Jack Kent Cooke, who has made no secret of his efforts to bring baseball back to Washington, yesterday called San Francisco Giants owner Bob Lurie to express his interest in buying the Giants.
Lurie told The Washington Post he had spoken to Cooke twice, at baseball's winter meetings in December and yesterday. Both times Cooke, who has also been at the forefront of Washington's push for an expansion baseball team, was interested in buying the Giants. Lurie did not offer financial details.
"He called this morning to say, 'I'm still interested, and what's going on?' " Lurie said, adding that he told Cooke he wants to keep the team in the San Francisco area and had taken it off the market. He indicated he would reassess the situation at the end of this season.
"He said, 'I might call you again.' I know he's interested . . . He's anxious to get a team," Lurie said.
Cooke, who owns the Washington Redskins, said he would have "not a bloody thing" to say.
Lurie and Roy Eisenhardt, who owns the Oakland A's, have expressed doubts that the San Francisco Bay area can support two teams, and baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth has indicated that area is a likely exception to his general policy against movement of franchises. Although the A's reportedly are for sale, Cooke could not move them to Washington because another American League team, the Orioles, are only 40 miles away in Baltimore. No such problem would exist with the National League Giants.
But Lurie said negotiations are under way to keep the team in the bay area, possibly in San Jose. It is generally believed the price range for an existing team is $30 million to $50 million.
One scenario: Cooke would buy the Giants from Lurie, move them to D.C., and serve as a middleman to help Lurie obtain partial interest in the A's.
"He (Cooke) asked me a question along those lines, yes," said Bob Howsam, president and chief executive officer of the Cincinnati Reds. Howsam stressed he was simply a sounding board for Cooke's idea and not proposing a potential deal.
Lurie said he had not been approached about that possibility but said, "The A's have put out some stories that they're looking for partners" and "people who want teams all conjure up scenarios and they want to be a part of them."
This scenario would have several attractions: it would enable Lurie to remain involved in baseball in the bay area, and it would help eliminate an apparently unhealthy competition between the teams.
"There needs to probably be one strong team there," Howsam said of the bay area. "To me, they are both fine people (in Oakland and San Francisco) and fine groups and it could make for a tremendously strong team."
Groups in two cities competing with Washington for baseball teams, Denver and Tampa, both have been reported to be negotiating to buy the A's. Denver, Tampa and Washington are considered among the front-runners for a team if baseball expands.
Whereas once there was only Cooke as a potential expansion owner, the field now is becoming crowded. This week, former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn said he would be interested in joining an ownership group here, and it has been learned that two such groups exist.
One group reportedly comprises James Clark, owner of George Hyman Construction; Luther Hodges, chairman and chief executive officer of National Bank of Washington; and developer Oliver T. Carr of Carr Construction. Clark and Carr did not return calls and Hodges said his only involvement is in a ticket drive in which his bank and others are cooperating with the D.C. Baseball Commission.
The other group reportedly comprises Tysons Corner developer Theodore N. Lerner and Robert Schattner, a dentist and inventor.
Lerner and Schattner were partners in a bid to bring a team here in 1976, and Schattner was part of a group that tried to move the San Diego Padres here in 1973.
"Things are brewing behind the scenes quietly," Schattner said yesterday. "There really is nothing to say."
Publicity, Schattner said of a potential deal, "may untie it before we can tie it . . . we've been looking into this thing a while."
He said he had not been working through the D.C. Baseball Commission or Cooke. "I've never met Jack Kent Cooke, although I've seen him on TV," he said. Aikens Is Waived From News Services
TORONTO, May 9 -- The Toronto Blue Jays have put Willie Aikens on waivers for purposes of releasing him unconditionally.
He was acquired from the Kansas City Royals last year while suspended and serving a jail term for a drug conviction. This season, he hit .200 and lost his job as the team's left-handed designated hitter to Len Matuszek, who is batting .250.
Aikens had been designated for assignment April 30 when pitcher Jim Clancy came off the disabled list.