Sorry, Washington. Sorry, Tampa. Sorry, Denver. Baseball belongs in Buffalo.
If, as recently announced, the National League is to add two new teams by 1993, the natural choice is Buffalo.
As one who has represented western New York in Washington for 15 years, I know full well that some Washingtonians would like to see major league baseball return to the nation's capital. But the simple truth is that the Baltimore-Washington area is not big enough to support two teams. History has demonstrated that.
And no one can blame the old Washington Senators. Washington is about as supportive of baseball as the president is of broccoli. Washington is simply not a baseball town. A football town, definitely. But baseball, no.
Come the summertime, people in Washington would much rather enjoy indoor air conditioning (and who can blame them) and watch reruns of the Iran-contra hearings. Besides, Washington has enough red ink to its name; it does not need another failing baseball franchise.
That brings us to Tampa-St. Petersburg and some similar problems. In an effort to improve their chances of landing a major league franchise, and coping with their summer weather, officials in St. Petersburg recently opened a domed stadium with artificial grass. Now, in my humble estimation, there's something unnatural about that.
Baseball was always intended to be played out of doors and on the kind of grass that grows under your feet. In April, when the umpire yells, "Play ball," the smell of spring should be in the air.
The original domed stadiums were engineering wonders and items of curiosity, but for the average baseball fan the sense of wonder is long gone, and the only thing that's curious about a domed stadium anymore is why people continue to build them. They may be good for beating the heat, as in Tampa, but they don't do much for the game of baseball.
Denver, to its credit, does not have a domed stadium to offer up to a major league franchise. But Denver doesn't have a major league park at all. It would have to build one. And that, we're told, would require a public referendum and higher taxes. Given the minuscule interest that Denver has shown in its minor league baseball team, approval would be highly unlikely. Denver is simply not a baseball town. Last year, Denver's minor league team drew only 336,000 fans.
And that leads me back to Buffalo, the site of the great baseball film, "The Natural." Buffalo's new Pilot Field is major league in every way. In fact, it may be the best baseball park ever built, destined to become as famous as Fenway Park or Ebbets Field.
The Buffalo Bisons, although a minor league team, are already drawing major league crowds. Last year, the Bisons drew over 1.1 million. That's three times more than Denver's minor league team drew, and more than such major league teams as the Chicago White Sox and the Atlanta Braves draw. Small wonder, for Buffalo fans' loyalty is legendary, and we also draw from Rochester and the more than 7 million tourists who visit Nigara Falls every spring and summer.
Washington, Tampa and Denver, wait your turn.
-- John J. LaFalce is a Democratic representative from Buffalo.