- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

Ball of dreams

Sen. Jim Bunning has his baseball back.

This column reported last week that the Kentucky Republican’s most-valued possession from his Hall of Fame career was stolen from his Capitol Hill office over the Fourth of July recess — an autographed baseball from the 1957 All-Star Game, in which he was the American League’s starting and winning pitcher.

“It’s been returned — no questions asked,” says the senator of the baseball, signed by 1957 All Stars Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra and Willie Mays, to name a few. U.S. Capitol Police had been investigating the heist when the baseball suddenly reappeared this week.

As far as the delighted Mr. Bunning is concerned, the case is closed.

“I’m not even pursuing that,” he says when asked who might have swiped — and now returned — the ball.

“Some good person brought it back when they read about it and what it meant to me,” he says. “I don’t care about its value [estimated at about $10,000] to a collector. It’s a keepsake that has more sentimental value to me than anybody else in the world. It’s never going out of my family.”

Asked if the baseball would be displayed again in his office, Mr. Bunning replies “No.”

“It is in a much more secure place,” he says.

Mr. Bunning spent 17 record-setting years as a Major League Baseball pitcher. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame after becoming the second pitcher in history — Cy Young was the first — to record 1,000 strikeouts and 100 wins in both the National and American Leagues.

Senate sweepstakes

We draw your attention to a unique if not downright dishonest Capitol Hill lobbying effort by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association: paying people to write to their senators.

Sen. Jim Talent, Missouri Republican, has for years been pushing a bill to allow small-business people to purchase health insurance through their trade associations, a plan known as Association Health Plans (AHPs).

“To make a long story short, Blue Cross has a monopoly on the small-group market,” says Rich Chrismer, Mr. Talent’s communications director. “They don’t like the bill because, if signed into law, it would force them to compete and lower their prices.”

Unfortunately for Blue Cross, which is said to have spent a pretty penny to stop the AHPs, the bill is gaining momentum on Capitol Hill. It passed the House 262-162 last month and enjoys the full support of President Bush.

But leading a coalition that opposes the bill, including the AFL-CIO, Blue Cross’ latest gimmick is an anti-AHPs sweepstakes — providing a cash incentive to people if they send a Blue Cross form letter to their senator opposing AHPs.

The grand prize winner will receive $300 in cash and an all-expense-paid trip for four to Washington — a prize package worth $4,000.

Red-meat agenda

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s left-wing politics can be annoying, author Kay Hymowitz says.

For instance, while Mr. Moore used this year’s Academy Award ceremonies to claim that President Bush was a “fictitious president,” the director himself was accused of distorting the facts in his Oscar-winning “Bowling for Columbine.”

Still, Mrs. Hymowitz writes, Mr. Moore can at times be very funny — and accurate.

“In May, I went to see Moore give a talk to graduating seniors at a liberal arts college outside New York City, and it was easy to see why the kids went nuts,” she writes in City Journal, a quarterly publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute.

Mr. Moore was “funny, confident, passionate, idealistic, full of possibility.”

“As you might expect, he poked fun at conservatives, but also at liberals, those long-suffering targets of political satirists.

“‘You must have a conservative in your family — an uncle or someone,’ he said confidingly. ‘That person never loses his car keys. He has every key marked: this SUV, that SUV.’”

Liberals, he continued, are prone to bumbling and doubt: “Our side goes, ‘Do you know where my car keys are? … Where do you want to go to dinner?’ ‘Gee, I don’t know. Where do you want to go to dinner?’

“Right-wingers go” — Mr. Moore slammed his fist on the podium — “‘Get in the car! We’re going to Sizzler!’”

Future leaders

The 55th biennial College Republican National Convention is officially under way in Washington — the CR’s largest convention ever with more than 1,000 students participating in weekend activities.

President Bush’s chief strategist, Karl Rove, will be the gala dinner’s keynote speaker and word has it he will receive a CR service award. Among the conventions other speakers: Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi, and Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected].

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