Baltimore, Boogie and baseball: It's a natural project

MIKE LITTWIN

June 19, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

I can't get past the introductions.

It's 1992, say in Honolulu, at a meeting of baseball owners, and you overhear this conversation:

"Peter O'Malley, I'd you like you to meet Boogie Weinglass. Boogie, Peter."

They tell me this is possible. They tell me that Boogie, the most Diner Guy of all the Diner Guys, wants to buy the Orioles from Eli Jacobs, the least Diner Guy possible. Nobody ever thought of Eli as a Boogie (or a Shrevie or a Modell, for that matter). Eli's nickname, I'm guessing, is Eli, or Mr. Jacobs. Come on, this is the guy who says he's selling the team because he wants more time to read.

Mickey Rourke played Boogie in the movie. Let's say Eli is played by Jeff Goldblum.

A quick scene from the sale negotiation as Barry Levinson (soon to be a part owner) might shoot it:

Boogie: I'll have fries. With extra gravy.

Eli: That'll be $150 million.

Did I mention Boogie has a ponytail? He's a 49-year-old man with a long, silver ponytail.

He wears jeans, sneakers and a black T-shirt. Which is perfect. They say that in baseball, you should have some little boy in you. It looks like Boogie has about a ton of adolescent in him. That's the ideal chemistry for a baseball owner -- you're young enough that you believe in magic and romance, only you're a grown-up so you have your own checkbook. Boogie has deep pockets. I hope they're deep enough.

Just try to picture Boogie in baseball's button-down boardroom. It is, as Fenwick would say, a smile. It's enough to make you smile for a week.

What could be better than a Diner Guy owning the Orioles? Would that be Baltimore enough for you? OK, he lives in Aspen most of the year and he probably used to date Claudine Longet and he made his money out of town as founder of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc., but he is Baltimore.

Did you see the movie? Of course, you saw it. You've memorized it. Your next-door neighbor was an extra in it. It's the movie where the world met Baltimore, circa mid-'50s. I saw this great line from the movie in a Gentlemen's Quarterly piece written about Boogie. He's talking to Bagel about what he's going to do the rest of his life: "If you don't have good dreams, you got nightmares." A dream of owning the Orioles is not the worst one he could have come up with. It's the one your get right after giving up the one about playing third base for the Orioles.

This is the real Boogie, who's a movie character, anyway. The most amazing thing about him is that nobody had to make him up. You saw who he was in the movie, and then he went out and made all that money selling bell-bottom jeans and miniskirts.

Imagine what he could do as owner of the Orioles. First, there's the stadium (suggested name: Hilltop Diner Stadium). It would be the only open-all-night stadium in America. The only stadium you could get eggs and matzo brie at 4 a.m. I think he'd do a little work on the concession stands, maybe put in stools and a couple of booths, a place to get a malted, and, of course, a line of clothing.

And if he buys the team -- no one knows the asking price, but we're hearing numbers that start at $120 million and go as high as $180 million -- we don't just get the irrepressible Boogie, we get big-time Hollywood director Barry Levinson, too. He is supposedly interested in becoming a minority owner, which gives one pause, even if you're just thinking about the highlights film. You know they're going to film DiamondVision in Deluxe Panavision, and there'll be cameo appearances from Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. What do you think of Danny Devito doing the national anthem?

If the baseball folks are having reservations about Boogie, Barry should win them over. Commissioner Fay Vincent was once president and CEO of Columbia Pictures. Fay to Barry: "Ciao, babe, you're beautiful. Don't ever change, unless we're talking about your second baseman."

Who would you rather see visiting the owner's box -- Dick Cheney or Goldie Hawn, John Sununu or Bert Reynolds?

Personally, I'd love to see Mickey Rourke as the new general manager. Call him Mr. Mickey, who might say: "Luck is the residue of, what are we talkin' here? You want me to punch you in the mouth?"

Boogie is a legend in Baltimore, a legend in Aspen, a legend in the movies. Why not baseball?

The best reason is that it's too good to be true. Things this good never happen. When things get really good, Gregg Olson throws an unhittable curveball that bounces in the dirt and past Jamie Quirk and the Orioles lose to Toronto.

Boogie says he wants to spend money, like the real ballclubs, to bring in players and put the Orioles in a position to win. He's not looking for an investment. He's looking to have fun. And no one would ever have to ask Boogie if he had plans to move the team. Where's he going to take it, Fells Point?

This is a guy who likes to party, and this town's got a team that needs some definite cheering up. I say, bring him on.

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