Larry Mashall, who is not likely to be confused with Edward Bennett Williams or Abe Pollin, came in from the cold yesterday, unannounced, an introduced himself as the owner-general manager of the newest professional sports franchise in town: the Washington Metros.
A 33-year-old New York City native, Marshall gave up a steady job at Safeway last June to pursue a quixotic dream of creating jobs by bringing an Eastern Basketball Association team to town.
He carried an overstuffed memo book (one of the team's few tangible assets) under one arm and the youngest of his three children, 15-month-old Larry Jr., under the other. "Sorry, the baby-sitter's got the flue," he apologized as he sat down to outline the brief, improbable history and uncertain future of his club.
The Metros - no jokes, please, about them being Washington's "underground team" - open their season against the Quincy (Mass.) Chiefs on Saturday nihgt at 8 p.m. at George Mason University in Fairfax.
Marshall had come in to place an ad and, as long as he was downtown, decided to drop off some lineups, which he scrawled on sheets of yellow-lined paper. "Could you please make a copy? he asked, "because this is the only one I have."
The Metros do not have an office and do not plan to open one in the immediate future because, as Marshall explained candidly, "Financially, we're not going to get into something like that until we make sure we can cover our other expenses."
This is a source of some concern to Steven. A. Kauffman, the Philadelphia-based commissioner of the EBA - the oldest pro basketball league in the country, starting its 32d season - whose slogans, emblazoned on a red-white-and-blue logo, is: "One Step From the Best."
"I did talk to the Washington owners about this very issue," said Kauffman, who confirmed that the Metros had paid $3,500 toward a $10,000 franchise fee, posted a $4,000 performance bond, and met all financial obligations to the league so far. "I would hope that they establish an office, or at least a telephone where we can reach them at all times."
For the time being, Marshall is running the team out of "a cardboard box the size of the desk" at his home in Lanham. he refers callers to the office number (638-5896) of Paris Artis, a Maryland attorney who is one of five 10 per cent investors who financed the team.
The others, Marshall said, are Leonard Manning ("he's in charge of Goddard Space Center"), Bryant Manning ("he works in Doctors' Hospital"), William Bryant ("he teaches at Howard University") and Karrenton Chandler ("he's going to be a dental hygientist."
Chandler is also listed on the Metros' roster of 15 players, but Marshall reported that he has been placed on "injured reserve" and replaced by a 6-foot-7 forward named Guy Jenkins ("His name is Arnold, but the people know him as Guy").
"Those five men are the ones who started if off, but that may change. I have a few corporations interested in being 50 per cent owner of the team, which we're negotiating now," said Marshall. "The 10 per centers were just investors. They didn't do any work. All the pressure was on me, but I was using their money."
Though short on financing and entrepreneurial experience, Marshall is full of enthusiasm as his team prepares to open its campaign in the expanded, 10-team league.
The Metros are in the "Western Division" with the Red Roses, Allentown Jets, Wilkes-Barre Barons and the Anchorage Northern knights, who will play 21 games at home (paying the $700 per man travel expenses of teams visiting Alaska) and 10 away on a single 17-day road trip.
The "Eastern Division" is made up of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jersey Shore Bullets, Long Island Ducks, Providence Shooting Stars and the Chiefs.
Player salaries in the Eastern League, which is loaded with talent just below National Basketball Association caliber (three of last year's EBA stars are currently on NBA rosters), range from $50 to $200 per game. "Most of the players have regular jobs," said commissioner Kauffman. "If they don't, they should."
It was to create jobs that Marshall - who played basketball at Dewitt Clinton High in the Bronx and Kittrell Junior College in Kittrell, N.C. ("about 15 years ago") - left Safeway, where he started as a part-time food clerk when he came to Washington in the early 1960s, and founded the Metros.
"I had been coaching for a long time at the Lanham Boys Club and in the Chevy Chase Summer League. I've been putting ballplayers on my teams into colleges all over the U.S. for 15 years," he said."Now I see a lot of ballplayers out of jobs, coming out of college where all they did was play basketball.
"My goal is to to provide jobs, period - for players, a trainer, an announcer, everybody it takes to run a basketball team. This country needs jobs. I know what it's like to be unemployed.I have been myself. I grew up in the inner city and I know what a dead-end street it can be."
It was with loftier purpose in mind that Marshall selected his team, which is headlined by 6-foot-4 Tony Carter, a guard from Coppin State; 6-10 Tom Roy,ex-Maryland center who after being cut by the NBA Portland Trail Blazers played for a couple of European pro teams; Lester Paige, a 6-0 guard from paine College billed as "Mr.E?" on the team's simple promotional flyer; and Pat McKinley, a 6-7 forward who was drafted in the eighth round by the Washington Bullets out of Baltimore City College this year, and was the next-to-last man cut from training camp.
Others who were drafted by the Bullets are 6-5 Calvin Brown, from American University and 6-5 Dave Reavis, from Mackin High and Georgia University. Rubin Collins, an AllMet Player at Edison High who was drafted by Portland out of Maryland-Eastern Shore, and John Bowie, a 6-1 guard from Bowie State who played with Allentown of the EBA last year, should also get considerable playing time from newly signed coach Joe Bonzano.
"We wanted players who could fit into Monday-through-Friday jobs where we're trying to place them," said Marshall. "We're not looking just for basketball talent. We want players with personalities who can fit into the community. We had to let some good players go because we knew we couldn't make them into good, hardworking Amtricans. We're interviewed players to find out their goals in and out of basketball. We see this team as a vehicle for opening doors to those goals."
Marshall would have liked to play at the D.C. Armory, but could not afford the $2,700 fee for every game. He considered the Baltimore Civic Center, but could not get the dates he wanted because of a conflict with the circus. He ended up at George Mason - far out in the suburbs, where the chances of success are slim - because it was affordable ($500 per game). He also scheduled two game (Nov. 26 and March 25) at Capital Centre, as Prelims to Bullet games.
"people told me I was crazy. It was just a dream at first, but the fantazy is becoming a reality," said the ever optimistic Marshall, who admits, "It's not easy: I stay up half the night sometimes doing the paperwork, planning the next day."
But even those who wish him well are skeptical. "They have big expectation, but I was very frank when they came to me with a proposal to copromote and split "he gate," said Jay Marsh, business and facilities mananger at George Mason, who granted three dates and promised "to see how things were going after that."
"I told them I wanted a flat rate, and if they could fill the gym they'd make a lot of money," said Marsh."But I know the tendencies of this area. They're competing with the Bullets and college basketball, and I think their ticket prices ($3 in advance, $4 at the gate) are way too high. I told them very politely that this isn't Allentown, where there's nothing else to do."