The team of my dreams is the Washington Phantoms. I have bought the Phantoms. I've always wanted my own major league baseball team and I think it is the least I can do for the nation's capital. You're welcome.
The Phantoms first came to my attention one day at lunch. Andy Dolich brought them up. Dolich is the director of marketing operations for the Washington Deplomats soccer team. His job is to make the Diplomats a household word and sell lots of tickets. He said there was one really big problem in his job.
"It's our phantom baseball franchise," Dolich said.
"Huh?" I said in my tough-guy, investigative reporter way.
"We don't even have a major league baseball team," the soccer man said wearily, "but the newspapers carry more stories about us not having a baseball team-and people not buying a team to not move it here-than they do about there being a real, live soccer team playing at RFK."
Like Dolich, I am tired of all these stories about the Oakland A's or Baltimore Orioles moving to town.
To end such speculation, I bought the Phantoms.
Now we have our own major league team, the team of our dreams.
Think of how wonderful the Phantoms are. We don't have the hassle of going to RFK to see them play. For once, it won't cost us half the rent to park at a sports event. Season tickets to the Phantoms' games will cost nothing, and season ticket holders will have priority in staying away from playoff and World Series games at RFK. If you're not happy with the Phantoms' performance this season, we will give you 20 percent of your money back.
I like this being an owner.
I mean, the minute I announced I had bought the Phantoms, what happens?
Bowie Kuhn sends me a telegram.
"I never forgot Washington, whcih is my hometown, where as a youth I put up numbers on the Griffith Stadium scoreboard," the commissioner of baseball said in his tele- gram. "As you know, it has been my personal goal to deliver a team to the great people of the nation's capital. That team turned out to be the Phantoms. I couldn't be happier. Sorry I can't be at your opener, but I have a canasta date with Charlie Finley."
Along with Kuhn, perhaps as many as 55,000 people will not be at RFK tomorrow when the Phantoms open the season against the world champion Yankees. Game time is 2 o'clock. No local television. It promises to be a festive day of baseball celebration. Fritz Mondale, this city's invisible man, will throw out the first ball.
I am hired as manager that old Senator hero, Wayne Terwilliger. He has only two instructions. Don't lost, and don't punch any sportswriters in the face. If he can't live up to those rules, I will ship him back to the Chicago Cubs of 1951.
On paper, the Phantoms are a fabulous team. I blush when I give myself credit for putting together such a powerhouse. But a fact is a fact, and the fact is that no one, not George Steinbrenner or Gene Autry or even Bill Veeck, ever put together a team the way I built the Phantoms.
First, I had a three-martini lunch.
Second, I decided I would not buy any free agents. As mortgage companies and bill collectors know, sportswriters throw nickels around like they were manhole covers. Not only am I too poor to buy a free agent good enough to have a candy bar named after him, I have to get a loan from my wife to buy a candy bar.
Third, I decided to cheat.
Why should Steinbrenner have all the great players? Because Autry could ride a horse, pick a guitar and sing all at the same time, does that mean he ought to be the only owner with a great left-handed hitter?
So by the power invested in me by Bowie Kuhn, I made all my baseball heroes young again and they'll play for the Phantoms this season.
I've given my manager, Terwilliger, this lineup for tomorrow's opening game:
Jack Robinson, 2b.
Stan Musial, 1b.
Willie Mays, cf.
Red Williams, 1f.
Josh Gibson, dh.
Mickey Mantle, rf.
Roy Campanella, c.
Eddie Mathews, 3b.
Pee Wee Reese, ss.
Sandy Koufax, p.
Not bad, eh?
There are problems that spring training in Bermuda revealed, however. Our bullpen and bench are nonexistent. Khun said we could have only those 10 starters born again. For help, we are looking at the Congressional softball team. We are in contact, also with Steinbrenner, who says he covets the young Mantle. A big deal is possible.
"We'll do anything to help the team," said our manager, Wayne Terwilliger. "Nobody is untouchable. The Phantoms are dedicated to giving the nation's capital the best baseball available."
After this three-game home stand with the Yankees (during which I will have serious negotiations with steinbrenner), the Phantoms go on the road for 10 games.