DEAR ED WILLIAMS:
Baltimore wants to be your friend. You'll like it here if you give the city a chance to show its personality, character and affection.
The Baltimore Orioles are something special. They are the second most famous team in all of the baseball, exceeded only by the Cincinnati Reds when it comes to tradition and standing.
You are about to become the owner of the Orioles and this sets you apart. It's a privilege for you to have the stewardship of a franchise so steeped in accomplishment and history, going back to the era of Ned Hanlon, Wee Willie Keeler, John McGraw and those other legendary "old Orioles" you read about in the record books when you were growing up in Hartford.
The Baltimore public is suspicious and believes you are so Washington-oriented, since moving there in 1941 and later establishing such a prestigious law practice, that it is a foregone conclusion you are going to be taking the Orioles to the District of Columbia.
Your statements to the contrary, the general feeling persists the Orioles are on borrowed time. A few of us, a distinct minority, take you literally and accept the things you say as truthful and sincere...that the team will remain where it is as long as it is supported at the gate.
If you can't believe Edward Bennett Williams, a man whose entire reputation and succeeding wealth have been built on the credibility he has created in the legal profession, then the country might slip away in quicksand at the next blink of an eye.
But Baltimore at this time desperately wants to be reassured, almost like an orphan in the storm. You have the influence and position to exert a powerful change in the attitude of an entire city. At the risk of being presumptuous, you can turn a negative outlook positive. Yes, a frown into a smile; offer contentment instead of anxiety and chase the storm clouds for a canopy of blue.
Men, women and children are walking the floor over you, wringing their hands and wondering if you are going to drop a cleated shoe and announce the withdrawal of the Orioles from Baltimore.
It's an emotional city and it cares much about its pride in a team. Right or wrong, it now fears it is on death row and the execution could come at any time.
Why wouldn't you seriously consider announcing an extension of the Memorial Stadium rental contract for two additional years, which would assure the Orioles remaining here through 1982?
Such a development would do much to remove the paranoia that is running rampant in Baltimore since you bought the team. And, if you made an agreement, it would quickly eliminate the depression and uncertainty that unfortunately exists.
By way of background, the official crowd figures show that during the 16 years Baltimore and Washington had teams in head-to-head competition, that every season, without exception, the Orioles were afforded greater support at the box-office.
In fairness to Washington in such a comparison, it admittedly had bad teams. But so did the Orioles for a period of six years while the franchise was being rehabilitated with an infusion of young, talented players.
It's agreed that Washington, the Nation's Capital, deserves the national pastime. But don't let that consideration influence you to such an extent that Baltimore is plundered. The transient population of Washington is such that it has difficulty sustaining interest in a baseball team.
In Baltimore, the Orioles have become a way of life. The city itself has made a dramatic comeback. A magnificent renaissance.
You'll find in dealing with the mayor, William Donald Schaefer, that he will always give you an honest count. He is tough-willed but decent and you can't ask any more of a man and leader than that. He is not a lip-service politician who will say "yes" or "maybe" when he means "no."
You'll notice in talking with Mayor Schaefer that he refers to the team as Orioles and never by the demeaning expression of Birds. That's another way he demonstrates his immense interest in one of the oldest professional terms in the history of baseball.
The plan to play 13 games in Washington was first brought up by the previous owner. Jerold Hoffberger, and actually signed into contract form in 1975. So if those home dates are transferred to Washington it actually isn't of your origination. The possibility has existed for five years and for five years and would have taken place except several congressmen and the Washington press were opposed.
The attitude expressed at the time such a switch was pending was that if the Orioles weren't coming full time they weren't wanted at all. But it would be interesting to see what a test of the Washington baseball waters might reveal, keeping in mind that filling a park for 13 events is different than trying to do it on a season-long basis.
Men of immense statute in this country say you are one of the nation's top citizens. A heavyweight. Baseball, no doubt, will profit from you being the owner of a team and having a voice in the important matters of the game.
Hopefully, you are cognizant of how Baltimore is disturbed and suffering doubts about your intentions and the future of the team. All of this distress and stress is unnecessary. It's a burden Baltimore shouldn't have to carry because it doesn't deserve it. CAPTION: Picture, Jerold C. Hoffberger, foreground, embraces Baltimore Mayor William Donald Shaefer as Edward Bennett Williams watches. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post; Illustration, no caption, By William Coulter for The Washington Post