Seven years ago, the Washington Senators played their final baseball game at RFK Stadium.
A survey of 23 of the 26 major League club owners of their executives shows that they believe, almost over-whelmingly, that the team has not been replaced because no one in Washington is willing to buy a club.
Most also cited a logistical problem: the Baltimore Orioles, hurting at the gate and in the wallet, play 40 miles north of Washington. The American League could not place a club in Washington without the Orioles' approval. The National League has shown no inclination to expand or relocate a franchise.
No organized groups in Washington are seeking a team, they said. Only Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, and a few powerful club owners lobby for Washington.
I hasn't always been that way. There have been legitimate prospective buyers who have pushed hard for a club in Washington. For example, Joe Danzansky and associates tried to buy the San Diego Padres in 1973.
On other occasions, serious bidders cooled their heels in hotel corridors and then were dismissed before they could present their case to the leagues. Only City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker was accorded any time to argue for the city.
The city's image has been dealt some harsh and often inaccurate blows since Bob Short and Calvin Griffith each spirited a Senators team away.
They complained about poor atterdance and they blamed the stadium location. They dwelled on the "crime capital" theme, although police records consistenly show the stadium area has one of the lowest crime rates in the city.
But since that last game, Washington and its image have changed. Club owners and executives seem to be aware of the changing - from the new subway to the spiraling affluence reflected in the real estate and retail markets.
No long do they talk about crime, as many did a few years ago. But, there still are reservations about what kind of a baseball town Washington is.
Here are their opinions on why Washington does not have a baseball club and what the city's baseball future might be. They also were asked if they thought the major leagues should have placed a club in Washington before expanding into Canada. The response to the last question was that the Canadian clubs have been immensely successful and there are no regrets.
Baltimor Orioles General Manager Hank Peters said Washington is without a team because "under American League territorial rules, (Washington) is considered Baltimore's territory.
"Also, I don't know of anyone from Washington who went to the American League when we were considering expansion and said, 'Accept us as an expansion city.' I'm not privy to what goes on in National League meetings, but so far, they haven't gone beyond the talking stages (on expansion)."
Peters added, "We're not certain two major league clubs can survive in this area because of the obvious lapover on radio and television - and fans, of course. I can sympathize, though, with baseball fans who would like to see their own club in Washington.
"But so far, there hasn't been anything available for Washington."
Haywood Sullivan, co-owner of the Boston Red Sox, said, "My personal opinion is that there's been negative reaction to having two clubs in your area. The proximity of the Baltimore club and the way they are drawing isn't helping you.
"Aside from the economics of that situation, I don't know of any capable operators for a club there. Washington is still in the running, but I don't see anything happening in the next couple of years."
E.J. (Buzzie) Bavasi, executive vice president of the California Angels, said he believes Baltimore's proximity to Washington is the major reason the capital is without a club.
Baseball does not want an East Coast version of the Oakland San Francisco problem, Bavasi said. "Washington per se is fine. There's nothing wrong with the city or the ballpark."
Bavasi also said he thinks Kuhn stirred some anti-Washington sentiment among some club officials by insisting that the first club moved had to go to Washington. Now that the emphasis has switched to expansion, Bavasi said, he believes the clubs will give "honest, and sincere consideration" to Washington.
Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, like most of his colleagues, says baseball was not obligated to place a team in the nation's capital before going into Canadian cities.
"What's wrong with the Canadian teams? They've been successful," Veeck said. "The tallest building in the country isn't in the capital, either, U.S. Steel doesn't have a plant there.
"There isn't an inalienable right for Washington to have something simply because it's the capital of the nation. Columbus, Ohio, Sacramento, Calif. - should they have teams because they're state capitals?"
Still, Veeck said, "If Washington ever has a club there again and it is reasonably operated, it will be successful. . . I think what went wrong (with Short) was that the stadium authority apparently didn't want to work out a reasonable contract with him.
"It was offered after the fact - after the barn was gone, not just after the horse was gone. Also, he found greener fields in Texas. If that hadn't happened, undoubtedly (the Senators) would still be there, although historically they haven't been a tremendous success in Washington at any time."
Phil Seghi, vice president and general manager of the Cleveland Indians, said, "I have no facts before me, but I think the days will be ahead of us in which Washington might have baseball again.
"Baseball in Washington is a very valuable part of our history and it's very unfortunate that the economics of the circumstances (under Short's reign) dictated the move. I've seen many games there and I thought it was a fine city."
"I've always had a high regard for Washington and I hope something can be worked out. How, I just don't know," said Jim Campbell, executive vice president and general manager of the Detroit Tigers.
"I've always thought Washington was a major league city and still do. I know Mr. Fetzer (Tiger owner John E. Fetzer) would love to see a major league club come back there," Campbil said.
Ewing Kauffman, principal owner of the Kansas City Royals, said, "The ideal thing would be to have a stadium halfway between Baltimore and Washington. Whether that's possible I don't know.
"Baltimore is one of the truly successful teams, but not financially. Baltimore isn't supporting the team as it should."
Kaufman a promotional wizard who has enlisted the private and business sectors in season ticket sales (10,000 sold this year, 12,000 expected next year) and who expects more than 2.2 million fans this year, thinks a Washington team would have a chance to make it.
"A team could be successful there with the right owner who would promote it. . . The people of Washington would support a team if the right marketing is done.
"Probably the reason you don't have a team now is you don't have a philantropist who is willing to put up the millions needed to buy a club and the more millions necessary to develop it.
"Also, you don't have a core there to support it, a core of industry that will buy season tickets. . . You've got a lot of U.S. government workers and all they do is ask for free tickets."
Allan H. (Bud) Selig, president of the 1970 expansion Milwaukee Brewers said, "Having been in the situation (Washington) people are in, I have great sympathy and empathy. . .
"The problem seems to be that there has been no local "Washington) group ready, willing and able to operate a club. That was they key in Milwaukee (getting one). Without the group, we could have shouted and screamed all we wanted and it wouldn't have done any good. . .
"There really is a lot of sympathy for Washington and, under the right circumstances, it would be successful. . .Only time will tell."
Calvin Griffith moved the AL-charter Senators to Bloomington, Minn., in 1961 as the Minnesota Twins. Washington got an expansion franchise in its place, and a new owner, Bob Short.
Griffith says Washington is baseball-barren now "for the simple reason that the stadium is in the wrong part of Washington. I told (former Redskin owner George Preston) Marshall that we had to get as far away as possible from Baltimore. I said we've got to go to Alexandria or Fairfax.
"But Marshall said, "I don't give a damn where the stadium is, just give me capacity.' I told him people wouldn't go there."
Griffith said he also thinks Washington has no team because "nobody can come up with the do-re-mi." He does not see Washington getting another team without NL expansion. "I don't think they're in any mood to expand. They're drawing so many people they don't know that to do with them."
George M. Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees, said "economic feasibility" is the key to another club in Washington.
"To my knowledge, I don't know of any group which is ready with the money and prepared to live through the building years which are required, and the losses which are inherent in those year," Steinbrenner said. "No other reasons that the make sense (for not having a team in D.C.).
"I've been for having a franchise in Washington since I've been in baseball. I told (AL President) Lee MacPhail I'd be ready to bring the Yankees down there for some games - to test the waters if some people weren't sure how it would go."
Steinbrenner thinks the RFK Stadium-area and the city have been, unfairly labeled as crime-ridden. "The New York Yankees play in the Bronx and they (people) say the same things about us and we don't have any incidents. "I'd put our record up against any major city in the nation."
Charles O. Finley, owner of the Oakland A's, knows about the problems of competing with a nearby rival. The San Francisco Giants are nearer to his A's than a new Washington team would be to Baltimore.
"The problem is with two teams being so close together," Finley said. "I don't think your area can support two American League teams, but I think a National League team would be tremendous there."
Donald J. McDougall, a director of the Toronto Blue Jays, was a leader of the large Toronto contingent whose lengthy and extensive lobbying resulted in an American League expansion team in 1977.
"Apart from the excellent presentation of (D.C. City Council Chairman) Sterling Tucker, the leadership for a team in Washington tended to be coming from the commissioner's office and the executives of major league baseball," McDougall said.
"The part that's always missing from Washington is the name of the guy who's going to put up the money . . . If someone shows up with $20 million, he'll get a team for far less . . .
"But you have to be a little thick-skinned about it. The guy who's putting up the money has to get into the fray and fight. It's not a particularly joyous kind of experience because you do get treated rather curdely for (a person) walking around with that kind of money. It is not run as a gentlemen's club."
The AL snatched up Toronto while the NL continued to dawdle and fight over it own oborted expansion plans, and McDougall - as well as many others - thinks the NL regrets that. Toronto's attendance was 1.7 million in 1977 and will be around 1.5 million this year.
"It seems to me that Washington will get a franchise," McDougall said. "The question is when . It also seems there are cities (with teams) which are less desirable (than Washington) and some cities with two teams, one of which might be better off in Washington."
"Nobody to my knowledge has ever come forward to purchase a club for Washington," said Atlanta Braves owner of Ted Turner. "Nobody's knocking the commissioner's office door down.
"I suppose that's why you don't have a team now and because they weren't adequately supported when they were there."
Turner said he favored expansion to Washington and Toronto when the NL was considering it a few years ago, but it retrospect, believes it would have been a bad move.
William J. Hagenah Jr., president of the Chicago Cubs, said he thinks Washington is without a team because of inadequate attendance.
"I know Washington is a great market, a great baseball and sportsminded town," Hagenah said. "But I think a lot of people are fearful it (poor attendance) might happen all over again.
"But when you look at what football has done there, you think baseball really ought to do well there. . . We pay a lot of attention to the market and how it changes. You have to adapt and keep pace. . . I'm sure Washington has changed a lot. . . It's a whale of a market."
On possible NL expansion, Hagenah said, "I think we've got plenty of clubs ourselves. But there are all kinds of possibilities. . .I think there's a good chance of going to three divisions."
Richard Wagner, president of the Cincinnati Reds, said he favors creating a new stadium midway between Washington and Baltimore to serve both market, with one team.
"That would be the most efficient way and one which could be the most productive for everyone concerned," Wagner said.
On the lack of a team here now, Wagner said, "There just hasn't been an operator or a group ready when you had an opportunity. . . If a franchise becomes available and people in Washington are ready to go for it, then you might get a franchise . . . but you need community leadership and (financial) wherewithal."
Talbot M. Smith, president of the Houston Astros, said he thinks Washington's best shot is getting a relocated team.
"The (lack of) availability of a franchise for relocation and ownership are the only reasons I know of for Washington's not having a team now," Smith said. "An awful lot of clubs are tied to the existing cities because of contractual situations with leases and so forth.
Smith, who said he doesn't believe the time is "ripe" for NL expansion, also pointed to the changing market here.
"Time allays fears and the comments (about crime)," he said. "They have a tendency to die out. There's a new market and what transpired in the 1960s doesn't relate to today."
Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, who has joined Kuhn in recent years to seek a solution to the "Washington Problem," said, "I think Washington can and will support major league baseball and possibly (it will be) in the National League."
John J. McHale, president of the Montreal Expos and a strong D.C. ally, said Washington doesn't have a team now "because there has been no evidence of aggressive and capable ownership to sell themselves and the city to the leagues.
"Also, there has been a lot of unusual circumstances that keep coming up (the failure of expansion attemps and the last-minute loss of the Padres), and they perhaps have resulted in some disenchantment (with Washington).
"It's a tough thing for the league to keep doing (working on the Washington problem). But the door is still open as long as the commissioner and several substantial owners want to go there."
M. Donald Grant, chairman of the board of the New York Mets, has worked diligently for several years to return baseball to Washington.
"You don't have a team now because we (the NL) were unable to get the votes (for expansion) to put one there. Because of the past records of teams there, it's hard to get the votes to go back in again. . .
"We're in a hiatus now and it's a bad time to work on it because baseball is confronted with too many problems. . ."
The apparent absence of substantial ownership has hurt Washington's cause, said William Y. Giles, executive vice president of the Philadelphia Phillies. "And in conjunction with that," he continued, "we've never been privy to any knowledge of a franchise wanting to sell to a Washington owner.
"Philadelphia was very much in favor of Washington getting the Padres and we have been in favor of a Washington franchise - preferably in the National League. The American League has more charisma now than it did in the past, but I don't know if Washington residents would accept an AL club now. . .
"I am less hopeful of Washington's getting a franchise than I was in the past . . . The only posibility I see now is Baltimore going there on a temporary or permanent basis."
Bing Devine, executive vice president and general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, said he doesn't see any prospect for Washington "in the foreseeable future . . . In fact, I've heard less talk about it than before."
Stadium lease problems make it "impossible or impractical for existing clubs to move there."
Ray Kroc is principal owner of the San Diego Padres, who were Washington-bound in 1973 until he emerged to buy them. Kroc advanced the "Baltimore Plan" which would have the Orioles play half their games at RFK Stadium.
"From a marketing standpoint," said the founder of the McDonald's fast-food chain, "it would be questionable for baseball to have two teams in the area, the Baltimore has never drawn heavily (at home)."
The lack of a Washington team now, Kroc said, "is probably because baseball feels they won't draw well enough. There are enough people. I know they draw football. . . But other cities, like New Orleans and Memphis have more appeal (for baseball)."
Kroc also cited the no-industry and no-potential owner theories and added, "You've probably got the most expensive city in the country. I don't know if the masses there working for the government have any expendable income left (to buy tickets)."
He said he did not know if the NL would expand and expressed some opposition to expansion.
Bob Lurie, principal owner of the San Francisco Giants, said he hasn't been to Washington since he was stationed at Bolling Air Force Base in the early 1950s, "but I understand (Washington's) improved considerably. You've got a good stadium and brand new subway.
"There's a lot of sentiment for a team in Washington. Of course, Baltimore presents a problem since there is some reservation about whether the area could support two teams.
"The answer would be National League expansion, but the sentiment is so strong against it . . . Expansion is not in the immediate future, but I'm sure it's going to come and Washington will be in the lead."
Clubs that could not be reached for comment were the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose owner John Galbreath has been a staunch Washington supporter, the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.