Dick Bosman's career appears dead, killed by baseball's salary war.

"I'm disappointed and disillusioned with baseball. I'm tired of it and fed up," the last pitching ace of the Washington Senators said yesterday from his Woodbridge home out in Virginia. "I've lost my heart for the game, so I've quit.

"But I don't want to go out in the fine print. I want my story told."

In an era of free-agent millionaires, some are caught in the dollar squeeze. This week it was Bosman, priced out of the major leagues at the age of 33.

Two weeks ago the Oakland A's gave Bosman his unconditional release. "I couldn't believe it," he said. "I had had three straight winning seasons and a good spring."

Disbelief turned to panic four days later. Cleveland gave him a tryout, then cut him.

Bosman furiously called every other big league team, trying to catch on as the hours sped past before opening day.

Finally, the Chicago Cubs made him an offer: Go back to the minor leagues and play for Wichita. And, oh yes, take a $40,000 salary cut from $50,000 to $10,000.

"I worked for 10 years to build my salary up," said Bosman, who won the American League earned-run title in 1969 for the Senators and pitched a no-hitter in 1947 for Cleveland. "Then I saw it destroyed in one minute by an irrational man in Oakland" (owner Charles Finley).

Friends told Bosman to swallow his pride, go to Wichita and work his way back to the big leagues.

"Never," was Bosman's answer.

"I've seen the pettiness of baseball. I was released by a cold-hearted, vindictive man - Finley. He did it at the worst possible time so I would have no chance to catch on anywhere else," said Bosman.

"Like Vida Blue says, I'm not going to be dragged down to the level of the people that run baseball. I've given the game 15 years, man, and I'm leaving with my head up.

"To go to the minors and beg is not any idea of a fruitful life. I have a good job to come back to here (at a suburban car dealership). It'll be a relief to deal with straightforward, honest people again."

Bosman feels that he and veterans Rico Petrocelli and Dave Duncan, released this spring, may be victims of the salaries paid baseball's new millionaires.

"I talked to virtually everyone in baseball, but I got the same basic runaround. They said it was too late in the spring, or I'm making too much money, or they don't have enough money."

Bosman found that almost all franchises fall into two categories: those like Oakland with pathetic attendance that have to pinch pennies, and those like Cleveland that "have a payroll like the national debt with all the free agents and multiyear contracts."

It would have been hard enough had Bosman only needed to deal with the new fact that baseball can no longer afford solid journeymen with $50,000 salaries. A $19,000 rookie can do almost as well. Who can tell the difference?

But Bosman also saw the cold shoulder, sometimes the brutal shoulder, of those who were forcing him to the wall. It was a bitter lesson for a man who was once one of baseball's fair-haired boys.

Finley told Bosman to make sure he did not charge another night's hotel bill to the A's after his release.

"I asked Finley why he didn't trade me or sell me, why he waited so long to cut me and why I hadn't gotten a single hint to prepare me," said Bosman. "He said he hadn't had time to work a trade for me."

Bosman wonders it Finley held it against him that he had been a players' representative through much of his career, or if incorrect quotes attributed to Bosman, saying he hoped Finley would sell the A's, had paved the way for his pink slip.

"Finley is a vindictive man," said Bosman. "There has to be some reason he'd release a pitcher who was 15-5 for him the last two years."

Bosman also pitched two years for the Indians, but Cleveland general manager Phil Segul told Bosman, "We can't help you," in an almost off-handed way. "He didn't even look me in the eye," said Bosman. "It was like he was saying, 'Sorry, Dick. I can't play golf with you today.'"

"Maybe it's good to get away from people who treat others like pawns, who have no feelings or consideration," said Bosman. "Now, maybe I can do a few things like a normal person.

"My wife and I have never taken a vacation, just a week at the beach. When our second child was born I was away from her because of a pennant race. And last month she had to have surgery and never told me until it was over because she wanted me to have a good spring training.

"That's not a good life.

"When I put teammate Phil Garner on the plane to Pittsburgh after a trade last month, I felt for the first time the full gravity of how the game uproots people, how your friends are traded and disappear."

Nevertheless, if Bosman got an offer to pitch in the majors tomorrow "at no cut in salary" he would jump at it. He will stay in shape, but he will try not to listen for the phone.

"I've got to go now," Bosman said. "I'm driving my little girl to kindergarten."