D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and leaders of the city's business community met here tonight with baseball's top brass about getting a major baseball team in Washington in the near future. They were told the chances were bleak.
The message from baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, Lee S. MacPhail, and Charles S. (Chub) Feeney, president of the American and National Leagues, repectively, was: A shared franchise with Baltimore is Washington's best hope of seeing major league baseball at RFK Stadium again in the near future.
During the course of a frank, two-hour dinner conference, which recapped past efforts to return baseball -- for some games at least -- to Washington, the three executives suggested that the Washingtonians contact Baltimore Oriole owner Edward Bennett Williams.
"The best solution to the whole thing would be a divided franchise," Kuhn told Barry and the 11 Washingtonians who accompanied him. "I am still urging that course on Ed Williams, who is listening and showing interest in it in terms of building a stadium which would serve both cities.
"Ed has listened to our blandishments along those lines but whether he can get there I don't know."
Because the Baltimore Orioles have AL territorial rights over Washington, only an NL team could currently move in. Feeney said that only the New York Mets are up for sale in his league but that he doubted very much that if they were sold the league would approve a transfer out of New York.
Feeney told the group that there were no current discussions or proposals for National League expansion, but if the league should decide upon such a course Washington would be one of the first cities considered.
Feeney joined in support of MacPhail, who said that he would recommend that the Washingtonians "talk to Mr. Williams about sharing a team . . . urge the Balimore club at the earliest practical time to play games in Washington.I don't know how many you would start with. You have to walk before you can run."
After the dinner, which was open to the press, and a private meeting with the Washingtonians afterwards Barry said, "Our options are not many, quite frankly."
"He (Williams) seems to be the key right here. I have been talking to him all along and will be talking to him again in the future."
Kuhn pointed out that baseball had previously agreed to a divided franchise format in the San Francisco-Oakland area in which the Giants would become the shared team once the A's moved out. Those plans eventually fell through when the sale of the A's was canceled.
The three also pointed out that there have been proposals over the years that would have had other clubs playing up to as many as 22 games in Washington, but that the proposals were rejected by a Congressional committee spearheading the effort to get the city another baseball team.
The three executives also repeated statements made over the years: that they do not believe that the Washington-Baltimore area could support two teams any more than the Oakland-San Francisco are has been able to do.