- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002

If we're looking for an iota of idiocy that can serve as a microcosm of the larger lunkheadedness prevalent these days in baseball, how about this?
On the evening of May7, the Baltimore Orioles presented fans arriving at Camden Yards for their game against the Cleveland Indians with a handsome Orioles duffel bag. It was a nice gesture except for one thing: Such bags are not allowed in ballparks under what the O's called "our new security rules as mandated by Major League Baseball."
Which begs this question about the bags: Were fans who accepted them summarily ejected from the premises sort of a "take it and git" proposition?
And if the paying customers weren't booted out, should they have been? Nobody wants to take any chances with security nowadays. Or should the O's have stuck with safer giveaway items, something innocuous like refrigerator magnets or pocket schedules?
No, that's no good either, because 30,000 or 35,000 magnets obviously could do terrible things to the Earth's gravitational pull, and schedules might subject fans to more games than would be healthy for those who remember when the Orioles were the Orioles before Peter Angelos fractured the franchise.
(Incidentally, whatever happened to giving away lingerie something Bob Short's Washington Senators and "Pantyhose King" Oscar Molomot used to do with alarming frequency before their lamented departure in 1971? If the O's care to revive the practice, they could even toss in a picture of Joe Namath for good measure.)
But duffel bags, or "duffle," as the Orioles spelled it? The front-office genius who came up with this stunt should be forced to wear one of them over his head for the rest of the season. And that could be a blessing, considering the team's prospects this season.
In a word, the idea was
"Ridiculous," said reader David Martosko of Alexandria, who collected one of the bags when his favorite team, the Indians, invaded Charm City recently. "When we entered the park, we were frisked and told, 'No duffel bags allowed.' Then they gave us a duffel bag. I half expected to find some contraband inside, like maybe marijuana."
For recipients who might have been confused, the Orioles included a note signed by Joe Greeley, director of retail operations, that stated, "We hope you enjoy our gift in other aspects of your daily lives."
Gosh, I wonder what they'll give away on their next homestand. How about little bottles of booze for all fans under 21? Or better yet, contraceptives for all single patrons?
This would be funny if it didn't reflect the stupidity and short-sightedness of too many baseball people. I mean, somebody had to invent such travesties as the designated hitter, postseason night games on weekends, artificial turf and lengthening the time between half-innings to permit more TV commercials. I don't recall reading that any of these was mentioned when the game's Founding Fathers scribbled down the first rules in the 1840s.
And I'm not even going to mention contraction.
Or the fact that the national pastime has been unrepresented in the Nation's Capital for nearly a third of a century.
Or that MLB's inexplicably all-powerful czar wants to shut down the highly competitive Minnesota Twins, a move that theoretically would create more fans for his own club, the Milwaukee Brewers.
Or that baseball's ninth work stoppage in 30 years lies directly ahead while greedy owners and players fuss and fulminate.
Or that the average guy needs to apply for a loan before taking the family to a game so that players who bat .230, strike out 175 times a season and don't hustle can make more in a week than Williams, DiMaggio and Musial made in a season.
It's also funny that baseball people sit in their executive offices, wring their hands and commission expensive studies to determine why so many fans have tuned out. A better question: Why haven't all of them?
These days it's hard to be a fan and getting harder. By the time baseball figures out where it went wrong, will anybody care?
The old game cherished by our fathers and grandfathers has become something decidedly ungrand. How many problems does baseball have? You might say a whole duffel bag full.


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