Not quite on bended knee, I bought a ticket yesterday to 10 games for whenever major league baseball has the good sense to return to Washington. I was first in line, and last in line.
What I actually did, at the Riggs branch a three-wood and pitching wedge from the White House, was open a savings account that would be applied to a ticket for the Presidential Opener in RFK Stadium and nine other games in 1987. Or for next year, if by some miracle baseball expands sooner than expected -- and here. Or Jack Kent Cooke buys an existing franchise.
I anted up for the minimum, $70, in part because that's all baseball has given Washington lately. The least possible consideration, or the back of its hand. Had the commissioner, Peter Pompous, been in the neighborhood, I would have considered crumpling my account card and whistling it his way, tie-high and tight.
Lots of clear-thinking Washingtonians figure what I did amounts to folly, at 5 1/2 percent. They reason that's pledging money for something that's at least far away, and possibly farfetched. Besides, why beg after the way Peter Pompous treated us more than a month ago?
His arrogance is included in the help-bring-baseball-back-to-Washington brochures at many area banks in the District, Maryland and Virginia where accounts such as mine may be opened. His words March 1: "The most visible way (to show fan support) is through commitments, hard commitments, for season tickets . . . We're going to be very pragmatic and say, 'Let's see it.'
"There may be talk that there is (support in Washington), but I haven't seen anything yet . . . There are people (in other cities) doing things. It's up to you . . . "
For a few moments just now, the seething will cease. I want to emphasize that I agree with nearly all of what Peter Pompous has said and done since becoming commissioner Oct. 1. I applaud his stance on drugs. I admire his vow to force those paying his salary, the owners, to open their books if that is needed in labor negotiations with the players. I toast his saying the players ought to help elect the commissioner. I wasn't thrilled at his allowing Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle to hustle gambling and baseball, but understand his thinking.
Simply, Peter Pompous is a tough fellow to flog.
Except on one emotional issue: baseball in Washington. For once, this Peter principle is ill-conceived, demeaning, insulting, shortsighted, stupid and generally unworthy of the man who made the seemingly impossible Los Angeles Olympics work.
You should remember, Peter, that Washington is not a two-time loser with baseball. It's baseball that lost when Senators 1 beat it to Minnesota in 1961 and Senators 2 slinked off to Texas in 1972. Think not? Plod on.
From 1947 through 1968, no Senator team -- original or expansion -- finished higher than fifth in the American League. The 1969 gang of Frank Howard (48 homers and 111 RBI), Dick Bosman (12-5 record, 2.19 ERA), Del Unser (.286) and Paul Casanova (dozens of foul balls, one to me) finished fourth, 10 games over .500, and Senators attendance increased nearly 70 percent.
In real numbers, the cumulative crowd for 75 dates in 1969 was 918,106. This, Peter, is more fans than the Minnesota Twins have drawn in nine of their last 13 years. It is more fans than the Texas Rangers drew their first two years after leaving Washington.
Now, a new commissioner anxious to please as much of the public as possible, and with an eye cocked toward Congress, might have been generous to Washington. He might have admitted that the men who made off with our teams did not fare fantastically in the long term. He might have noted our history of giving bad baseball more than an even break.
He knows that about one Orioles customer in five is a Washingtonian, and might have reasoned that if so many go so far, the potential for a winning team here would be staggering. That might have caused him to rank Washington first among expansion equals.
It did not.
Commissioner Pompous lumped us with the new kids on the baseball block, with parts of Florida that probably were swampland when Walter Johnson, Goose Goslin and so many other Senators were the fulcrum of their sport, with a few other areas also bright enough eventually to act casually toward awful teams.
He said: "I like the market. It's the seventh- or eighth-largest. And a great TV market . . . I rode the subway. Big improvement. That's all."
Baseball has treated Washington as an exclusive club might a charter member suddenly out of favor. It claims nonsupport and kicks him out for someone newer -- and richer, this after he has recently paid the highest dues of anyone (the Senators' ticket prices were the highest in baseball under Bob Short).
Years later, when the club needs more new money and the charter member inquires about readmission, he is asked: What have you done for us recently? Hell, the poor guy answers, what have you allowed me to do?
Most reasonable people would walk away from anything or anyone so snooty.
Not unless your answer is yes to the question: Is Washington better off without major league baseball?
The chance for a team of our own is worth some humiliation. I figure if we don't give a good account of ourselves with these ticket/savings accounts, it will be easier for baseball to dismiss us again. My seats are in the lower stands, near the third-base dugout, I hope.