"Doc," I said, as I shifted uneasily on the couch, "it's about this fantasy I've been having. I thought I could control it, but now that the weather's warming up, it's beginning to get the best of me."
"Tell me about it," said the doctor, as he packed his pipe.
"I have begun to believe that I can make baseball a commercial success in the Nation's Capital."
"Were you smoking something in the waiting room before you came in here?"
"Doc, this is serious. This is so serious that I wake up at 2:30 in the morning and start making notes. Doc, I honestly believe I can succeed where all the previous efforts have failed."
The doctor took a deep pull on his pipe. "Didn't you tell me," he asked, "that your mother wouldn't let you field grounders in the living room when you were a little boy?"
"Leave her out of this, Doc. She thinks the Red Sox are what you hang by the fireplace on Christmas Eve. She thinks a hit and run is an auto accident. She'd never understand."
"Mothers always understand," said the doctor, cryptically. "Anyway," he said, "go on."
"The reason I would succeed where everyone else has failed is that I would not only bring a team here, but I'd make sure it was run the right way. And how would I accomplish that? By running it myself."
"Running it yourself?"
"Why not? That's the trouble with baseball owners in this country today. The guy with the cash doesn't run things any more. He delegates, he mediates, he fiddles away half the year in Palm Springs. But he doesn't run a team the way the corner grocer used to run his grocery -- with his hands on the controls."
"What about that guy in New York?" asked the doctor. "Sternbunder, is it?"
"Steinbrenner, Doc. Very involved. Exception that proves the rule. Heck, The New York Post doesn't even bother to identify him any more. They ran a caption under his photo the other day. All it said was, 'Boss.' But I'd go him one better. I'd manage the team from the dugout, with a uniform on my back."
"Pretty classic megalomania so far," mumbled the doctor to himself, as he scratched some notes on a pad. Then, glaring reproachfully at me, he asked: "What makes you think you can run a baseball team?"
"I understand the game, Doc. I make moves while I sit in front of the TV that real-life managers don't make until 30 seconds later. Besides, I understand what it will take to attract Washington baseball fans to the park."
"And, what, pray tell, is that?"
"This is a conservative city, right? I mean, you don't see the walls in the Pentagon painted in polka dots. People are very orderly in Washington. And they tend to think in terms of power. That means my fans will identify with home run hitters and overpowering pitchers, right?"
"It's absolutely wrong. What I'd give Washington is the flip side of itself. A quick team that tries to steal a lot of bases. A bunch of outfielders who make easy plays look hard by falling on their duffs every chance they get. A bunch of pitchers who can't throw harder than Little Leaguers, but who out-clever the opposition. In other words, a team that wins, but has fun doing it."
"What if it loses?"
"Well, I kind of hope it will, in one way."
"You just said your team would win. You won't be getting your money's worth if you keep talking in riddles. I'm not cheap, you know."
"Believe me, Doc, I know. Here's what I mean: I want my team to finish second every year. Never last. Never first. Just close enough to keep expectations bubbling. Because the minute you satisfy the fans, they get greedy and complacent. So we'll lose just the right number of games."
"You sure you're not just angling for a Lite Beer commercial?"
"Doc," I said, "the endorsements are for later. For now, I've got to line up investors, and call Bowie Kuhn, and talk it over with NBC, and..." The doctor's wall clock buzzed. Fifty minutes had elapsed.
Doc looked at me. He groped for the proper words. And then he said:
"Looking for a third base coach, by any chance?"