The group of Baltimore businessmen that has been trying to raise $12 million to buy the Baltimore Orioles now is seeking to lure Washington investors with a plan to share the franchise between the two cities.
F. Barton Harvey Jr., a vice chairman of the Baltimore group, confirmed yesterday that discussions with various Washington businessmen about a joint purchase have taken place.
The split-franchise proposal has some support in baseball circles as the best way to satisfy fans in Washington, where there has been no baseball since 1971, and in Baltimore.
Harvery would not elaborate on the proposal, but it was learned that some Washingtonians contacted included Joseph B. Danzansky, Robert I. Schattner and Theodore N. Lerner, all of whom have been active in past attempts to get a major-league team for this city.
Danzansky's son, Stephen, confirmed yesterday that his father, board chairman of Giant Food, was approached on the group's behalf recently. But the younger Danzansky, who is president of the Washington Diplomats soccer team, quoted his father as saying, "We are not involved."
Neither Lerner, who has extensive real estate holdings, nor Schattner, a pioneer in the pharmaceutical industry who was Danzansky's partner in the ill-fated 1973 attempt to buy the San Diego Padres, could be reached.
A source who declined to identify the potential Washington investors said the Baltimore group "was told there was interest in Washington and talks are continuing with them."
The proposal being discussed, according to sources, calls for each group to pay half the purchase price. In return, there would be "an equitable division of playing dates" in the two cities.
"Neither side would want their city to get the short end of the deal, so I imagine they would find a way to distribute the Yankee and Red Sox games evenly, for example," a source said.
Should the sharing proposal be executed, the split schedule could be implemented for next season. Plans for a new stadium midway between the cities are not under consideration, sources said.
Jerold C. Hoffberger, the club's principal owner, has said he would not impose any conditions requiring a new owner to keep the club in Baltimore.It is also possible, of course, that Hoffberger may not sell the club.
The Orioles have until June 30 to notify Memorial Stadium if they intend to break their lease - a move arrangement. If the club does not notify the statium by then, the lease is automatically renewed for two years.
After a bid by former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon to buy the club fell through last January, the local group, prodded by Baltimore's mayor, formed in an attempt to buy the club and block its possible transfer.
The Baltimore group has had trouble raising money, however, with investors withdrawing almost as soon as they joined. To help the group raise his$12 million asking price, Hoftberger offered a $4 million loan.
The other $8 million has been elusive. The group is reportedly $1 million short and unable, so far, to tap other investors.