In his three years in Washington, Bob Short must have loved the town more than anyone knew.
When last seen, he was hightailing it to Texas, taking the Washington Senators with him.
The Senators were not a good baseball team and hadn't won a pennant since FDR's first term.
But the town loved them.
In 1969 the Baltimore Orioles won the American League championship and drew only 44,000 more customers than the Senators did in finishing fourth.
That was Bob Short's first year as the Senators' owner.
He had talked big. He was an early George Steinbrenner, a self-made millionaire who figured he knew it all. Short hired Ted Williams to manage. He traded for Denny McLain and signed Curt Flood. To see all the games, Short had his own jet and pilot on call.
All that cost money. Well, what is a guy supposed to do? The Redskins hired Vince Lombardi. So Short had to have his own big-name boss and he hit the reluctant Williams over the head with a board made out of $1,000 bills. McLain was fat and his arm was spaghetti by then, but he had a $100,000 contract. Frank Howard cost six figures, too, and Curt Flood didn't come cheap.
Everybody assumed Short had a lot of money. He was certainly spending a lot. A man on a tight budget doesn't fly his own private jet to games coast to coast.
It was a surprise, then, when Short told the fans of the Senators they had better shape up.
They weren't supporting the Senators strongly enough, he said.
Heaven knows, he was doing everything for the fans he could.
What other owner would trade away the left side of his infield, Ed Brinkman and Aurelio Rodriguez, and promising pitcher Joe Coleman for McLain?
What other owner would raise ticket prices to the highest in the league?
What other owner had the imagination to invite the junior senator from Minnesota, Gene McCarthy, to work out with the Senators in spring training/
Ingrates, these fans.
So Short moved the team to Texas.
In only three years in Washington, he undid 70 years of baseball history.
The nation's capital had no team.
It was the fans' fault, Short said, for not coming out a million-strong to buy his expensive seats to see his expensive manager and his expensive clods in cleats.
That's why he took the Senators, bound and gagged, to Texas.
That, and $8 million paid in advance for TV and radio rights in Texas.
After two years in Texas, Short sold the team for a profit and left baseball.
Occasionally, his name would pop up in the newspapers.
Like the time he resigned as financial chairman of the national Democratic party.
It had been his job to raise money for the Democrats.
Short showed that his genius and charisma were not limited to baseball.
When he resigned his fun-raising job, the Democrats were $6 million in debt.
While Short did baseball a favor by selling the Rangers and going home by Minnesota, apparently he has something against politics.
He is running for office.
Not only that, he is running for the U.S. Senate.
Bob Short wants to come back to Washington.
"From the Washington Senators to a United States senator, that's Short's plan, said a man who works on Capitol Hill raising money for Senate candidates.
Short is running in the Minnesota primary against Rep. Donald M. Fraser, the Democratic party's endorsed candidate who is the clear favorite in the race.
"Short is going to spend from a half-million to a million dollars on saturation media coverage the last week before the primary on Sept. 12," said our man on the Hill.
The bum has a million to spend on getting his face on TV.
And how did an unendorsed candidate get that kind of campaign money?
By kidnapping the Washington Senators and selling them two years later.
Bill Holdforth is "Baseball Bill." He was an usher at RFK for Senators' games until the day he paraded through the bleachers carrying a dummy. It was an effigy of the charismatic genius, Bob Short, who on seeing it promptly fired Baseball Bill.
Two years later, when the Texas Rangers came to Baltimore for the first time, Short was in a box seat when, lo and behold, Baseball Bill showed up behind him with his 2-year-old effigy.
"Short stinks," said a sign carried by Bill's buddy.
Naturally I thought Baseball Bill would want to know that Bob Short is in love with Washington and wants to come back here to work.
So I called Bill and told him about his old boss' campaign.
Bill was excited.
If he gets elected as senator from Minnesota and comes to the Hill," Bill said, "it will raise the IQ of Minnesota and lower the Senate's."