It was not only the most important event in the Senators' short history, it may have been the most profound event in baseball since the signing of Jackie Robinson. And it began in a moment of despair in a Washington barroom.
Elliott Suskind gulped the dregs of his third gin and tonic and yelled at the TV at the Champions bar in Georgetown. "Stop! Please! Don't show the highlights of the game!" the Senators' general manager growled. "I saw it live. That was enough. That was more than enough."
Sportscaster George Michael paid no attention to Suskind and showed the highlights of the Senators-Indians game anyway. The highlights consisted of towering home runs flying off Indian war clubs and a series of Senator pitchers slouching toward the showers. "The 11-2 defeat," Michael said, "is the Senators' fourth loss in a row and their sixth loss in the last seven games. The problem is the pitching staff . . ."
"You call that a pitching staff?" Suskind bellowed. "I got Pappy Doyle, he's been going downhill ever since the last time he pitched to Babe Ruth. I got Stevie Ruffin, who couldn't find the plate with a seeing-eye dog. I got Jon Van Dorn, who's saved more whales than games. And I got the Sadir brothers, who are a far worse Iranian arms deal than Reagan ever made! He calls that a pitching staff?"
"Calm down!" said Bobbi Fleckman, the team publicist. "Everybody in the place is staring at us."
"I know," Suskind said, "and there are more people in this bar than there were out at the game today."
Fleckman smiled mischievously. "Well, you drew over 45,000 for the debut of Dwight Usher's 'Carnage Campaign.' "
"I told you never to mention that fiasco again."
"Lighten up. You gotta admit it was funny to see 24 major league ballplayers dressed in Rambo uniforms try to parachute into RFK Stadium and wind up in the Anacostia River instead."
"Thank God the commissioner put the kibosh on that cockamamie campaign. But that's the past. I'm worried about the future. I need a pitcher, Bobbi. It doesn't have to be Cy Young; I'll settle for a decent Little Leaguer."
"Hey, look at this," Fleckman said, pointing to the TV. George Michael was showing the Orioles playing in a charity softball game. Eddie Murray stood in the batter's box, facing a female pitcher who weighed about as much as one of his legs. She wound up and threw. Murray took a huge cut and missed by at least a foot. "That was Murray's second strikeout against ace hurler Emily Caitlin," Michael said. "Caitlin -- whose fastball was clocked at 97 miles per hour -- also fanned Fred Lynn twice, the second time on a wicked curveball . . ."
"Did you hear that?" Fleckman said. "If you need pitchers, why don't you sign Emily What's-her-name?"
"Bobbi, perhaps you haven't noticed," Suskind said sarcastically, "but she happens to be of the female persuasion. Women can't play major league ball."
"That's what they said about blacks 40 years ago," Fleckman said. "What are you going to say next -- that women aren't buoyant?"
"Women are very buoyant," Suskind said, draining his fourth gin and tonic. "That's why they should stick to water ballet and leave baseball to men."
"You sexist pig!" Fleckman yelled. "How good are your big strong male pitchers doing? Besides, just think of the PR we'd get. And the number of people who'd come out to see her. With a woman on the team, we'd pack the park, Elliott."
"Maybe you're right," Suskind said as he pondered the scenario. Then he smiled: "We'd get every libber in America in the stands, wouldn't we? Not only that, but I'd go down in history as the first GM with the guts to sign a woman. I can see it now: 'Suskind, a great visionary in the Branch Rickey tradition . . .' I can't believe I thought of this. God, I'm a genius! I'll call Tang right away."
Suddenly, a voice boomed from the back of the bar, a voice that sounded like a garbage disposal eating a beer can. "Suskind, you bum, how can you show your face in public with that crummy team you field?"
Suskind slumped down. "Geez, I've been recognized by some nut," he whispered. "I hope he's not homicidal."
"Suskind, you bum, you can't hide from your angry fans. We're coming to get you, you wimp."
Two brawny bruisers staggered toward Suskind, who shuffled his chair behind Bobbi Fleckman's. "God, they're strange looking," he whispered.
That was true. Both of the brawny inebriates wore Groucho Marx glasses. When they stepped to the table, they removed them and burst out laughing. It was Pappy Doyle and Danny Broccoli. "Scared you there, didn't we, Elliott?" Pappy cackled. "The way the Senators are going, you gotta wear a disguise when you go out in public. You never know when some nut will attack you." Then they stumbled outside, still carrying their drinks.
"That's it," Suskind said. "Any woman would be better than those psychos. I'm calling Tang right now. I don't care if it is almost midnight." He shuffled into a phone booth. "Hello, Tang, this is Elliott. I didn't wake you, did I?"
"Who can sleep these days, Elliott? I was pacing the floor worrying about our pitching staff."
"That's just what I called about. I found a hot prospect. Fastball clocked at 97, and a wicked curveball."
"Great! What's his name?" Tang said.
"Her name. She's a woman. Her name is Emily Caitlin."
"A woman! Elliott, are you drunk again?"
"No, sir, I haven't had a drink all night, I swear. Think of the publicity, sir. Think of the crowds she'll draw. You'll go down in history as the first owner with the guts to hire a woman. I can see it now: 'Tang Ye-lin, an owner in the Walter O'Malley tradition . . .' On second thought, forget the O'Malley bit. Just think of the money you'll make."
"I don't know, Elliott. It sounds risky. How will the players react to a female teammate? With psychotics like Broccoli and Pappy Doyle in the clubhouse, God knows what could happen. And I'm the one who'd get sued for sexual harassment."
"Don't worry about those guys. They'll be the first to go," Suskind said. Then he played his ace: "Look at it this way, boss. You can save money. You can pay her 59 cents for every dollar you pay the men."
"Now you're talking," Tang said. "Let's do it." :: SENATORS STUFF: When Commissioner Peter Ueberroth banned Senators' super-macho "Carnage Campaign," strength coach Dwight Usher, plan's spearhead, quit team in huff. Next day, he landed PR post with Bush for President campaign. His job: "to put some testosterone into George's image," he said . . . Since no Senators were elected to All-Star team, AL skipper John McNamara was compelled to pick representative from team. He chose John Doe, whose .327 average leads team. When Doe heard he'd been named, he was overjoyed. "I've been named! Great! What's my name?" . . . Attendance continues so low at RFK that radio play-by-play announcers are using box filled with 5,000 cicadas to simulate crowd noise . . . Sportswriter Tony Kornheiser on 21-day disabled list after being spiked on his writing hand by vengeful Danny Broccoli . . . Concerned about attendance problem, frustrated Senators management passed out 50,000 questionnaires to people who weren't at ballpark. The question: Why don't you go see the Senators? The answers: :: No place to park near RFK..............2% :: Hot dogs too cold at RFK................3% :: Beers too warm at RFK..................6% :: Senators pitifully inept...................7% :: Loyal to Orioles.............................8% :: Watching ethereal athletes perform against corporeal opponents too metaphysically taxing...................74%