'Wake up, typist! Wake up, you disreputable dispenser of dyspeptic diatribes! I represent your public, and we demand answers!"

This all sounded mighty familiar. Still, just to be sure, I peered at the digital alarm clock. It said 2:47 a.m. -- so this visitor who was heavy on the commands and light on the subtlety had to be my old buddy, The Ghost of Columns Past.

"Hi, there, Ghostie," I said, summoning up courtesy that he didn't deserve. "Good to see you, boy! You care for some coffee? You have a nice flight?"

"Your customary inanities will not delay the moment of reckoning, typist! I have journeyed to your bedside to seek a response to a question of immense gravity. I have come in search of the dialectical dimensions of a complex conundrum."

"You know, Ghostie, if you wrote like that for a newspaper, the editors would have you for lunch. Why don't you tell me what's on your mind? In simple English."

"What is on my mind is baseball, typist. The national pastime. The summer game, I believe you call it."

I don't know why, but this struck me funny -- as funny as anything I'd ever heard. A ghost wanting to talk baseball? A ghost who had never experienced the joy of hitting a homer, or the agony of trying to get out of a Baltimore parking lot after a night game? I laughed so hard that I shook.

"Silence, typist!" boomed my supernatural friend. "This disrespectful display is demeaning! I demand silence!"

So forcefully did he demand it that the bed trembled and the windows rattled. I thought I heard the roof creak, too. I was sure Jane would wake up at any moment. But when I looked over at her, she was still solidly in Dreamland.

"Ghostie," I finally said, when I was all laughed out, "I'd be happy to talk baseball with you. You think the Tigers can do it again?"

"I am no predictor, typist. I want to talk baseball politics with you. I want to know why there is still no team in Washington -- and why you don't do something about it."

"Ghostie, you'd better hire a new librarian. I've been writing about the absence of baseball from Washington ever since I've been writing a column. I have moaned. I have groaned. I have pleaded. I have bayed at the moon. I even published a fans' poll last year. What more can a mere mortal do?"

"You can write about this new plan to deposit money in the bank, typist. 'Earnest money,' I believe they call it. You know, those funds that the fans have put aside to show that they would be serious about buying season's tickets."

"Ghostie, I see nothing wrong with that plan. But I don't see it as a magic answer, either. There has always been baseball interest here. Putting $500 in a special account doesn't prove anything that hasn't been proved many times before."

"Nonsense, typist!" said the ghost, his voice rising. "You have written in your own column that only money will bring a team back to Washington! What do you call what these people are depositing in the bank? Chopped liver?"

"You haven't read my columns very carefully, Ghostie. I did indeed say that money, and not chopped liver, will bring baseball back here. But it'll be the money of one rich owner -- not the dollars of several thousand average Joes. Baseball will come back here when some multizillionaire takes a look at the Washington market, likes what he sees and decides to take a calculated risk. It won't matter whether fans have put money aside for season's tickets, because any potential owner already assumes those dollars are out there. He wouldn't put a team here if they weren't."

"But how else can Washington set itself apart from Indianapolis and Phoenix and all these other cities that want baseball? I thought you mortals had an expression to cover this. What is it again? Something about 'strutting your stuff?' "

"Hey, wow, Ghostie! You're a hip dude, man! Go ahead on, baby! Walk that walk! Talk that talk! Strut that stuff!"

"I detect an air of mockery in this room, typist." "How incisive of you. But back to business: Sure, Washington has to strut its stuff if it wants baseball. But it already has. Every ticket the Redskins and Capitals and Bullets sell proves that Washingtonians will spend money for pro sports. Sellouts are what potential owners look at, not slightly desperate, slightly sad public relations efforts."

"Typist," said the ghost. "This has been most enlightening. But all this talk about baseball has made me anxious to see some. If I hurry, I can make the last two innings of the Brewers-Mariners game in Seattle." And with that, he was gone.

Jane stirred. "What was that about brewing?" she asked. "Are you making beer in the basement again?"

"No, sweetheart," I replied. "By the way, have I ever shown you how I strut my stuff?"

"Levey," she said, "will you pul-eeze go back to sleep?"