"My mother asked what I wanted for Christmas and I told her $10 million or $20 million so I can buy a base-ball team," said Jane Keston, 36, a writer-editor for the Internal Revenue Service.
Keston did not get the multi-million dollar Christmas present, but she did spend $750 for 30 shares of Washington Pro-baseball Inc. - the public corporation formed by Joe Wheeler in the fall of 1976 to buy a major league baseball team and bring it to Washington.
"This is my only shot at owning a baseball team," said Keston, who like the other 218 Washington baseball die-hands who have purchased stock in the company. "I am a fanatic with a capital F. I feel like I've been in exile for the last six years."
A little over a year ago, Wheeler unveiled his longshot plan to form a publicly owned corporation to buy a baseball team for Washington.
The plan called for the sale of 920,000 shares to the public at $25 a share with a minimum of four shares to a person. If all the shares were sold, the corporation would have $23 million to buy and operate a club.
The money was to be put in an interest-bearing escrow account in a District bank. If by opening day of the 1978 baseball season the corporation had not sold $5 million in shares for there was no assurance a team would be here, the money was to be refunded by the end of the month.
The plan cleared the Securities and Exchange Commission last October and Washington Pro-Baseball, Inc. was born.
To date, Wheeler said, 219 persons have bought an aggregate of 1,702 shares for a total of $42,550.
"I am not disappointed in the plan," said Wheeler, head of an occanographic research and engineering firm. "I am disappointed in the media and the business community for not getting behind this."
He siad he was still "optimistic" he can raise $5 million through sales. Some of the shareholder maintain the same optimism.
"I think it's the best bet we have right now and I am optimistic it will work," said Martha Hogan, a 34-year-old physician from Chevy Chase.
"I think they need to put a push on again," to sell shares, she added. "I'm a little disappointed in the response because in May there were about 200 subscriptions, which is not that great for this area."
Hogan said she bought her four shares as a Christmas present for herself when her father gave her $100 as a gift.
Frank Higdon, an Alexandria accountant who is also secretary-treasurer of the Grandstand Managers Club, said he has bought 50 shares for the people in his office.
"The man (Wheeler) is putting his money where his mouth is," Higdon said, referring to Wheeler's putting up $25,000 in the controlling stock that entitles him to appoint the board of directors. (Wheeler also estimates he has personally spent over $150,000 promoting the plan.)
"Nobody seems to be doing anything (about getting baseball back) and he, at least, appears to be. He sort of seems to be playing a long shot," Higdon said. "I've never been a high-roller, but I'm willing to take a chance, to get on the bandwagon.
"We're supposed to get our money back if this doesn't work. But that doesn't interest me. I'm willing to invest more."
Scott Terrill, 55, a retired Navy captain from McLean and "one of the world's greatest baseball fans," used to have season tickets for the Washington Senators games.
When former Senator owner Bob Short traded away two pitchers and the strong left side of the infield, Terrill recalled, "I like the rest of Washington, took gas."
That Short - "that's dirty word" - moved the club to Texas after the 1971 season. "I have been in a deep, deep depression ever since," Terrill said.
"So Joe Wheeler gets a good idea and (public ownership) worked in Green Bay, so I figured it could work here," he added. "I want to get a ball team back here one way or another."
Major league baseball is not enthusiastic about the idea of a publicly owned team although the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago Cubs offer small amounts of stock to the public. The baseball establishment feels a large number of owners is unwidely and difficult to deal with in emergencies.
The Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots of the National Football League are publicly owned. The Philadelphia Eagles, though privately owned, once had 100 owners who spent a great deal of time arguing with each other about coaches and quarterbacks during stockholders' meetin.
Terrill said he is still sure public ownership can work here and has pledged $1,000 worth of shares. He has bought only $100 so far, but says he would be "happy to come up with the other $900 tomorrow if (the plan) would work."
He is disappointed about the response and suspects it may be attributed to the reluctance of people to mup "money on ice for a year and a half."
Reasoned Jane Keston, "Right now I don't think we're going to get a team through this particular plan . . . I really was sort of hoping this would.