Overlooked in the coverage of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's trip to Chicago for the opening of Comiskey Park II was mention of a significant member of his entourage -- Blast owner Ed Hale.
Hale originally got into soccer as an entree to someday owning an NFL franchise in his hometown of Baltimore. Some see Hale's invitation to join the governor as a sign that Ed has moved up in the pecking order among the aspirants to an NFL expansion franchise here since New Yorker Bob Tisch bought half of the Giants.
"I assume I have," Hale says. "The governor and I talked about a lot of things and football was one of them.
"I'd love to own a team here. I grew up worshiping the Colts and John Unitas. I never met John until the other evening. I took my two daughters to a restaurant and John was there with his son, Joey. I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes.
"I'm afraid Baltimore is handicapped because we don't have the corporate support they have in some other cities," Hale said. "Once a franchise is awarded to Baltimore, the fans have to put up or shut up. We're going to need the rank and file to commit to season tickets and stay with it at least five years while the team is built up. It's going to take a state-wide effort."
Some wonder if Hale, owner of a shipping business, has the money for an NFL team. But one insider who knows him and the league is confident Hale can handle it.
"You don't have to be a super-millionaire to own an NFL team," the man says. "Hale is an Al Davis, a street smart guy who came up from nothing. Davis started as an assistant coach in the league and now he owns a franchise [the Los Angeles Raiders]. Ed would need a lot of partners, but he's a smart operator. He certainly has a love for Baltimore and pro football."
If Hale were to get a franchise he'd want to talk to Cleveland's Ernie Accorsi about being general manager. Hale also says that if the Bart Starr group, of which Unitas is a member, should "fall apart," he'd love to have Unitas involved with him.
Of the new Comiskey Park, where the Orioles will play the first ever night game tonight, Hale says simply: "It's a neat ballpark."
* Aside from the matter of where Rocket Ismail would wind up, there was almost no interest in yesterday's NFL draft among Baltimore sports fans I talked with over the past week. After all, our town has now gone through seven seasons without a team.
If there is comparative indifference to pro football here, nationally the NFL is more popular than ever. This past season for the second year in a row the NFL shattered attendance records. The 17,665,671 who attended games were the most in the league's 71-year history. Preseason games, which were anathema to Baltimoreans, averaged 48,455.
* Twenty-two years ago tomorrow Mike Cuellar and Detroit's Denny McLain, who would tie for the Cy Young Award, hooked up in a classic pitching duel at Memorial Stadium. Both went the distance, the O's winning, 1-0, in 10 innings. The attendance was 5,342. Today the Orioles average 30,000-plus per date.
* Orioles fans deserve a salute for the gracious way they cheered Texas' Nolan Ryan upon his exit here Saturday after shutting out the O's and striking out 10 in 7 1/3 innings. The future Hall of Famer deserved the applause but the fans here over the years have not been known for recognizing excellence in visiting athletes.
* Did Ismail do the right thing in bypassing the NFL and signing to play in Canada for four years for $26.2 million? Of course he did. As Jim Steffen, Detroit Lions defensive back from the Unitas era, put it not too long ago: "We played for the love of the game. Today's players play for the love of the money."
* Before the George Foreman-Evander Holyfield fight this past weekend, most people predicted one of two scenarios: no contest, with Foreman being embarrassed, or George getting in a big punch early and shocking the sports world. Nobody predicted what did happen, Foreman lasting the distance and making it interesting.
Foreman's success against the champion makes you wonder about Holyfield. If he couldn't finish a fat, 42-year-old guy who was out of the game for 10 years, what chance will he have against Mike Tyson?