It's the top of the first inning of the opening game of the World Series; Dave Lopes is on second with a leadoff double and Carlton Fisk trots to the mound to talk with Ferguson Jenkins.
"Pitchout?" says Fisk.
"International walk?" says Jenkins.
Don Zimmer joins them and says: "Remember whatever you do, clear it with the commissioner first."
Perhaps by October Bowie Kuhn will be content to sit quietly by the dugout and let the games proceed without further interference. He already has done much to influence who will win what divisions this season. Quite simply, Kuhn is acting like a commissioner, and that is a horrible sight to some of the men who pay him.
In baseball, commissioners are to be occasionally seen and to say little more than, "it's a league matter," to be jerked this way and that depending on which owner is pulling what string. Even if they did alter the Major League agreement in 1964 to give added power to the commissioner, the owners hardly had what Kuhn is doing in mind.
Last year Kuhn ordered spring-training camps opened during negotiations with the players. Later, he ordered owner Ted Turner of the braves suspended for cocktail talk he regarded as tempering before Gary Matthews of the Giants becomes a free agent.
Now, in selected instances, the commissioner of baseball is handcapping the pennant races, acting like the racing secretary of a major horse track. By allowing some sales and trades and not others, Kuhn in effect is "weighting" various teams, judging which ones need what players to keep the races tight to the wire.
Or so it seems. And early evidence suggests Kuhn is doing a splendid jib in his special area of interest, the American League.
If the Yankees were not quite regarded as the Secretariat of baseball, they were the clear favorites to run away with the AL's East Division.Yet Kuhn permitted a trade that allowed the Yanks to fill a weakness, shortstop, with a very competent player, Bucky Dent.
Earlier, Kuhn balked, then permitted Charlie Finley to sell reliever Paul Lindbald to the Rangers for $400,000. Later, he would not allow Finley to trade Vida Blue to the Rangers for about what he is worth - $2.6 million.
All of this man be mystifying on first inspection. But its sheer genius is reflected in the early actions of all the teams out of the starting gate.
Before last night's action, there were the Yankees with all those hitters and pitchers - and blessed Bucky Dapt - losing three of four games against highly bestable opposition.
Elsewhere, the Rangers managed to slide along beautifully, to a 4-0 record, without Blue. And who was just a half-game back of the Rangers and Royals in the AL West? Poor Charlie Finley's Athletics, the collection of castoffs Kuhn had helped mold by also negating the trades of Joe Rudi, Blue and Rolie Fingers at midseason last year.
In truth, the alleged claimers are beating the zillionaires at the start in both leagues. In the National League East, the Phillies lost their first three games and fell to last place. In the NL West, the Reds lost four of their first six games.
And what about that item the wires hummed across the country early Wednesday: "Veteran Dick Allen and rookie Wayne Gross hit first-inning homers to power host Oakland to a 6-2 victory over California." That is the California with $5.4 million worth of new stock named Grich, Rudi and Baylor.
Naturally, Kuhn 's apparent genius could be tarnished in a hurry - and if it is a few owners are waiting to grease his path toward a return to law practice. And others are anxious to clearly define what is "in the best interest of baseball."
Although they switched their views after agreeing to underwrite hie legal costs in the trial against Finley, most owners thought Kuhn did not act wisely by cancelling the Rudi and Fingers sale to the Red Sox and the Blue sale to the Yanks.
But wisdom was not the major issue, a Chicago judge later ruled. Power was. Kuhn has previously unimagined clout - and is just now flexing his muscles.