Although he won't venture any odds on Bowie Kuhn's future, Baltimore owner Edward Bennett Williams believes that common sense would tell anybody that Kuhn's chances of succeeding himself as commissioner of baseball were considerably improved when the sport signed its new billion-dollar TV contract.
"I think a lot of people were impressed with the way Kuhn, after he'd been kicked out of his job, so to speak, still worked 16 hours a day to help put that TV package together," said Williams, a member of the search committee compiling a secret list of candidates for the commissionership when Kuhn's term expires in August.
"It's safe to assume that a billion dollars buys a lot of good will," said Williams.
Williams doubts that any decision will be reached on the next commissioner until July. In the meantime, Williams is continuing to enjoy his four-year love affair with his Orioles, off to their most promising start since 1979, the year Williams bought the club and it reached the World Series.
Normally a chronic worrier, Williams is pleased with his club under new Manager Joe Altobelli, especially since attendance is at a record pace with a gate of 2 million plausible. "I certainly like the club's batting. Ken Singleton's comeback has been the brightest spot of the season, so far," said Williams on Sunday as he sat through two long rain delays.
Each season Williams, longtime president of the Washington Redskins, seems to find himself more in tune with the tenor of baseball.
As he has become a more sophisticated fan, however, Williams' torments have increased. Like all devotees, he's a second-guesser of his manager. "When the team was in California, I was listening on the radio late at night and my wife heard me making all these awful noises and groans. She came in and said, 'What's the matter, dear?'
"I told her," said Williams, " 'Oh, my god, he (Altobelli) is pitching to (Rod) Carew. Oh, no. Don't these managers ever learn? They're all the same. First base is open with two outs, Tim Foli's coming up and he's pitching to Carew."
Carew, of course, singled home two runs as Williams' suffering redoubled.
The next morning, according to Williams, one of his sons called home and said, "Mom, I was listening to the game last night and I know just what dad did. He started yelling, 'Agnes, my god, come here. He's pitching to Carew. Oh, no. These stupid managers are all the same.'
"I think they've got me figured out."
Altobelli, for his part, is concerned about Williams' goodwill. "I've got this TV in my office," said Altobelli on Saturday, "but I've only had it on once all season for about 10 minutes. So I've got my feet up on my desk and I'm watching that darn TV and who comes in but Ed Williams. Only time he's been in my office. He must think I'm doin' some job."
Actually, Williams is delighted so far. Of Earl Weaver, Williams says, "he seems to be a contented cow down in Florida."
" . . . I hear the Mets are having trouble and there are rumors in New York about George Bamberger (retiring) . . . Gee, if the Mets wanted to talk to Earl about managing, we wouldn't be opposed to discussing a trade," said Williams, who has Weaver locked up under contract for two years. "Earl for Darryl Strawberry or Earl for (pitcher) Ron Darling. Or, as (Mets General Manager) Frank Cashen calls him, 'Ron Darling of Yale.' "