Citing the national economy, Edward Bennett Williams said yesterday he has no plans to build the stadium he once envisioned for his Baltimore Orioles midway between Baltimore and Washington.
Speaking at a Washington Touchdown Club luncheon, Williams also said he believes Washington deserves a baseball team of its own, but hopes Washingtonians will accept the Baltimore club as a substitute.
The Washington attorney also predicted that a threatened players' strike May 23 will not materialize, but ducked other questions about possible Oriole games here in 1981 and his future as president of the NFL Washington Redskins with humorous one-liners.
The purpose of the luncheon was to promote the Orioles in Washington, which lost its baseball team nine years ago, and to announce the opening of a central D.C. ticket office at the Jefferson Hotel to supplement other ticket agencies.
To shift the emphasis from a barren RFK Stadium to the American League champs 45 miles to the north, Williams brought along Oriole General Manager Hank Peters, Manager Earl Weaver, coaches Ray Miller and Elrod Hendricks and players Al Bumbry and Rick Dempsey.
While the 250 persons in attendance, most of them clearly Oriole converts, tossed softball questions to the club personnel, some hardball was reserved for Williams.
On the subject of a new stadium, Williams said, "Obviously, it would be great for Washington if the (Orioles) were more accessible to the city of Washington. Obviously, everybody dreams of a brand new stadium . . .
"But at the present time, I have to tell you that all you have to do is look at the economy and see how much construction is going on across the country and you see what prospects there are for new ballparks anywhere . . .
"At the moment, there are no plans that I know of that have any substance for the construction of a new stadium."
After he bought the Orioles last year, Williams said he "dreamed" of eventually building a 40,000-seat, baseball-only stadium.
The Orioles have AL territorial rights over Washington, so the city's baseball void could only be filled by an existing or expansion National League team -- a prospect that baseball's brass made clear last fall is not imminent. Baseball officialdom would prefer to have the Orioles become a regional franchise.
Asked if he would attempt to block the entry on an NL team here, Williams replied, "I would not. I would like to see baseball in Washington as much as you would. I think the nation's capital deserves baseball.
"We're (Orioles) doing our best to try to be a substitute for it and that's why I hope you'll come over because we're trying to make it easy for you to come over."
On the possibility of a players' strike, Williams joked that the bankers who lent him part of the $12 million used to buy the team last fall were equally concerned.
Then, speaking seriously about the renaissance of the game's popularity, Williams said, "I certainly hope there won't be (a strike). I believe very sincerely that there are people of good will on both sides and that we'll bridge our gap and that we'll be playing through the season."
Asked what his future role might be with the Redskins, Williams quipped, "Mr. Rozelle said he was going to make a decision on that. I must say that my spirits were greatly lifted when he appointed a committee to make the decision for him."