City suitors are tired of begging for NFL's hand


Morty Caplan, a semi-retired Baltimore businessman, expresses the feelings of a growing minority when he says of the city's long-running struggle to get back in the National Football League:

"I love pro football. I went to every Colt game for years and years, and I hope we get back in it.

"But I'm getting sick and tired of the NFL dangling a carrot out in front of us," Caplan says. "We're supposed to get down on our knees and beg. Every time the league says anything -- like, they'll take one old city and one new one -- we're supposed to get all excited.

"Well, I'll tell you something. Baltimore is a great pro football city. You can't tell me we're not a better NFL city than towns like Charlotte and Memphis. The way I look at it, the NFL needs us more than we need them."

* The Orioles, stuck with another lousy season, saw their troubles begin at spring training in Florida, where they spent most of their time on buses and had no home games. They were worn out when they got here for Opening Day.

None of that is the fault of Frank Robinson, or Ben McDonald or any of the players having disappointing seasons. It's the fault of top management -- Larry Lucchino, Roland Hemond and owner Eli Jacobs. You can't justify to me that 25 major-league clubs were able to make satisfactory spring training arrangements and one -- the Orioles -- was not.

* Those who thought Baltimore native Gene Corrigan had left the athletic directorship at Notre Dame to become commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference so he could be near his kids and grandchildren in semi-retirement understand now that they were wrong.

In truth, Corrigan has been the most active commissioner in ACC history. He spearheaded the move to add Florida State. It was he who helped convince Andy Geiger to come to Maryland as athletic director. And Corrigan was the driving force behind bringing Notre Dame and representatives of three conferences, including the ACC, together in bowl games that could settle the national championship.

* One of Geiger's secrets in turning around the athletic program at Maryland has been accentuating the positive and refusing to dwell on the negative. But sometimes Geiger tests our credulity.

This week, when he showed off the new Welcome Center (press and luxury boxes) at Byrd Stadium, Geiger said the facility is now "as good as any in the conference."

Whoa! Byrd Stadium can't compare with Clemson's Memorial Stadium. For one thing, Byrd's too small. It will hold only 41,000 this fall. When, at some point in the future, an upper deck is constructed over the north stands, capacity will go up to 48,000. Clemson holds 80,000 now.

Closer to home, but also on Maryland's schedule, is Penn State. Its Beaver Stadium seats 93,600. When Byrd was built 41 years ago the plan was for the stadium to be double-decked, increasing capacity to 92,000. The Terps have trouble filling what they have now.

* No wonder Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson is itchy about being kept at Rochester. The leading winner on the Baltimore staff last year with 13 victories, Johnson now is being told he'll be brought back here when there's an opening. An opening, on this staff? There are at least three spots on the staff I'd consider "openings" right now.

* There are tennis players who, for whatever reason, seem to own certain tournaments. Pam Shriver used to be that way at Newport. Tim Mayotte was always toughest at Wimbledon. Andre Agassi is that way now in Washington's Sovran tourney. Not only has he won it the last two years; he hasn't lost a single set.

* It confirms your appreciation for sports when you see how much they mean to somebody like Fritz Stude, 81, who was the goalie for the Johns Hopkins lacrosse team that played in the 1932 Olympic Games.

Said Stude in Towson the other day: "I've got pancreatic cancer. I don't know how in the hell I got it but I've got it. Michael Landon got it and he was gone in three months but I'm going to be around for a while.

"I think Hopkins is going to have a pretty good team next spring. I think that new coach [Tony Seaman] is going to do a real good job at Hopkins. I want to be around for all that.

"But most of all I'm looking forward to attending the 60th reunion of our Olympic team. Can you believe it? Next year it'll be 60 years since we did that, and today most of those guys are still alive and still married to the same women. What a bunch of guys!"

And what a guy Fritz Stude is!

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