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MAJOR LEAGUE baseball has created major-league trouble...


MAJOR LEAGUE baseball has created major-league trouble for itself. That dastardly strike seems to have triggered a steep decline in popularity.

Attendance is down dramatically. So is the television audience -- and the all-important advertising revenue. Even sales of major-league tee-shirts and other logo-stamped clothing and equipment are plummeting.

Pretty soon, the national pastime could become just one of many sports occasionally viewed by fans.

Why this plunge in the game's fortunes?

Here's one reason overlooked so far: The greedy owners picked a commoner to run the game.

If you look over the names of baseball commissioners, one thing becomes apparent. The owners always opted for the person with the unusual name, usually a novel first name or nickname.

A bit unorthodox, perhaps, but this management strategy by the savvy baseball owners worked. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, A.B. "Happy" Chandler, Ford Frick, William "Spike" Eckert, Bowie Kuhn, Peter Ueberroth, A. Bartlett "Bart" Giamatti and Fay Vincent.

Leaving baseball's business in the hands of Kenesaw, Happy, Ford, Spike, Bowie, Bart and Fay worked. Even when they opted for a commissioner with a common first name -- Peter -- the owners found one with a highly unusual last name -- Ueberroth.

It wasn't until baseball owners named as acting commissioner one of their own that they bumbled into a strike. Bud Selig is not the equivalent of Smith or Jones as a common name, but it's not in the same league as Happy, Spike, Bart, Fay or Ford, either.

Major league owners would have erred had they chosen someone like retired Sen. George Mitchell as commissioner last year. Way too common.

No, the salvation of baseball still rests in picking a leader with the will to succeed -- and an unusual first name.

How about Colin?

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RUSSIA is printing its highest denomination paper money ever. It has a face value of 100,000 rubles, which comes to something like $20 at the current exchange rate.

Tomorrow, the bills may be worth even less.

The new bills are printed with an etching of Moscow's famed Bolshoi Theater. Experience shows that having the image of a government leader is not such a good idea because Russian rulers often fall out of grace.

As the changing buying power of the ruble shows, value is in the eye of the beholder.

A Russian emigre was recently spotted selling paper placemats from Moscow's McDonald's at a collectible show at the Timonium Fairgrounds.

Asking price? Ten dollars a placemat. The guy clearly has potential in America.

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