As I am sure you have heard many times, the people of the Washington area have been long-suffering in our desire to have major-league baseball return. Admittedly, we did not support the teams we had in the past with the gusto associated with Toronto or Kansas City, but that was before we were banished to the sport's wasteland without so much as a Class AA minor-league team to keep us company.
For the past several years we have had the "Old Timers Classic" to whet our appetites. The home run by Luke Appling several years ago was enough to make many of us misty-eyed through several winters. This March we had a meaningless pre-season skirmish played in 40-degree weather with an accompanying rainstorm. It sold out and brought about 30,000 maniacal competition-starved fans to a non-ballgame.
I say enough is enough. We want baseball back in Washington, and we're tired of being haranguedwith tales of woe from the Griffith and Chalk School of Doom recounting how difficult it was to make money in the nation's capital. We can sell out old-timer's games, we can sell out pre-season follies, and we're ready to sell out RFK Stadium on a regular basis.
So, I have an idea.
Why not have every major-league team play two games in Washington during the regular season? The Washington games could be a showcase of the talent of both leagues.
Washington has transients from the entire country associated with the civil service, the military, the political process and business. Because of our geographically diverse population of more than 2.5 million, we could sell out the entire 26-game schedule.
Now this idea is not without its problems.
First, the Baltimore Orioles have for years been making tons of money on our having no team. So no game would be scheduled on a day when they had a home game.
Second, the other baseball owners aren't going to be too happy making money for an entrepreneur in Washington who has no investment risk. So this leaves several options.
The management of the games could be set up on a nonprofit basis with all revenues going to the players' pension fund. This would provide additional incentive for the players, who would be playing for themselves, as well as the former greats who have made the game what it is today.
Or, as an alternative proposal, actual expenses could be covered for the production of the game,and then the remainder of the gate and TV re-ceipts would be split between the participating teams.
A variation on this theme is also possible: a percentage split for the participating teams and the remainder going to the pension fund.
Third, one could still raise the nagging question of team loyalty, and question whether we would really support a permanent showcase arrangement. Well, this we cannot guarantee, but all those sold-out seats in the rain make a pretty strong case.
One of the most interesting features of this idea would be the possibility that inter-league play outside the World Series would become a reality at last. The Washington showcase could pit the American League against the National League, thus replacing the traditional intra-league contests with a new limited inter-league rivalry.
Think of the excitment all this would create. Most of all, everyone benefits -- the leagues, the players and the fans of Washington, D.C.
Think about it. We of the Washington area do nothing else.
-- Hank Merrill