The Stars claim to have moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore, but if you can find a player in the vicinity of the Baltimore-Washington area, dive for his ankles and grab a hold of his pants leg.

The defending U.S. Football League champions are in an awkward stage, practicing in Philadelphia, conducting business in Baltimore and playing in College Park, all of which makes them what might be called a commuter team.

If you ever catch up with the Stars, they have some pretty funny stories to tell. There's the one about the trip from Baltimore to Washington -- oops, tell you later, time to catch the 3:12. And did you hear what Irv Eatman said to Jim Mora on the way to -- uh-oh, time to go, have to finish it in Philly.

The coaches and players, many of whom live in south New Jersey, drive daily to Veterans Stadium in south Philadelphia, where the Stars have kept their $250,000 locker room and training facilities.

A weekly press conference, with Coach Jim Mora and an occasional player, is held Tuesdays at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, which they are calling home even though they don't play there.

On weekends, they will begin commuting to Byrd Stadium in College Park, where they will play home games this season. Their first home game is March 17, against the New Jersey Generals. The first three games are on the road. They lost to Jacksonville last week straight out of training camp in DeLand, Fla., tied Oakland on Sunday and are in Memphis Saturday.

Mora and his players are supposed to make a weekly trip to Washington, where he is to tape his television show. But things have been so hectic lately that Mora hasn't had time for his taping sessions, and Stars President Carl Peterson has served as a stand-in. Team members already are making public relations appearances in Washington, and there also are appearances in Baltimore on Mondays and Fridays.

At temporary offices in Baltimore, a marketing, public relations and ticket crew tries to convince the city that the Stars are indeed its team. Or will be in the near future, when the Stars finally settle down and move to Memorial Stadium in 1986.

The players are familiar with their hotels now and have acquired a list of favorites. They are hoping the room service is adequate at the Holiday Inn in College Park, where they will stay on game nights.

"You learn where the light switch is on the walls," offensive tackle Irv Eatman said. "I like Holiday Inns, and Hiltons are nice. But after a while, you don't care as long as it has four walls and a bed."

Peterson has been away from home the most, living in a string of hotels as he tries to keep in touch with each of the four cities that house the Stars in one way or another: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and College Park. He can tell you which Ramada Inn has the best dry cleaning, which Hyatt has the best room service and which Sheraton has the best pay TV.

"The train conductors are getting to know me real well," he said.

One reason for all the confusion is a lease between the Stars and Veterans Stadium, which doesn't run out until the end of this season. The Stars were unwilling to spend the money it would have taken to get out of the commitment, and they were wary of pulling the kind of fast shuffle that made the NFL's Baltimore Colts so unpopular when they moved to Indianapolis in the middle of the night.

The front office also decided that it would be easier on the team to keep its familiar surroundings in Philadelphia rather than risk the upheavals of a full-scale move, particularly since a reprise of their league championship seems possible. One problem was either finding or building adequate facilities in this area. Another was the number of players and coaches who live and have families in New Jersey.

"We wanted to do the thing the least disruptive to the players," Peterson said. "To make a last-minute move into temporary facilities would have been hard. This way, it's no big change for them."

In the interest of stability, the Stars say the Gypsy lifestyle hasn't had much effect on the team. "I won't use that excuse, it just isn't valid," Mora said. But they blew a 17-point lead in the tie with Oakland and had four turnovers in the loss to Jacksonville, so perhaps the pace is telling.

"There is no way we should have lost to Jacksonville, but we did," wide receiver Scott Fitzkee said. "And there's no way we should have tied Oakland, but we did. So maybe all the unsettling stuff is on people's minds.

"The way we've done things so far, it seems like we're always on a bus or in a hotel room. I feel like I'm on a minor league baseball team."