So what are you getting for your money as the price goes up?

April 01, 2001|By Milton Bates

DREARY WINTER gone, I found my stout septuagenarian sidekick, Fats Drobnak, soaking up the early spring sun on the Canton waterside promenade. Fair April looms, I said, bringing All Fools' Day and the opening game tomorrow at Camden Yards. You, a baseball aficionado, will surely be there, yes?

"Fishin? That ain't for me. Not enuf action. The game? I'm a no-show."

I sense you misunderstand in part.

But why forego Opening Day hoopla and the unveiling of our much changed Birds? Puzzling.

"Ain't no puzzle. Mostly only got double-S coming in these days an' my ponies runnin' slower than ever. Easy for the three-piece suiters, but me findin' the what-with to pay the parking tab, decent seat, an' buy a coupla dogs and brews is gettin' tougher. I don't fill up too easy, ya know."

That's quite apparent. But what's "double-S"?

"Social Security, which that gang in charge over in D.C. now is lookin' to mess with while the market's tankin'. If I want, I can gamble with my own dough. Bum idea."

Fats, we're talking baseball, not politics. Do you like the O's chances following their refurbishment?

"How'm I 'spose to clock 'em when I can't even cash a two-buck show ticket lately? An' speakin' of stocks, them pickers is lookin' worse than the touts at Pimlico. Worse of all, Bush's boys tryin' to guess 10 years out. Readin' the future, thas for psychics."

Again you stray, friend. Back to the Birds, please.

"Well, Mussina, he's in pin stripes, an' Belle, he's prolly in a hot tub, which ain't helpin' him but might actual help the team.

"Still, the rookies done good in Flarda, which is no easy place to do good in lately. But games down there don't count, just like the votes."

A jaundiced view. Am I to gather you regard our chance of grabbing the gonfalon in this year's fall classic as minimal?

"Ya gather wrong. What I'm sayin' is predictin' ain't simple. Last time we won the World Serious was back in '83, but lotta people forget '89 when Frank Robby was manager. There was a hustler for ya. Them rookies that year came outta nowhere and missed by a whisker. An' who'da thought them Ravens would win it all? But they did.

Do you not think Mr. Angelos has meddled too much?

"Look, him bein' from Hollantown an' all, I ain't gonna put the knock on 'im. Besides, it's his wallet he's openin'. Lotta people say you got deep pockets but short arms. But Angelos, yeah, plenny times he'd spring for too much."

Then today's players are much overpaid?

"Look, ya askin' the wrong guy. Take that hotdog we wuz talkin' 'bout. I 'member in the `30s walkin' from Eastern an' Grundy to Lombard an' Lloyd to get one at Hymer's Deli, way better'n the ballpark, with kraut an' soda. All for a nickel."

Your ancient culinary reflections do not seem relevant somehow.

"No? Well, try this. From '21 through '27, the O's in the International won seven pennants in a row. Never done before or since, an' Jack Dunn's payroll was 50 thou."

So?

"So, do the 'rithmetic. Last year, Angelos gave that Belle guy the same money for jus' two at-bats, which he mighta fanned both times, as Dunnie paid his whole team of champs for a whole year. Gotta tell ya, those numbers booglas my mind. Ya know what I'm sayin?"

Milton Bates writes from Canton.

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