Author's note: Approximately 25 years ago, during the latter part of May, as the Washington Senators were slowly sinking into the American League cellar, there appeared from nowhere the greatest superstar the game of baseball ever has known. Joe Hardy, or, as one writer called him, "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.," miraculously led the Senators through a fantasy trip up the American League standings. Tied with those "Damn Yankees" for first place entering the final game of the season, the Senators won, 3-2, capturing the American League pennant. With two out in the top of the ninth, Mickey Mantle walloped a tremendous drive to deep right field. Hardy went back, back near the wall . . . suddenly Joe Hardy vanished! In his place stood a fat, 50-year-old man who stumbled to the ground but managed to catch the ball for the third out .

Joe Hardy never was seen again . Mr. William Applegate Hades, Underground Seemingly Everywhere Dear Mr. Applegate,

I've given it a lot of thought. I have no choice. We've got to talk.

Listen, I know you have a lot on your mind right now. From what I read in the newpapers and see on TV your work in El Salvador and Poland, not to mention the world's economy, must be major projects of yours. Seems like you're being pretty successful with them, too. But, I guess you've always been pretty successful, haven't you?

Still, I just can't figure it out. What do you have against the Caps? I know you always root against underdogs, but even you can carry things too far. And, listen, I know the Joe Hardy thing turned out real badly for you. But it was your own fault. You wanted the Yankees to win so much that you let Hardy off the hook. His soul was yours for the taking.

But is that any excuse to treat the Caps this way? I mean with 16 of 21 teams qualifying for the playoffs, it's hard to miss the playoffs even if you really try to. And the Caps are on the verge of missing them for the seventh straight season! My God, the Flyers won the Stanley Cup in their seventh year of existence. But I guess the Broad Street Bullies are your type of team, aren't they, Applegate?

And every year it's the injuries. Injury after injury after injury. What are you, some type of sadist? Gary Green used to be called the "boy wonder." Soon people will be using only the first half of that phrase. McNab and Pollin have been so patient. It's just not fair.

Hey, wait a minute. It was you who was behind Tom McVie's firing, wasn't it? Of course. And you had a lot to do with the drafting of Greg Joly and Mike Marson way back in Year 1, didn't you? Those two horrible selections set the team back at least years. Thanks, Applegate.

The team slogan this year is, "Year 7 will be like heaven." I bet that really ticked you off. If we don't make the playoffs this season, next year's slogan will be, "Year 8 -- is it ever too late?" In two years it'll be, "Year 10 -- here we go again."

No, I can't take it anymore! Seven years is enough torture. Let's talk.

It'll be as easy as 1-2-3. I've already picked out a name. We'll call me Guy Le Vite. Instead of "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.," I'll be "Amazing Guy from Calgary!" Yes! Yes! Listen.

He came a long, long way to be with us today.

Arms of steel like Hercules,

Feet as fleet as Mercury's.

It's amazing Guy from Calgareee!

Applegate, this job will be duck soup for you. I'm only 34. The guy you turned into Joe Hardy was at least 50. I know how to ice skate, too.

I can hear it now: "Capital goal scored by number twenty-five, guy le VEEEETE! And 18,130 going nuts at the Centre!

Think of this, Applegate. In your deal with Joe Hardy, the Senators won the pennant. All I want is 16th place. Is that so much to ask, lousy 16th place? Wait, am I crazy? Hell (no disrespect intended) with 16th place. I want the damn cup. The Stanley Cup.

Can you imagine. . . "Ladies and gentlemen, the capitals WELCOME YOU TO THE FINALS OF THE 1981 Stanley cup PLAYOFFS!" Bedlam! Hysteria! We can win the seventh game in double overtime!

Listen. Ron Weber. . . "THE CAPS AND THE ISLANDERS TIED 3 TO 3. TEN MINUTES LEFT IN THE SECOND OVERTIME PERIOD. Bossy shoots. great save BY PALMATEER! GREEN PASSES TO LE VITE. BREAKAWAY! HE'S IN ON SMITH. HE SHOOTS. HE SCOOOOOOOORES! The capitals WIN THE STANLEY CUP! HEAVEN COULDN'T BE ANY BETTER THAN THIS!"

You know how to reach me. Long live Guy Le Vite! Sincerely, Paul Danziger

P.S. Do you think Lola could be part of the negotiations?