Of a man's persuasive powers, little need be said beyond he kept Jimmy Hoffa out of jail when Bobby Kennedy wanted him in. If Hoffa gets off this time, Kennedy had said, I'll jump off the Capitol dome. At the end of the trial, the considerate Edward Bennett Williams sent Bobby a parachute.
Now comes more evidence that whatever the New York doctors removed in their recent repairs of the barrister, they left intact the machinery by which Williams runs the world. The guy almost talked Reggie Jackson into living in Baltimore, a near escape after which Reggie wiped his brow and said, "It was like talking to Winston Churchill."
That's small potatoes next to EBW's latest works. He is now buddy-buddy with Bowie Kuhn. This is akin to Al Davis fetching a scotch and water for Pete Rozelle. It was only last August when Williams suggested Kuhn could "screw up a two-car funeral." In December, EBW took part (perhaps as the platoon leader) in a palace revolt of revolutionaries who suggested Kuhn resign.
There's more. Williams has struck a sweetheart of a deal with the city of Baltimore. It isn't official yet, but the mayor loves it and everybody says it will be approved quickly. Instead of paying rent to use the city's stadium for Oriole games, Williams will give the city 50 percent of his profits. As far as Williams knows, this plan is unique.
No doubt it is unique, for lots of reasons, one being that most cities need the guaranteed income of stadium rentals. Under Williams' plan, the city's only guaranteed income is a 10 percent tax on each ticket. After that, the city's take depends on the Orioles' profit.
This arrangement is also unique in what it says of the Baltimore-Williams relationship.
To advance Williams' splendid metaphor in which he said the deal renewed the vows of his marriage to the city, it is clear they now have promised to love and cherish, for better and for worse, all that stuff. And, oh yes, EBW will have the bank accounts in his name.
The greater act of faith in this marriage is the city's, because it apparently is going to be partner in an enterprise in which it will have no control over expenses. Williams alone will determine if the Orioles make a profit and thereby owe the city any money.
A cynic could say the city has seen its last dollar in rent. Having struck such a deal with a city worried it will lose its football and baseball teams, might not an opportunistic owner simply increase his expenses willy-nilly? He could spend more money for players, perhaps $500,000 for a hitting shortstop. Or maybe the owner, also the working boss, could raise his own salary $500,000.
By doing that, he reduces his profit--but at no cost to him; under the old deal, he would have lost that money anyway, in stadium rental. The new deal leaves the city powerless to control expenses. In effect, then, the city would be coughing up the extra $500,000 for a shortstop or the owner's raise.
These are, one hastens to say, examples that come to a dark imagination; they are by no means suggestions that Williams is up to trickery (for the Hoffa trial, with several black jurors, Joe Louis sat silently in the courtroom behind Hoffa's lawyers).
No trickery this time. Quite the contrary, in fact, as a hard-headed business acquaintance of Williams pointed out by saying, "That lease is the most foolish thing I've seen Ed do in a while. He's just giving away money. The only way it can help him is if the Orioles lose money."
What Williams has done, and he should get credit for it, is cut out the rhetoric. A thousand times he has said he doesn't intend to take his team out of Baltimore; a thousand times Mayor William Schaefer has said he will do almost anything to make EBW happy. So if Williams has taken advantage of the city in this transaction (even his own figures showed the city stands to lose more proportionally in a bad year than it makes in a great year), he has done it at the city's invitation.
Marry me, marry me, the city said to EBW, and the lawyer said he'd do it as soon as he saw the dowry.
"Now they have more than a rooting interest, they have a direct economic interest," Williams said yesterday. "We look at this as a way to widen interest in the business community. We need to establish a wider season-ticket base."
With the mayor lobbying on EBW's behalf, the city parks and recreation board is expected to approve the deal this week. Final approval is to come by May.
You wouldn't say Williams has married Bowie Kuhn the way he has taken Baltimore into his bankbook, but on opening day there was Kuhn in Williams' box at Memorial Stadium. Had Amelia Earhart landed at second base, the surprise could have been no greater.
"The time has come for a period of healing," Williams said of his reconciliation with the commissioner.
Not only is EBW now sure Kuhn could manage a two-car funeral, he is pleased with the commissioner's involvement in discussions by baseball's executive council, finance committee and revenue-sharing committee. These are, one should point out, pet projects of Williams, who, like all people, often admires the thinking of those who agree with him. He is in the forefront of revenue-sharing advocates and general rearranging of wealth.
"Almost everybody agrees to the need for revenue sharing, with the exception of owners in the major cities, especially New York and probably Philadelphia," Williams said. "I cannot say Los Angeles, because even the Dodgers see the value of a more equitable distribution of all revenues, such as from live TV, cable and pay-for-view TV."
So Williams thinks Bowie Kuhn is on the right track now?
"I do," the Baltimore groom said.