Say, Fay, stick to the few things you know anything about

John Steadman

April 01, 1991|By John Steadman

Imagine Fay Vincent, with so little to do as the commissioner of baseball that he telephones the governor of Maryland, one William Donald Schaefer, who is having a bad year, to talk about -- of all things -- an office complex outside the new stadium facility.

Vincent ought to be trying to do more for the game he represents than imposing his blundering persona upon something else he knows nothing about. And he must realize Schaefer has more important things to do with his time than fielding a call from a no-hit, no-field sports executive whose career so far is devoid of accomplishment.

It's obvious Vincent believes Schaefer is a lame duck, or a jellyfish, who will be so impressed with hearing from a sports official that he will be awe-struck and give in to the request from a commissioner who has never even seen the facility that is being erected in downtown Baltimore, at what used to be the Camden Railroad Yards.

The reason the commissioner wanted to contact Schaefer was to lobby against permitting one of his own agencies, the Maryland Stadium Authority, from making money for the deprived, abused taxpayers of this state. It's Schaefer's call. Does he want to sacrifice income or be on good terms with the commissioner, who doesn't contribute to our quality of life?

Besides, what Vincent wants, no doubt at the behest of the Baltimore Orioles, is to play a game of political pepper. Baseball should not be mixed with church and state. Every Marylander realizes the Orioles are being provided with a new park at a cost of $105 million and the team isn't contributing one cent to the land clearing or construction.

The Orioles also decided to keep the hideous warehouse, once used by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, instead of taking it down. This is the eyesore structure, devoid of personality, that is 7 1/2 stories high, 1,100 feet long and a mere 51 feet wide. Schaefer was dubious about keeping the building. Maybe he should have listened to his instincts and had it hit with a wrecking ball so the space could be used for parking cars.

Schaefer knew the building wasn't historic, as some of the uninitiated tried to say. And he had to realize the 51-foot width would not be conducive to creating a proper working area. By comparison, it is 9 feet less than the distance between home plate and the pitcher's mound.

What the Maryland Stadium Authority hopes to do is use the south end of the warehouse, along with building an "elbow" extension, for the Maryland Highway Administration, which wants to rent space rather than go elsewhere to pay a private landowner for use of another property.

It's impossible to spoil the warehouse, considering what it looks like, and, in truth, the proposed addition is so far removed from the baseball park that it would not be visible to the spectators. Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the stadium authority, favors the plan. Of course, Schaefer ought to be interested in generating income for Maryland through a lease arrangement that would be handled by the Maryland Economic Development Corp.

The Orioles don't own the stadium or the warehouse. They are going to be playing in a park built to their own specifications, while the city and state absorbs all costs. No team in sports has such a sweetheart deal. Little wonder other major-league clubs are envious.

It's pertinent to establish the cost of keeping the warehouse. To renovate the interior for the Orioles' use -- some 285,000 feet of floor space -- means an expenditure of $12.6 million. To prepare the exterior -- cleaning the bricks, putting in new windows and topping the structure with a modern roof -- adds another $3.3 million.

A final purchase price for the warehouse, a point of contention between the former owners and the stadium authority, is probably going to be upward of $11 million. So now we come back to Vincent getting involved in matters that are frankly none of his business. If he has nothing else to do, he ought to outlaw the DH rule, or go watch wrestling. Don't bother the governor, who has more important things to address.

Marylanders resent outside interference. It happened in the political ballgame when Franklin Roosevelt tried to knock Millard Tydings out of the Senate office box, but the ploy backfired. Schaefer gets paid to make decisions on our economy, not Vincent, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., and is on a joy ride. Plus he's a non-contributor to Maryland.

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