Taking a cue from Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who has a penchant for hats, a group of Montgomery County political leaders donned Orioles and Maryland state hats yesterday to kick off a campaign to gain support for the proposed sports complex for downtown Baltimore.

A group that included Del. Michael R. Gordon of Gaithersburg, state Sen. Laurence Levitan of Potomac, and Democratic National Committeeman Lanny J. Davis announced the formation of Montgomery for Professional Sports.

Davis said the group, using the theme "Say Yes to Sports in Maryland," will "bridge the gap between perceptions and reality" about plans to build a $201 million two-stadium complex on the Camden Yards site near Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

On Tuesday, opponents of the stadiums delivered petitions to the secretary of state's office with more than the necessary 30,044 signatures needed to call for a referendum on the issue. A Circuit Court judge is expected to rule today on the legality of the referendum.

Davis and other speakers conceded there was a lack of popular support for the project. But they said skepticism stems from misinformation. "The opponents have irresponsibly distorted the facts on the stadium issue. We need to set the record straight," Levitan said.

For example, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg called "the biggest single lie" the suggestion that the two stadiums will be white elephants, standing empty with no teams to play in them. In fact, Steinberg said, the baseball stadium will not be built without a long-term lease from the Orioles and the football stadium would not be built without a National Football League franchise.

Also attending the news conference were three Democratic legislators from Rockville -- Del. Jennie Forehand, who voted both for and against different aspects of the stadium legislation; Sen. S. Frank Shore and Del. Carol Petzold -- and Rockville Mayor Steve Van Grack.