Gary called the office the other day to speak to the cad who demeaned his fair Baltimore. In Gary's view, the cad deserved to have his fingers run through the presses of The Washington Post. Gary didn't like the part where the cad said Edward Bennett Williams wouldn't invite Ethel Kennedy to Ball'mer and Art Buchwald didn't know where Ball'mer is.
"I've lived in Baltimore and I'm living in Washington now, and I like Baltimore better," Gary said. "It's a really nice place and who cares if Ethel Kennedy goes to a game or not?"
As it happens, I am very close to the cad who wrote that stuff and I can tell Gary the cad's state of mind as he wrote it. The point was that Williams is the quintessential Washingtonian, a celebrated criminal lawyer who has moved at the highest social and political levels of a city that is defined by its social-political characteristics.
"So I wasn't so much knocking Baltimore," the cad told Gary, "as I was saying that Williams exists for the mystique of Washington, that he even helps create that mystique. I just can't believe he spent $12 million for a baseball team with the idea of commuting from Potomac to Baltimore to see it play. No offense, Gary."
Given the most victories in baseball in the last 20 years, the people of Baltimore have demonstrated an invincible defense against fanaticism. Some cities grow giddy with even the modest achievement of one championship, to say nothing of the Orioles' FOUR league championships and SEVEN league and division second-place finishes - and this summer's runaway could make it FIVE AL championships in 20 seasons for the Orioles.
This year, at last, the artistry of the Orioles has produced a fitting response from these hard-to-please Ball'merans, who may break the team's all-time attendance record of 1,203,366 by more than 500,000.
History suggests, however, that this year's attendance is a fluke, produced by the unlikely confluence of an owner's threat to sell the team and the team's astonishing heroics on the field. Nothing in 20 years' attendance figures suggests that Baltimore is ready to turn out 1.8 million customers every season.
Over those last two decades, only two teams have won division or league championships and drawn less than 1 million customers. The Oakland A's of obstreperous Charlie Finley did it three times and the Orioles did it in '73 and '74.
Anyone who doesn't like numbers ought to take an aspirin right here. For the next six paragraphs, a cad will use numbers to answer a question from Gary, who said, "Anyway, isn't Washington a bad baseball town?"
No worse than Baltimore. The last three years of the Senators' life here, they drew 918,106 customers, 824,789 and 655,156. Those same three seasons, the Orioles drew 1,062,094, then 1,057,069 and 1,023,037.
Baltimore's numbers are much larger. They ought to be. The Orioles won both their division and league pennants in all three years, winning a total of 318 games. Meanwhile, the woebegone Senators, under the guidance of a suicidal front office, finished fourth, sixth and fifth in a six-team division and won 219 games.
Grantland Rice knew better, but the sentiment was touching when he committed a poem saying it matters not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. In big business, only victories count, and so a cad has put his pencil to work to figure what he believes to be a meaningful statistic - average attendance per victory.
You would think that Baltimore, a team that won 99 more games and a championship every year, would create many more customers per victory than Washington, a pathetic also-ran.
Fact is, the Senators had more customers per victory than the classy Orioles - 10,945 to Baltimore's 9,881.
Disraeli said, "There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damned lies and statistics." Okay, Diz. It yet remains a fact that, beginning with Baltimore's first championship in 1966 and excepting the masochistic Finley bunch, the normal pennant winner's average-crowd-per-victory is about 20,000 and only the 1970 Minnesota Twins with an ACPV of 12,876 were even close to the Orioles' shameful numbers (of course, those Twins were operated by Calvin Griffith, who once ran the Senators here, which may explain a lot of things; but that's another column).
Bill Holdforth, a Capitol Hill bartender who was known as "Baseball" even before he hung Bob Short in efficy while Short, who killed the second incarnation of the Senators, smoldered three feet away, said, "Not only did we do all right attendancewise, considering, I bet we outgrossed Baltimore. The Orioles' fans are just now, in 1979, realizing ticket prices that Short charged us in 1969."
Baseball Bill believes Edward Bennett Williams will bring the Orioles to RFK for 13 games next season, perhaps one game with each American League team. "Then he'll bring the team here for good in 1981," Baseball said.
On his radio sports call-in show, WMAL's Ken Beatrice asked his listeners to send in a post card if they wanted baseball in the capital. He received 4,600 cards. "There is very sound baseball interest here," Beatrice said, "not only in the Orioles, but in a wide variety of teams."
Times have changed. Pro football and its violence owned the nation's attention in the obscene late '60s. It was telling, of both the times and the man's character, that Richard Nixon used football terms as code for combat operations in Vietnam. If Jimmy Carter tells America it is unhappy, Americans tell Gallup and Harris it is, for the most part, happy enough. And in happy times, when war is behind, America always loves baseball.
In baseball's finest decade, the '70s, when attendance rose from 29 to 40 million, Griffith and Short had left Washington without a team.For the Senators' last three seasons, the city gave a terrible team 10,945 customers per victory at inflated prices. A cad wonders what a championship team such as, oh, the Orioles, would draw at RFK nowadays. No offense, Gary.