Said in a column that appeared in TheEvening...

RUSSELL BAKER

April 09, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

RUSSELL BAKER said in a column that appeared in The

Evening Sun yesterday that pundits must write one column a year "waxing about baseball" to maintain their membership in the Association of Newspaper Columnists and Allied Journalists Licensed To Traffic in Profundities.

So that's why I haven't been getting the ANCAJLTP newsletters! haven't written a baseball column since 1972, when I prophesied that if the crazy new idea of building baseball and football stadiums in Camden Yards went ahead, it would cost the taxpayers $500 million.

"That's half billion dollars!" one of my bosses exclaimed, showing off his arithmetical expertise, a rare thing in journalists. "Give it a rest, Theo! Leave baseball to the experts! Next thing you know, you'll be predicting some player will make a million dollars a year! Hahahaha!"

So I quit waxing about baseball. I didn't mind. I'm not really a fan. I like what the old Baltimore Colt, Alex Hawkins, said. "I don't go to baseball games," he said, "because I can't tell when they're over."

One reason I don't write about baseball is that I believe politics is the national pastime. (Especially that brand of politics in which everybody says nasty things about everybody else.) Somehow no matter what I start out to write about, I always seem to end up writing about politics. Especially presidential politics. Especially its trivia.

Example: On Jan. 14, 1942, Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis sent a handwritten letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking him, "What you have in mind as to whether professional baseball should continue to operate" during World War II.

President Roosevelt replied, "I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before."

What would a baseball column be without statistics? See if you recognize these famous numbers: 61; 56; 2,130; 19,845. Those are, most home runs hit in a season (Roger Maris, 1961); longest consecutive games hitting streak (Joe DiMaggio, 1941); most consecutive games played (Lou Gehrig, 1925-1939), and most stories about a baseball stadium in a newspaper in one week (The Sun, April 1-7, 1992).

The cost of the new stadium, counting debt service, is, according to The Sun's Mark Hyman and Sandy Banisky, $519.3 million, and that's without anything for football.

Finally, why do out-of-town journalists keep saying Camden Yards is in "the heart" of Baltimore. The heart is near the center of whatever it is it is the heart of. Spatially speaking, as a glance at the map shows, the center of the city is between Charles Center and Mount Vernon Place.

D8 I hope this wax job restores my ANCAJLTP membership.

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