D.C. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker appeared before a meeting of major league baseball owners today to beiver what he called "pitch for baseball in the Washington metropolitan area."
It was the first time an elected D.C. government official had spoken before baseball's owners in an effort to help the city egain a big-league franchise.
"Washington is baseball ready," said Tucker, enthusiastic after a warm reception during which he was applauded several times by the owners and complimented afterward by both league presidents on his presentation. "We are ready both in fan interest and government interest.
Tucker stressed that he thought previous efforts to shame or threaten baseball's proprietors into returning the game to Washington had not been productive.
"I didn't come here to sit in the corridor and beg," said Tucker. "I told them, 'We are all busy men here. None of us has time to chase butterflies."
Tucker talked for only 15 minutes, then took the next plane back to Washington. His presentation emphasized two points.
"We are completing a Metro subway system that will reach 4 million people and take them to the doorstep of RFK Stadium," said Tucker, dressed more formally in his black three-piece suit than say of the open-neck shirted owners.
"Washington's crime rate is down 18 1/2 per cent. Of the country's 20 largest cities, only three ave a lower crime rate than ours. The image of crime in Washington is greater than the fact of it, and I wanted the owners to know that."
Tucker was asked why one question. St. Louis' blunt owner, August had a prospective buyer. 'Theodore N. Lerneris interested and has the money," answered Tucker.
E. Joseph Wheeler, a Washington businessman trying to raise money to to the public, also was here today campaining for his plan.
Commissioner Bowie Kuhu, who Wednesday called Washington chances for getting a franchise," was better now than at any time before," was delighted to see a D.C. government leader make an official appearance. "It was extremely helpful," said Kuhn.
"I think the owners wanted to see a flesh-and-blood person with some authority," said a baseball official. "They wanted to see a man from Washington who could help bring the pieces together."
"I came as an official who represents the government body that can legislate if legislation is needed," said Tucker.
"I have a relationship with the Armory Board, which would negotiate a lease (for R.F.K. Stadium) . . . and that (lease) would initially be a break-even, non-profit (for the city) lease.
"I was vice chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, so I can speak on subway situation. The only point I'm making is that I think they (the owners) were reassured that they had someone they could confer with who could speak authoritatively on a number of different areas."
Kuhn has spoken this week about a changing, and improving, national image of Washington. Tucker picked up that thread.
"The Nation's Capital does deserve a team," said Tucker. "But you're not going to get one simply by saying that over and over. Only dollars-and-cents issues will bring baseball back so I took the business approach. I told them that baseball and Washington will be good for each other if they are good to each other."
Washington city officials have been criticized regularly in baseball circles luring a team as have politicians in other cities.
"We are not concerned with which team comes to Washington or under what ownership," said Tucker, aware that the idea of shifting an AL team to the NL and moving it to Washington is under discussion by both tages of D.C. to any team or owner."
Kuhn and others here have gingerly approached the subject of the changing racial demographics of Washington, with more whites moving to the inner-city areas near RHK Stadium. "That might be a factor, yes," said Tucker. "We are not taking a black or white approach to this, but an intergrated area-wide approach.
"When you have enough baseball for not taking as active an interest in fans to draw over a million people to the park in a season, then somebody has to represent them.
"With all the problems that every city has, getting a sports franchise is never going to be at the top of the calendar of city officials. But that doesn't mean we can ignore it ineffects. A baseball team would do the same."
"It was interesting that Washington seems to be changing its approach from supplication to hard dollars cents," said Montreal club president John McHale. "That seems like it might be a good idea. I was impressed."