Edward Bennett Williams, who bought the Baltimore Orioles last week for $12 million, is leaning toward playing several key series among 13 games at RFK Stadium next season and moving the entire home schedule here within three years.
Sources close to Williams told The Washington Post last night that he firmly believes Washington is ready to support major league baseball and wants very much to bring the team here.
It was learned that Williams, also president of the Redskins, would like to have the Orioles play series against the Boston Red sox and New York Yankees at RFK next year.
Williams would then take the average attendance at those games at RFK -- which should be high -- as an indicator of the town's interest in baseball. Washington last had a major league baseball team in 1971.
The baltimore News-American reported that Williams is convinced a split schedule between the two cities will not work.
Contacted last night, Williams denied the reports and said, "I'm not even going to think about (13 games in Washington) until I can meet Jerry and Hank."
Williams was referring to Jerold C. Hoffberger, who will retain club ownership until Nov. 1, and Hank Peters, the general manager.
"I haven't made any decisions or moves at all. I plan to meet with Jerry and Hank tomorrow (Wednesday) night at the game," Williams continued. "There'll be a series of meetings."
Reports of a series of games at RFK have never been discussed, Williams said.
"there are a lot of people in Baltimore who are very uneasy because somebody from Washington bought the team," he continued. "I said I would keep the team in Baltimore as long as the city supports it, but there seems to be some grave incredulity about this. They shouldn't feel that way because I meant what I said."
Reaction in Baltimore to Williams' purchase of the club has been fierce. Many Baltimoreans fear they will lose the Orioles, currently a first-place team, to Washington. Williams said last Thursday at the press conference announcing the sale that he would keep the team in Baltimore provided it was adequately supported.
However, it was reported that Williams has been in contact with officials of the D.C. Armory Board, which runs RFK Stadium. Proposed leases have been prepared for a baseball tenant, one of which calls for a minimum rent of $12,500 a month, plus all expenses.
D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, at his news conference Monday, said he had talked briefly with Williams last Thursday, the day the sales agreement between Williams and Hoffberger was announced. Barry is a member of the Armory Board.
Barry would not reveal details of the conversation, but said: Naturally, I would like to have baseball in D.C. . . . A move (by the Orioles) to the District is something I don't know anything about . . . .
"i would like to have a baseball team in the District of Columbia that is not an expansion team . . . I know how strongly (Baltimore Mayor William D. Schaefer) feels about the Orioles, how the fans feel . . . I feel just as strongly we shoud have a team."
Besides Williams' Washington roots, his desire to bring the team to Washington is underscored by a belief that tevevision and radio income in Washington would be almost double that in Baltimore.
The Orioles will receive $875,000 in Baltimore television income from WMAR-TV and $275,000 in radio revenue from WFBR this year, plus 40 percent of what affiliates pay WMAR. The latter has generally ranged from $10,000 to $20,000 annually, Al Harazin, the Orioles' business manager said.
Williams, who wants to remain president of the Redskins despite an NFL policy that discourages cross-ownership by majority owners of chief operating officers, is enthusiastic about Washington's potential as a baseball town, sources said.
Williams is pleased with the overall growth of the Washington metropolitan area (slightly more than 3 million people), Revitalization of the city and the advent of the subway system, which has one of its stops at RFK Stadium.
If Williams wants to play any games in Washington next year, he will need approval from the Major League Players Association, said Marvin Miller, its executive director.
"the scheduling of home games anywhere else -- in fact, the total schedule of games -- is a matter for collective bargaining," miller said, because it affects the terms and conditions of employment.
Miller said the Oriole players would undoubtedly be polled first and their positions presented to the association's 26-member executive board, in which a majority vote rules. Most Orioles polled have indicated a preference for not playing home games in washington.