Few men use words as well as Edward Bennett Williams, who has sung sweetly in defense of Jimmy Hoffa and Joseph McCarthy, John Connally, Richard Helms and, ye gods, George Allen. We forgive him Allen, for as Williams once said in defense of the law (and himself), "No one ever asked me if I favored murder because I defended 31 murder suspects."
Williams has fallen silent.
This is news of the man-bites-dog type.BULLETIN. Ed Williams, prominent Washington lawyer, shuts up.
Baseball is why.
Williams wants a team for Washington in the National League.
He won't say that. In fact, some people think he is trying to buy the Baltimore Orioles to move them here.
But it makes more sense to believe Williams wants his own team in the National League.
Williams will say only this: "I don't want to say anything until it is more deeds than words."
It defies belief that Jerold Hoffbergeer ever will sell the Orioles, especially to anyone who would move the team out of Baltimore. Hoffberger is a tease. For 20 years now, he has enticed passes from men lusting to buy a baseball team. Always at the last moment, Hoffberger draws back coyly, sending the would-be buyers to shiver in a cold shower.
Williams needs that kind of grief about as much as he needs George Allen carrying his briefcase.
Because the Orioles have American League territorial rights here, only a National League team could work here without Hoffberger's permission.
That is one reason, it says here, that Williams is working to expand the National League by two teams - Washington and Denver.
The other reason is Charles O. Finley. The owner of the Oakland A's has created such a mess he may never be able to sell his team to anyone who would move it out of the Oakland Coliseum.
Marvin Davis, an oilman from Denver, thought he had bought the A's in the spring of 1978. Denver even announced its schedule with the home opener set for June 2. But then the whole deal fell through when the Coliseum insisted that Finley - or somebody - fulfill the last eight years of a 20-year lease.
The irony is that the lease might have been only for 10 years if Finley had kept his mouth shut.
"They had a party at the original signing," said Frank Harraway of the Denver Post "and everybody was drinking, and Charlie was so happy that he said, 'I wish the lease was for 20 years instead of 10.'
"Well, a Coliseum official heard him and so they changed it from 10 years to 20. And now Charlie can't get out of the lease to sell the team to anybody out of town."
Davis still wants a team and recently said, "Expansion is a possibility."
Whether or not expansion is more than wishful thinking, perhaps only Bowie Kuhn knows. And the commissioner, under advice of his bosses, the owners, is soft-pedaling any talk of baseball in Washington. They want no more of Kuhn's promises to bring the grand old game back to the city where as a boy he worked putting up numbers on the Griffith Stadium scoreboard. Such promises, if unfulfilled, will only rile a Congress that for 75 years has been unbelievably benevolent in its protection of the game.
Wait. I hear a sound.
It is a voice shouting from a garden in Palos Verdes, Calif. It is saying, "But, Ed, how could you leave the Redskins after all I did to make you rich and famous?"
So, okay, I didn't hear a voice, but it is a good question. Why would the president of the biggest game in town - sorry, Mr. Carter - choose to go from the Redskins to a sorry expansion baseball team?
Choose one: A) Williams believes the Redskins are falling apart and it will be years before they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. As Allen did, Williams is getting out while the getting is good.
B) Jack Kent Cooke wants to play with his biggest toy, the Redskins, of which he owns 86 percent. Cooke sold three other playthings recently - his hockey and basketball teams and his arena in Los Angeles. He will live in Middleburg, Va., and so Williams sees the big boss taking over many of the joys delegated to him.
C) Cooke really wants a baseball team but can't have it because of Pete Rozelle's rule against multiple-sports ownerships. Williams is merely Cooke's front man in the current baseball rumors.
D) Williams loves Washington, his home of 37 years, and wants to give the city the baseball team it has pined for 10 these many years (eight and counting).
Whatever the reason, this is not Williams' first foray into the baseball jungle. In 1960, when Calvin Griffith kidnapped the original Senators and kept them blindfolded until they reached the snows of Minnesota, the American League votedd on new owners for the Washington franchise.
Williams, with Joe DiMaggio as one partner, led one of three syndicates seeking the franchise. His efforts came to nothing in the balloting when Griffith, ever faithless, broke a promise and voted against Williams.
"He went over the side of the ship like a rat," Williams said.
So Williams isn't talking about this deal yet. He wants to see where the rats are.