TEAM OF MY OWN? WATCH OUT, FOLKS!

First, I fire the organ player.

Hey. It’s my team. My rules.

I fire the organ player, because organs are for church, carnivals and ’60s groups such as Paul Revere and The Raiders. Which might be a good name for my team. The Raiders. Or maybe The Rough Riders. I’ll tell you this much: my team will not be named after a bird. The Orioles? The Cardinals? What were those owners smoking?

Also, no peanuts. Go throw shells on someone else’s carpet.

My team. My rules.

Oh, the possibilities! If I owned a baseball team? It’s like Tevye in
“Fiddler on the Roof”:

If I owned a ball club

Ladadeedadeedadeeda deedledeedledum

All day long I’d trade those lousy bums

If I was an owner man . . .

It’s everybody’s fantasy, right? Isn’t that why rotisseries leagues are so big? You get to be the boss. Also, you get that owner’s box in the stadium. Mine would have a basketball hoop inside it. For rain delays. And a bowling alley. And a cable dish. And homemade ice cream machines.

And before each game, all fans would be allowed to come through my box and say hi, the way you do in a neighborhood restaurant. Hey. I want to keep you coming back. Especially if we lose a doubleheader to Seattle.

Is Seattle still a franchise?

I guess we should talk about players.

First of all, all my players get multi-year contracts. Every one. But the salary is determined year to year. You have a great season last year, we pay you for it this year. You stink last year, we don’t give you a raise, maybe we cut your pay. I have a startling piece of news for professional baseball players: the rest of the world has been working this way for years.

Get used to it.

My team. My rules.

The uniforms? Whoa, baby. None of this stretch-nylon, body- clinging business. This is baseball, not “Swan Lake.” I want my men to be comfortable. Loose. I say baggy shorts and tank tops. Color-coordinated, of course. And if a player slides, and his body gets covered with dirt? No problem. We have a guy with a garden hose to spray him down. Can’t you just see Kirk Gibson going
“Arrrrrggghhhaaa!” after sliding home and enjoying a cool hose shower?

By the way. I get Gibson.

I get Gibson, Alan Trammell, Roberto Alomar, Jim Abbott. Guys who love the game. Guys who show up early. I don’t get anyone who says, “I want to have my own record company someday.”

Minds on the game, boys.

That’s my motto.

Did I mention the no autograph-no play rule? Wizard of Westwood?

That’s right. No autographs, no play. Hey. Who’s paying for tickets around here?

Of course, I also have a rule that all autographs must begin with a name, such as “To Bobby” or “To Janey.” That way, the sleazeballs who collect signatures to sell them will be out of luck.

Also, no doubleheaders.

Who came up with that idea, anyhow?

All kids come free on their birthdays. That’s a new rule. All grandparents, too. The national anthem will be sung by the Beach Boys, every night, until they get tired of it, and then Natalie Cole gets it. The scoreboard will flash trivia questions each inning, along with highlight clips from great moments in baseball history. Any night my team loses, the crowd can stay after the game and watch “Blazing Saddles” on the big screen. Just to feel better.

Ernie Harwell is my announcer.

Bob Costas does my TV work.

John Wooden is my manager. Hey. I know he was a basketball coach. So what? How hard of a job do you think this is? Righties against lefties. Lefties against righties. Nine guys in the lineup. Pull the pitcher if he’s tired.

Besides, Wooden would never kick dirt on an umpire. Nor would he fall asleep in the dugout.

Any player who dumps ice water on a journalist is fired, and must turn over all his money to that journalist immediately.

Personal rule. A 15-second clock?

Of course, the game is bigger than just my team. Which is why I would address the problems of baseball immediately.
* 1) Money. No problem. I vote salary cap. The players don’t like it, let ’em run track.
* 2) Length of game. No problem. All weekend games are played during the days
— sorry, but Saturday night is for movies, not baseball — and all World Series games begin at 5:30 p.m, good enough for adults and kids. TV doesn’t like it, let ’em televise track.
* 3) As for the workings of the game itself, my motto is “Let’s go boys. The beer’s getting warm.” All my pitchers work under a 15-second clock. It’s a pitch, men, not a Picasso. And my batters will not be allowed to step out of the box until they make contact with a ball, or present a note from their mother. You want to scratch and spit? Do it in the dugout.

No. On second thought, do it in the bathroom. I’m going to allow little kids in the dugout during the games. Give ’em a thrill.

Why not? Why the heck not? It’s my team, my rules. All bleacher seats are free, first-come, first-serve. And every Sunday, we let families onto the field to chat with the players. The players don’t like it, let ’em run track.

That’s my team. And I bet we win. We win because we’re happy, we’re popular, and our uniforms don’t cling to us like ivy.

My team. I like it. I like it so much, I’m going to put it on the top of my list of “What To Do Next.”

Right after I fix this budget-deficit thing.

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