MUST THERE BE an American July without an all-star baseball game? Perish the thought. Let's have it here at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.
And, if the baseball strike keeps going beyond the magic game, let's go one better and have a baseball tournament, a round-robin National Invitational Baseball Series.
The players have been on strike for more than two weeks. If Solidarity's Polish workers can show they can run their plants without the commissars' benevolent despotism, surely the ballplayers would leap at the chance to show their commissioner that they can run their plantation.
We could give them that chance, and a chance to make a little money, and, best of all, to play a game of baseball. And we could give ourselves a whale of a ball game, or ball games.
It costs a measly $4,000 to rent RFK for an afternoon, and an extra $50,000 or so to set it up for a hardball match. The ballplayers can't, and won't, play for their clubs, and the owners are not very likely to let them use their own stadiums. But couldn't we pack them in, and wouldn't the television networks stand in line, checkbooks in hand, for the promise of showing the rest of the country Pete Rose in our sadly disused ball garden?
The money, the money! Last year's all-star game grossed $910,573 on tickets alone, and the total financial package, including radio and television revenues, put $2.14 million in the players' pension fund. Give the players as hefty a cut as they would have gotten for a "regular" all-star game. Or a little more. Then put the rest into Washington's strapped school system as a welcoming gift for Floretta McKenzie. And maybe give a little bit to the Dips to help pay Johann Cruyff's salary.
And the glory, the glory! Imagine Washington the only city in both the American and National leagues.
We can import Olympic-class beer sellers, like Baltimore's famed Dr. Brew. Bring joy to the ghost of Arch MacDonald as radios play again on front stoops and porches in Washington's steamy, sultry summer, a time that all us old Griffith Stadium habitues and Eddie Yost and Frank Howard memorialists know was made only for baseball.
We had better start talking tactics and strategies; we don't have all that much time until July 14, and it can take almost two weeks to convert the seating at RFK for a major league baseball game.
It's an offer the players can't refuse; a payday, a play day and a chance to cock a snoot at Steinbrenner and his stonewallers. The newspaper guys could get to work real quick on a poll to select the all-stars.
After the all-star game, the national invitational series. The Phillies, here. The Dodgers, the Cubbies, the (hiss) Yankees. Twi-night double-headers every day of the week as they scratch and claw and bunt and steal to eliminate each other and win their NIBS championship rings.
Think of I-95 jammed with cars coming this way, for once, to see a ball game. Think of the pennants and caps and jerseys we can sell. Maybe we can't have Earl Weaver and Billy Martin running the teams -- managers are, after all, management. But maybe Jim Palmer will manage the Os, and Reggie the Yanks. The team that wins the series? Maybe, just maybe, we'll get to keep it.
Somebody better call RFK and reserve it for the afternoon of the 14th. And don't forget to send out for hot dogs and beer.