A deeply concerned fellow who signs himself William E. Fulton and is eager to save baseball from a major mistake has advised everybody that Washington is a horrid baseball town and undeserving of the National League expansion franchise to which it aspires.
In a gush of unrelieved Washington-bashing, the aforesaid Fulton bad-mouthed the nation's capital as a town that won't support a major league team, a city eternally stained with the shame of neglecting and losing two American League franchises.
All of this he recently submitted in an article that appeared in the Outlook section of this newspaper, giving notice to the National League not to make the unpardonable blunder of putting a team in Washington, considering the city's past.
Fulton describes himself as a former Washingtonian now living in Los Angeles, and as a free-lance writer. But with his lame thrust against Washington, he has broken his lance in a dozen places. His assertions add up to the greatest compendium of flapdoodle ever accepted for the written page by editors of towering innocence in matters of baseball.
Fulton's fulminations against Washington reached a ludicrous crescendo when he suggested that Washington fans owe their loyalty to the Baltimore Orioles, "one of baseball's most admirable franchises. The team's success depends largely on Washington." Indeed, estimates say that 25 percent of the Orioles' attendance stems from Washington patronage.
Thus, one more example of his curious logic: Washington fans who don't love the game enough to support it in their own city have for years been eagerly making the trip to Baltimore to support baseball there and help keep that franchise from being a flop.
Also, who needs big league baseball in their own backyard, with Metro tracks bringing fans to the very door of modern 55,000-seat RFK Stadium, when true baseball lovers can aspire to the traffic-strewn, 80-mile-and-up schlep to Baltimore and back.
But as Fulton puts it, "The creation of a new Washington team would simply be another stupid effort to appease those misguided civic boosters who somehow believe that a city is not truly 'major league' without a baseball team, even it if already has Congress, the Supreme Court and the Redskins." He ignores the truth that none of those splendid assets ever hit one out of the park.
He dotes on what he considers the everlasting guilt of a city that lost two franchises. But it is a continuing canard that the Senators of 1901-1960 and 1961-1971 didn't have fan support. To the contrary, considering the quality of play, attendance was stupendous, and the crowd figures would show that Washington fans were infatuated with the game, if not with their losing team.
Only once in the 16 years before he left for Minneapolis in 1961 did Calvin Griffith give Washington fans a team that finished better than .500. And only once in the 11 years of the expansion team that followed did the Senators finish better than 500. In 1971, the late Bob Short skedaddled to Texas with the last version of his rinky dink Washington team. It could be said that for most of those years, Washington was a major league town without major league baseball.
The Washington of the 1960s and early 1970s can hardly be compared with the Washington area of today, with its expanded population, its now numerous corporations that buy season tickets and its generally affluent fandom. Fulton asserts that the biggest markets (Washington is No. 8) don't necessarily make the best baseball towns, but to tell that to the TV networks who pay the major leagues for those markets is to invite a kick in the pants. Los Angeles and New York are still the most valuable franchises.
Of all the vacuous Fulton arguments, the most bizarre is the one that suggests in the event Washington does get an expansion team, the Orioles should be indemnified "to make up for the loss of a good chunk of the gate."
Yes, and then Baltimore should be asked to refund to the new Washington franchise all those millions paid to the Orioles by D.C. fans who put 'em on life support for all those years when the Orioles were the only game within 40 miles of town. Closer is better.