This is no big deal. Just a little deal. It's one of the silly, needless ways baseball has wounded itself with the split season format.
Richard Friedman, 31, of Baltimore, says he has been a dedicated fan of the Orioles for 25 years.
This year, for the first time, Friedman decided to buy season tickets. He bought $1,050 worth of tickets on a 25-game plan. That's about 150 tickets in the Terrace Box section on the third base side of Memorial Stadium.
The Orioles gave Friedman his money back for his games canceled by the strike. They also returned the money to 5,217 other season ticket holders for the 26 games. They figured the strike cost them $750,000 in refunds, and maybe another $2 million in regular ticket sales and other revenue. They made back a lot of that with the strike insurance coverage, but not all.
Now Friedman also wants a refund on the games yet to be played under the split season concept.
"If Bowie Kuhn had left the season the way it was, just continuing the schedule, maybe I'd be contented," he said. "But with this second season fiasco, I'd rather have my money back. I paid for 'championship games,' and as far as I'm concerned these are not championship games."
The split season is a bad idea loved only by those whose immediate interest it serves.
"We've had a fantastic window sale," said Detroit's ticket manager, Red Willis. "We haven't had any problems with people not liking the split season. Of course, we've won 10 of our last 11 and that makes a big difference."
Friedman's objection is, really, identical to that of Orioles' owner Edward Bennett Williams and General Manager Hank Peters. They all think the split season debases competition. Possibly, perhaps likely, the Orioles will have the league's best overall record and not get in the playoffs.
Friedman wants nothing to do with such a debacle.
"My three best tickets were for the last three games of the year against the Yankees," he said. "Now that's going to be a joke series. It won't mean a thing."
That's not necessarily so, for the Orioles may need three victories over the Yankees to win the second-half championship. The games then would be much more meaningful than, say, three games after the Yankees have built a five-game lead in a regular, season-long pennant race.
The point is, Richard Friedman is mad enough at the game he loves to attack the team he loves. More than a customer's fine philosophical point that the true competition for which he paid $1,050 is now impossible, baseball should worry that the anger of a fan is lasting.
By ordering up a split season, and then by scrambling to change the rules a second time even as play went on, Bowie Kuhn and league presidents Chub Feeney and Lee MacPhail demonstrated beyond question their disdain for the likes of the paying customers.
With the split season concept, baseball's bigwigs were saying to the fans, "We think you're not too smart, folks, and we think you wouldn't come back out to see a continuation of the pennant race, and so we're inventing a new, abridged, with-a-wild-card, Pete Rozelle-would-love-it, split season pennant race. If you don't like it, go watch soccer."
Along with a drop in attendance, baseball is seeing what it means to teams to be granted, after the fact, a first-half championship.
"Only Oakland is still playing good ball," Friedman said. "And everybody else who won the first half is in last place now. The teams don't care. The proof of that is in the pudding."
Not entirely true. The Dodgers and Oakland are playing near the front of the pack, while the Yankees and Philadelphia are in the second division.
To try to get his money back, Friedman went to Memorial Stadium the other day.
"They wouldn't give me a refund because they said season tickets are sold on a no-cash-refund basis," Friedman said. "Then I wrote a letter to Hank Peters for an explanation. Peters himself has been quoted saying, 'This is already a dark year for baseball, and it's getting worse.'
"But in his letter back to me, Peters said, ' . . . it is our belief that now that the strike is ended, we are presenting games that are every bit as good and exciting as our fans have come to expect.' "
Maybe two dozen of the 5,218 season ticket holders have asked for refunds because of the split season, according to Oriole ticket manager Bob Aylward. In Boston and Cleveland, some dissatisfied customers have asked for their money back. "We've only had a very few requests," said Jerry Waring, the Indians' ticket manager.
All have been turned down.
Williams, one of the owners advocating a quick and fair settlement with the players first to avoid a strike and then end it, wanted the season resumed where it left off. He is no happier than Friedman with the devaluation of the game as ordered from on high. But neither is he making refunds on Friedman's philosophical point when there are real live games being played in what Aylward calls "a developing pennant race that will be very exciting."
Aylward points out that the season-ticket purchaser gets a discounted price on a fixed location seat, restaurant privileges at the stadium, the right to buy reserved parking, first option on postseason game tickets and option on tickets for the next season.
All this, Williams said, is a deal. And the Orioles are doing their part.
Unfortunately, what Bowie Kuhn does is out of the Orioles' direct control.
"It would be totally unfair to attack the Orioles on this," Williams said. "Don't you think it would be unfair for me to go to my players and say, 'Look, fellas, I'm very sorry, but we didn't contemplate all these empty seats, we didn't plan to shut down in June, July and August. And these second-half games aren't "championship games," so we're not going to pay you.'
"Now, if I said that to my players, I'd get holy hell from all sides. The problem with this whole strike and split season thing is that the good guys -- those who didn't want a strike and worked to stop it, those with a good relationship with their fans such as we have in Baltimore -- are made to suffer along with the bad guys."