group in America.' So I get up and talk about some former members of Congress who are there. Then I say a few things about current members. Jimmy Jones. Wes Watkins. Dave McCurdy. Mike Snyar. Glen English. I say, 'Gee, I'm delighted to see you all. This is the first time we've been TOGETHER this year.' Well, the place goes into an uproar. Then I say, 'You've been reading about the budget. I gotta tell you the truth about the Budget Act. [Before the Budget Act set a limit on congressional spending, appropriations were simply passed and later added up.] It's the brainchild of Carl Albert. He was speaker when it was passed. There's Jerry Ford -- he's the guy that signed the bill. I wish to hell you were both back in Washington on that hot seat like I am.' And again the place goes into an uproar. Then I gave some of my views, and when I got through they stood up and cheered. . . . I can handle these things. I don't have the handsome image, seek and high-powered that the president has an all that. But I'm not bad when I get before an audience.I have the mannerisms. I have the technique."

Tip as Target (Part II):

"You put all the House members in a line and bring in a Martian to pick out the speaker, and the Martian goes straight to Tip," says Dornan. "The girth, the breadth, the height, the whitest hair in the House. The man just looks like a speaker. That's some face he has. That's a face and a half."

That was meant as a compliment.

But just spin it slightly and try this on.

He jokes that he gains and loses 1,000 pound a year, but there is no way that the public can look at Tip O'Neill and equate him with the belt-tightening madness that seems to have cinched this country. This is not a good time to be large. O'Neill sais that "the '80s are a time for small cars and small homes." Try to imagine him getting into a Datsun.

He's 68. Although Ronald Reagan is 70, he is a lean and athletic 70. Much more like a 55. This is not a good time to look old. This is not a good to have the whitest hair in the Hosue. (Although it is a worse time to have no hair.)

He's a product of a political system that stressed putting in your time and waiting your turn. He believes in the orderly and traditional process of that system, a system that sometimes takes forever to move -- and then it clanks. This is not a good time to move slowly. This is a time to blow-dry your hair and hack away at tradition as if it were kudzu. Most people who run for offices in Washington lately are running against Washington offices. Tear it down. Blow it up.

It is one thing to say, as O'Neill does, that his party has made mistakes, that "we overregulated, we had too much legislation, too much red tape, too much idealism, too many people from the colleges coming into government and not enough from business -- to be very truthful, we neglected production." It is quite another to bail out on your principles.

If you accept that a man can change after all these years, after all these humanitarian votes to find such things as medical research to cure knock-knees and to help dwarfs grow taller, then Tip O'Neill is for change, but not for chop. (O'Neill on dwarfs: "There are 150,000 dwarfs in America. Does anyone have an obligation to them? I think government does.")

Tip O'Neill is for prunning, but not for slashing.

Tip O'Neill is a Big Man in a Small Time.

Tip as Casey Stengel:

Baseball is a game that Tip O'Neill loves and understands. He is a big Red Sox fan, a big Carl Yastrzemski fan. (O'Neill on Yaz and the pope: "Carl's Polish you know, and he was so jealous that I got to go to the coronation of John Paul II and had a private audience, so when I got back he wanted to know everything that was said. I described it all to him, and I told him that when Millie and I were walking away, the pope called us back and whispered something in my ear. I left it at that, and started to walk away from Carl. Well, he called me back. He was panting with curiosity. He said, "Tip, Tip, what did he whisper?' I said, 'You know what he whispered, Carl? He whispered -- "Two men on, two men out and Yaz popped up? What happened to Yaz?"' And Carl says, 'Honest to God, Tip? Honest to God?'")

Back to baseball: O'Neill understands that the great virtue of baseball is patience. In such a long season, 162 games worth, there's always tomorrow. What are the enduring baseball sayings? "You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out." And, "You can't win them all." You understand this and you understand that a 10-game lead in April, with 145 games to go, is nothing. You can't win a pennant in April.

This is April of the Reagan presidency.

And even if nobody else in the party knows that, Tip O'Neill knows that.

And the way he figures it, he may be short on ptiching and weak on hitting, and his fielders may have concrete gloves, but he gets his 9-innings per and his 162 just like the guys on the other side of the aisle. (O'Neill on this political-baseball season: "The first Tuesday in 1982 is the final crossing-of-the-line day -- that's when this season is over. Not before.")

So he lost big in the budget vote.

Got behind and bagged it.

He yanked his pitcher early -- too early, according to some of the guys on his team, and they booed him. They said they knew they were outclassed, but the strategy was bad. They said the manager quit on them; he choked. But he didn't slap any fines on them. And in the locker room after the game he spoke about patience. He said, "You never want to lose. That isn't the strategy -- to lose. But there are times when you know you can't win. You know there's a time when a Jim Palmer is winning 25 games a year, so you don't throw your ace against him. You throw your ace the next day, against the guy who's 8-20."

Tip as Godfather:

The door is open.

Gary Hymel, his longtime aide says, "Tip's the speaker because he's accessible and approachable."

You come into his office, he offers you a cigar. You smoke the cigar, you talk about the family, you get nice and comfy, and maybe then you do a little business. You do it this way because this is the way it's done.

(O'Neill on business: "I have the ability to go to any faction of this party and be able to reason with them. They know that Tip O'Neill is a fellow concerned with their problems. I'll do anything to help. Well, hell, wives come to me with problems. I'm able to meet with people. Understand people. Open doors for people.")

The reason no one in the party is challenging O'Neill for the leadership is that there is no one in the party who enough people think can do it better. This is why a conservative like Phil Gramm, moderate insiders like Rep. Gillis Long (D-La.) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a moderate outsider like Hamilton Jordan and liberals like Rep. Tony Beilenson (D-Calif.), Dick Bolling, Toby Moffett, Peter Peyser and David Obey have all gone on the record in interviews for this piece declaring their respect for the speaker. Long's evaluation of the situation echoes the others' when he says, "If not Tip, then who? Nobody I see can do it better."

Then why all the carving?

"Because," says Gramm, "the liberals are trying to rationalize the failure of liberalism, a bankrupt philosophy, and using the speaker as a whipping post in a most unjustified way."

"Because," says Beilenson, "it's hard times for Democrats; we're in a shaky position and he's the ranking member."

"Because," says Bolling, "he's got great guts and he's out in front, and when you're out in front and losing, you get the blame."

The speaker's office is full of donkeys. Brass donkeys, glass donkeys, wood donkeys, ceramic donkeys, gold-plated donkeys. Donkeys. Donkeys. Donkeys. (Of course Republicans would say the speaker's office was full of jackasses.) There is a six-shelf glass case devoted to the care and storage of donkeys, the symbol of the party. But for all the symbols in the speaker's office, there is none so important to him as the excerpt from Hubert Humphrey's last speech to the Senate, which he has framed and which sits on the window ledge directly behind his chair, so he can turn easily to it and see it like a candle in the night: "The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."

(O'Neill on his philosophy of government: "We have to do the right thing by the people.")

Those proposed Social Security cuts the White House threw at him, that was a hanging curveball on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded, right in his kitchen.

And O'Neill took it downtown.

First in his daily press conference, boom! Then in the speaker's office, boom! Then in a mass interview, boom! And one more time in a private interview, boom!

". . . It's a rotten thing to do . . . this is despicable . . . I'll fight this every inch of the way . . . You'd cut off the widowed woman? . . . Ronald Reagan stands for bilking the poor . . . This is horrendous . . . This is absolutely wrong . . . This is a group born in the '20s, who suffered in the '30s with the Depression, went to war in the '40s, came back to raise their families and help make America great, and then retirement comes at the age of 62, and you're going to be CUT 25 percent of what YOU WORKED FOR? . . . I can't believe there are enough stone-hearted people who'd vote for this . . ."

Pounding the desk.

Whipping his cigar through the air like a Louisville Slugger.

Robert Dornan says, "Tip doesn't understand any Republicans but Henry Cabot Lodge; he's totally confused, he doesn't know who he's fighting."

Tip O'Neill entered politics when a sense of protectionism led so many first- and second-generation Irish-Americans in Boston to enter the police, the fire department the military, politics -- to turn away from the speculative lure of the marketplace and toward the security of government, a security they were denied in Ireland by the British. He admits that he equated the Yanks with the Brits, and the Yanks were the Republicans who oppressed the Irish in Boston, who made your grandmother work in a sweatshop. But that was 50 years ago.

This Social Security issue is something Tip O'Neill can take to places he may not fully understand, like the West Coast and the Sun Belt. This is about entitlements, and Tip O'Neill, whose ancestors took two boats to get here and kissed the ground when they got off, understands entitlements. To Tip O'Neill, this is about poor people getting cold and going hungry, and Tip O'neill, who says he knows when to fight and when not to fight, knows that this is one he can win; this is an 8-20 pitcher on the mound against him.

"He's instinctive," says Gary Hymel. "Knowing when to move comes naturally to him. The key to Tip is that he feels the right time to say or do something."

Tip O'Neill feels this one.

(O'Neill on the White House strategy: "Extremely over-confident.")

Tip Fights Back:

Maybe it's simply for show. Maybe it's all bluster and schmaltz once more into the breach. Maybe it's his Last Hurrah, but the more distance he puts between himself and the budget vote, the better he feels. Lately he seems more confident, more pumped up as he talks about the alternative Democratic programs.

"To tell you the truth," says Murtha, "I didn't even notice that he was particularly depressed before, but when I saw him react to the Social Security proposal I saw the old fire back in his eyes."

As well as he reads the scoreboard, Tip O'Neill himself is not the easiest man to read. When the criticism was at its height, even his sons were concerned. Tom, who is planning a run for governor of Massachusetts, says he called to reassure his father. "I'd say, 'I've seen what they're writing -- how are you doing?' And he'd just pooh-pooh it off. He has so much confidence you're never left to worry." And Kip often went to see him. "If it was a tough day or a tough week, I'd go in to see how his spirits were. I might suggest he go play golf to get his mind off things. But he's concerned with his job. I'm amazed at his energy. In fact, I'm exhilarated by it."

It is late in the afternoon and Tip O'Neill is sitting in his chair holding one lit cigar and watching another one that lies cold in the ashtray.

He leans forward and speaks softly, as if to let you in on a secret.

"Let me be perfectly truthful," he says.

It is a line he learned 46 years ago, and he's had 46 years to practice it.

"Our basic people who'd been with us through the years, the ones we took out of the net of poverty and moved into the middle class, that group between $20,000 and $50,000, they voted against us. They felt the Democratic Party had lost concern for them. Now that was wrong, but maybe we deserved it. We made mistakes, and if you've heard me speak about this before, you know what they were. I read it coming. I read the '80s. I knew that our social programs had done their job, that since the '30s we had gone from 50 percent impoverished to only 8 percent, 14 percent of the golden agers. So we understand that people are out of the net now and want different things. And we were going to go with a tax bill, and we were going to cut back. But not like THIS. THIS IS A MEAT AX."

He slaps his leg and leans even further forward.

The voice that comes out of him now is stronger, younger. The force is with him. If it's only an echo, at least it's loud.

"Now, how are we going to fight? We will offer alternative programs. Some people in my party say we should pass everything the president wants and let the Republicans stew in their own juices and watch their programs fail as we know they will. But I say, No. we're the party of the people. we can't just roll over and play dead. we can't sell out the PEOPLE WE REPRESENT . . . B I'll say this: This dollar is a REAGAN dollar; this prime rate is a REAGAN prime rate; this unemployment is a REAGAN unemployment; this inflation is a REAGAN inflation . . . The honeymoon is OVER."

It is suggested to him, jokingly, that perhaps the reports of his demise have been exaggerated.


His laughter is a tornado.

"While my heart and thoughts and sentiments may be with the past, my body is at present and moving along . . . Let me tell you something. There's never been a man in the history of Congress that has as many friends on that floor as I have. And let me tell you -- solid friends. And a solid friend is a man's best defense. I've got guys out there who would FIGHT for Tip O'Neill."

His eyes go to the far wall, the wall closest to the House chamber, and silently, imperceptibly, he seems to begin once again the endless counting of runs, hits and errors.