And so the death watch for the Oakland A's goes on for another year, torturously extended by a dispute rooted in "provincial pride" over eight baseball games.
Washington unwittingly contributed to the situation and stands a chance - slim though it might be - of benefiting from it in the form of another baseball team.
It is common knowledge that the Oakland A's of the American League and the San Franciso Giants of the National League have cut deeply into each other's income, causing each millions of dollars in losses over the last few years.
The Bay Area simply wasn't big enough for both to survive, everyone agreed. In December, A's owner Charles O. Finley got a $12.5 million offer for the culb from Denver oilman Marvin Davis who wanted to bring them to Mile High Stadium.
Finley, whose departure as an owner would be greeted with joy in most baseball circles, was responsible for getting the A's out of the last 10 years of their contract with the cityowned Oakland Coliseum.
Oakland officials were not happy about the prospect of losing baseball, but eventually began negotiations to break the lease. To help salve the wounds. Giant co-owner Bob Lurie offered to have his club play some games in Oakland.
In order for the Giants to do this,they had to renegotiate their contract with the city's Candlestick Park - a move that required political blessings. Baseball's brass eagerly offered their assistance to both cities and clubs. Politics made strange bedfellows out of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and his long-time nemesis, Finley.
While the talks were proceeding on the West Coast, a New York stockbroker, Emil Bernard, announced plans to move the Giants to Washington for the 1978 season.
Bernard's scheme was to buy out Lurie's copartner, Bud Herseth, and implement a legal agreement between the two partners that would make Bernard and friends the owners of the Giants. He went so far as to negotiate with the D.C. government for a stadium contract. (The agreement was held up by D.C. Coporation Counsel John Risher and Herseth withdrew his offer.)
Lurie said last week that the Bernard affair "had to be in Oakland's mind" and blames it for one of the breakdowns in talks.
"Time ran out on us," American League President Lee MacPhail said on Friday about the Giants rescinding their offer to play games in Oakland "This thing is down the drain for '78 unless there are some drastic changes in the next few days."
"Unless there is some surprising up turn in attenuance this year could be a disaster for Mr Finley," MacPhail continued.
The deal fell through when San Francisco Mayor George Moscone refused to acquiesce to Oakland demands that the Giants play 50 percent of their home games in Oakland and adopt a name that reflected both cities.
San Francisco had indicated - but not formally agreed - that 30 Giant games in Oakland would be an acceptable number. The A's had averaged 76 home dates during the last several years, MacPhail said, so Oakland wanted 38 games. The deadlock over the eight games couldn't be broken.
"Oakland wants a full baseball team, half a baseball team or no baseball team," said Lurie after retracting the Giants' offer to Oakland.
Robert Nahas, president of the Oakland Coliseum, said. "If the people here can't feel that they have their own team, then they'd rather not have a team at all.
Denver is ripe for plucking and the AL would very much like to take it via the A's. Some members of the NL think their 'eague should go after Denver now rather than lose a potentially lucrative franchise site to the AL as was the case with Toronto.
Barring a move of an NL team to Denver, which is not likely, expansion is the only way the league could pick up Denver. The NL has consistently refused to expand from 12 to 14 teams as the AL did two years ago.
"I think expansion will be the next step," Lurie said. "I think it will come. Maybe not in the next few years. But I feel it will come and Washington would be included."
NL president Charles (Chub) Feeney said on Friday. "Expansion hasn't been discussed in our league for quite some time. I'd hate to speculate on what might happen. But I do think Denver is going to be a good city for baseball."