WASHINGTON -- On a day the White House was preoccupied with the Great Timber Compromise, President Clinton played host to a guest known for his work with lumber -- and with a glove: Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.
President Clinton, in an Opening Day interview, quipped that if Robinson, also from Arkansas, ever had run against him for governor, "He could have beaten me . . . it would have been no contest."
Yesterday, Robinson showed that maybe the president wasn't kidding.
Here as part of publicity for the All-Star Game July 13 at Camden Yards, Robinson joked around briefly with Vice President Al Gore in front of a major-league ballot box and showed a knack for schmoozing that comes in handy on the campaign trail.
"If you want to see the real All-Star Game, come Monday and see the legends game," Robinson told the vice president in reference to an old-timers' contest.
Robinson quickly added, in a self-deprecating tone all successful politicians must master: "If it wasn't third base, I wouldn't play it, I can tell you."
In a brief interview in the vice president's office, Robinson also answered a few questions about timber -- and some about aluminum, too.
Asked what he thought of the forest compromise announced by the White House, Robinson said reaching a balancing act on preserving old growth forests and logging industry jobs would have been much easier if it had been done "a long time ago."
About another timber-related issue -- whether the major leagues ever will allow aluminum bats -- Robinson also had a strong opinion.
"They'll never do it," he said. "If they do, somebody will get killed."
Nor did he hesitate when asked whom he voted for in the American League as the All-Star third baseman.
"Robin Ventura," Robinson said.
Moments before meeting Robinson in his office, the vice president braved the stifling humidity to do a photo opportunity with two college debating teams from Kansas.
That group had been expecting a visit with the president, but he couldn't come because of an "emergency meeting," a Kansas congressman told the group.
The emergency couldn't have been too pressing.
Moments later, as the photographers were herded out of Gore's office, Robinson lingered for a moment as though he was expecting someone else. And after the cameras were gone, he came, too -- a home boy from Arkansas. A lefty. Name of Clinton.