Joseph L. Allbritton, chairman of the board of Riggs National Corporation, met with a group of about 20 Washington-area investors yesterday to discuss an effort to obtain a major league baseball expansion team for the city, then issued a statement that all but removed himself from the leadership of such a group.
In his statement, Allbritton did say he is willing to join efforts with other groups that might try to bring a major league baseball team to Washington.
Allbritton's statement read, in part: "As to the financing, I am not, nor have ever been, a contender to own a ball club or to engage in any competition whatsoever among competing groups for leadership in any such campaign, which would seem to me wholly inimical to the interests of the city.
"As a result of the exploratory discussion today, however, it seems to me that the viable likelihood of such broadly representative financial effort materializing promptly may be questionable, and I accordingly plan no further moves on the subject.
"I would like to emphasize that my support for baseball in Washington remains intact and I would gladly participate in anyone else's productive effort that would bring that goal to fruition."
There has been speculation that Allbritton might be interested in talking with the group led by construction and development specialists Oliver T. Carr and James Clark. Robert Smith, son of Charles E. Smith, one of the area's biggest names in development, also has been linked to this group. Robert Smith attended yesterday's meeting, but did not return calls to his office.
Others who have announced they want to bring a team to the city are Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Washington Redskins, and businessmen Ted Lerner and Robert Schattner.
Among those present at yesterday's meeting were John Hechinger, president of Hechinger's home improvement center chain; Walter Washington, former mayor of the District; Councilman Frank Smith, chairman of the D.C. Baseball Commission; Mandell Ourisman, president of Ourisman automobile dealerships; Robert Gray, who owns a Washington public relations firm; Robert Pincus, president of the D.C. National Bank, and Lawrence B. Taishoff, president of Broadcasting magazine.
Meanwhile, the D.C. Baseball Commission has sold 7,432 season tickets to a nonexistent baseball team, meaning $4,213,944 has been deposited in escrow accounts in area banks, according to Morris Siegel, consultant to the commission. The commission is hoping to sell 10,000 tickets to show strong fan support to baseball owners.