BALTIMORE, NOV. 13 -- St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill made Baltimore the latest stop on his city-shopping tour yesterday, meeting with local political and business leaders and inspecting the site of the city's proposed baseball and football stadiums at Camden Yards downtown.

But Bidwill and Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herb Belgrad tried to convince those assembled at a news conference that this visit was merely a preliminary one, and that officials from the Stadium Authority have not made him an offer.

"There's been no purpose or intent of discussing a lease to negotiate, or to discuss moving the Cardinals," Belgrad said. "That was not the intention."

Bidwill met for 45 minutes with Maryland Gov. Donald Schaefer and for 20 minutes with Baltimore mayor-elect Kurt Schmoke, both of whom expressed a desire for Bidwill to move the Cardinals to Baltimore.

"Outside of that, not a great deal more has occurred," said Bidwill, who also said he has not ruled out the possibility of staying in St. Louis. "I went through part of downtown Baltimore. It certainly has changed."

Declining to name specifics, Bidwill said a number of factors will be taken into account before he decides whether to keep the Cardinals in St. Louis or move them to any one of a number of cities. He has already visited Phoenix, Jacksonville and Memphis, and said yesterday it was "possible" other cities could be in the running.

But Bidwill said he wouldn't keep any city, including St. Louis, hanging needlessly, though a choice won't be made "today {or} next week.

"If a decision is going to be made, one way or another, as soon as it can be made, it should be made," he said.

Bidwill has until Jan. 15 to inform the league if he is going to move the Cardinals franchise, which came to St. Louis from Chicago in 1960. He said he has spoken with a number of owners, in conversations that were "not necessarily initiated by me," about moving the franchise.

Any franchise shift must be approved by 21 of the league's other 27 team owners.

Bidwill did not say yesterday what he wants in a new stadium, although he said a downtown stadium in Baltimore probably could work. The Maryland legislature has approved $235 million for construction at Camden Yards.

"The experience in St. Louis at Busch Stadium is that a downtown site is a workable situation, so I would anticipate this is a workable situation," he said.

Though Bidwill said he still is considering all options, it seems highly unlikely he will keep the team in St. Louis. Echoing the cries of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, Bidwill said his Busch Stadium facility no longer can compete with other stadiums in a league where the average attendance has risen to 68,000.

"I've lived in St. Louis for 27 years," he said. "I've enjoyed living in St. Louis. It's my home. It's a lovely city and I would not enjoy leaving."

But "we started three years ago in saying the present facility was too small," he said. "We still believe that. We just can't keep up."

Bidwill rejected a proposal two weeks ago for a 70,500-seat, open-air facility in Maryland Heights, Mo., a suburb near the St. Louis airport. He said yesterday that St. Louis could probably do nothing before the Jan. 15 deadline.

"It is highly unlikely that a stadium will be built in St. Louis. I doubt that that's possible," he said.

Thursday, Tempe and Phoenix, along with Arizona State University, offered Bidwill a $10 million package of ticket sales, loge seats, parking and concessions based on an average of 50,000 for a total of nine games at ASU's 70,021-seat Sun Devil Stadium.

Jacksonville has given Bidwill a 10-year ticket guarantee worth $115.8 million.

Though Belgrad did not answer questions yesterday, he tried to differentiate the circumstances of a potential Cardinals move to Baltimore from those that led to the Colts' departure to Indianapolis in 1984.

"The clear distinction between what happened to the Colts and Baltimore," he told the Baltimore Evening Sun Friday, "and what is happening with the Cardinals, is that the mayor {of Baltimore} and the business community were speaking directly to {Colts owner Robert} Irsay, developing proposals to the very last minute.

"Whereas in St. Louis, it does not appear that they are speaking to Mr. Bidwill, but are speaking to the commissioner and speaking to the press. We are proceeding on the assumption that what we have been told is accurate, that he {Bidwill} will not be playing next season in St. Louis."

And Bidwill said reports that he told Cardinals players not to buy property in the St. Louis area stemmed from a "light moment" including quarterback Neil Lomax, after Lomax had publicly said he was unsure whether to purchase a house in St. Louis.

"It was a very prudent business decision not to buy the house," Bidwill said. "It was uncertain."