Psst! Wanna buy a baseball team?


NOW THAT Eli Jacobs, the millionaire too busy to own a baseball team, has speculated about unloading the Orioles, I say it's time for some creative thinking.

As one who watched the last two times the Orioles were sold -- in 1979 and 1988 -- I sense the same dance about to begin all over again. Cries for local ownership. Then silence.

The big money men in this town, if there are any, were too cheap to pony up $12 million in 1979. And I doubt, in these recessionary times, that there's anyone out there with 10 times that much to spend.

So why don't we buy the team?

Okay, I know city and state governments are forbidden from owning professional sports teams. (That's a dumb rule, by the way.)

So why don't we do something like this: Hold a special Orioles lottery, almost like a raffle, except the tickets will be $25.

The state, which spawns lotteries like some super virus from a Stephen King novel, could collect the money, buy the team and then -- drum roll, please -- give the sucker away!

That's right. Whoever matches the lucky six numbers out of 40 -- or whatever scheme the bureaucrats come up with -- would become the new owner of the Orioles.

Course, only Marylanders would be eligible for this, ahem, mother of all sports lotteries. Leave the state and you have to give up the team.

And for those who think there's not enough money out there to get the dough needed to buy out Mr. Jacobs, consider this: If every one of Maryland's 4.8 million residents bought a $25 ticket, that'd raise exactly $120 million.

Which, coincidentally, appears to be the asking price for the Orioles.

Course, if Mr. Jacobs were a nice guy rather than a good businessman, he'd probably just give us the team, since we Marylanders have already spent over $100 million on the new baseball palace downtown.

Yeah, right.

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