The Maryland Stadium Authority and its NFL expansion coordinator, Walt Gutowski, are doing a better job than people realize of preparing Baltimore for re-entry into pro football.
We hear that other cities -- St. Louis, for instance -- have been more aggressive. Some so-called "insider" is always reporting Baltimore is No. 3 to St. Louis and Charlotte in the competition for two franchises. One report that aired here this week suggested San Antonio has moved ahead of us.
Well, the men orchestrating Baltimore's bid -- Herb Belgrad, Bruce Hoffman and Gutowski -- are no dummies. People will gain a greater appreciation for that beginning Saturday, when the goal is to sell out Memorial Stadium for the Aug. 28 exhibition game between the Dolphins and Saints.
"The goal is to sell out as quickly as we can," says Gutowski, who was once public relations director for the Colts.
"Cities competing with us, like St. Louis and Charlotte, have sold out exhibition games, but it took them months. We hope to sell it out Saturday and get a mention on the Super Bowl broadcast Sunday."
How quickly can 60,000 seats be sold?
"If the demand is there," says Gutowski, "it could be done in a matter of hours. We'll have 10 ticket windows operating at Memorial Stadium beginning at 9 a.m. There are 40 Ticketmaster outlets including the Arena, Hecht's and the Towson Center and 40 people manning phone lines. We can sell 10,000-12,000 tickets an hour."
Several thousand already have been sold to people who sent in their money by Dec. 31.
St. Louis, Gutowski says, already has undertaken a campaign targeting national and New York media. So has Charlotte. Baltimore will do the same -- but at a more propitious time.
"We think our timing is fine," says Gutowski. "If we sell out quickly the expansion committee will be aware of that when it meets in Phoenix in March. We'll have the game in late August, good timing with the decision due in October. We don't want to peak too early."
* The Major Indoor Lacrosse League, of which the Baltimore Thunder is a member, has come of age. The Teamsters union is attempting to organize the league players association.
"I've never been against unions in my 20 years of practicing law or since I came on the bench," says Thunder general manager Darrell Russell, who is a judge in Baltimore County District Court. "But this is distressing because of the clandestine way the union went about it.
"Without talking with anyone else they got all the players to sign these little cards giving the union authority to represent them. Frankly, I don't think organizing would do anything for the players. I believe the league's owners [Chris Fritz and Russ Cline] when they say the MILL, which itself is organizing a players association, is operating on a shoestring."
The players in this 6-year-old league have long questioned that. Players are paid between $150 and $300 a game based on seniority. Tickets cost as much as $17 and some games draw as many as 16,000-17,000 spectators.
"We're all in this to have fun, not to make money," says Russell, the Thunder GM. "Chris and Russ have met with the teams and explained their position. The seven team captains met last weekend on Long Island. I don't know what's going to happen, but if the Teamsters take over it could mean the end of the league. Fritz and Cline aren't going to deal with the Teamsters."
The Thunder (1-1) will play New York (2-0) at the Arena Saturday night.
* Ray Bevans, one of the most extraordinary athletes Baltimore has ever produced, was installed in the Baseball Oldtimers Hall of Fame at the organization's 36th annual banquet at Overlea Hall the other night.
Bevans, who pitched and played outfield for Forest Park High, Loyola College and the Fitzberger All-Stars, lost his right arm in an accident when he was 12 years old. He's still a fine golfer. Enshrined along with Bevans were Dick Working, Wishie Burkman and Robert Mackinson.
* Even though the Redskins, one-touchdown favorites in Sunday's Super Bowl, play their home games 40 miles from here, few Baltimoreans are emotionally involved. Sam Berkowitz, of Northwest Baltimore, explains the phenomenon well.
"I'm never going to like the Redskins, because I'm a die-hard Colt fan," Berkowitz says. "I missed two Colt games from 1953 until they left. The Redskins were the enemy -- plus I resent that Washington has a team and we don't.
"But people under the age of 30 don't feel the way I do. They never knew Unitas and the old Colts. I see kids now in their Redskin jackets and hats. In time, Baltimore's hatred of the Redskins will die out."