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They're Not Looking for a Real Live Wire

JIM MURRAY

September 10, 1992|JIM MURRAY and RICH CONNELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It has probably come to your attention that the baseball owners, the last stand of entrenched royalty on the planet, have gotten rid of their commissioner on the grounds he had exceeded his authority.

It's very easy for a commissioner to exceed his authority. He doesn't have any to begin with.

But the rulers of the grand old game have the unenviable task of picking a permanent successor. This will not be easy. The requirements are very special.

But because we in journalism are always interested in promoting the public weal, we would like to offer a few viable candidates:

1. Since the days of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the most potent of all baseball commissioners, it has been customary to look for a jurist who might fill the bill. Accordingly, we would like to propose an ideal man for the job: Judge Crater.

Judge Crater disappeared off the face of the earth in 1930. That's the beauty of it. That's what makes him so perfect for the job. Had Fay Vincent disappeared, he'd still be commissioner.

2. Perhaps it's time to consider a woman for the post. After all, this is 1992. (Never mind that it's 1892 in the councils of baseball.) So, how about a little fanfare, professor! Amelia Earhart!

Now, I realize Amelia hasn't been heard from for decades but obviously one of the prime requirements for the job as commissioner is a capacity for invisibility. Besides, whenever baseball had a crisis it didn't want to deal with, it could say "That's Amelia's problem." It's well established that the way to make crises go away is to ignore them. If Amelia were commissioner, they could drop all the problems into the Pacific Ocean and forget about them.

3. The next best thing to having a jurist or a woman for commissioner is having a key political figure. A former President would be perfect, and Richard Nixon has been proposed. Well, that's sound thinking, but if you have to have a former President, why not Abraham Lincoln? Nixon has certain drawbacks. Being alive is one of them. (Watergate wouldn't bother owners. They want someone who can destroy tapes--that way you can't get caught in collusion.)

4. If you can't have a judge, woman or top political figure, baseball likes to lean to military men. Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Colin Powell gets a lot of attention, but if he's smart he will stick to dealing with Saddam Hussein. Baseball owners make him look humble. Baseball appointed General Spike Eckert some years ago, but he was the administrative equivalent of a passed ball. No, what baseball should do is appoint Ulysses S. Grant. In this way, they get not only a military hero but a former President.

Now, to be sure, the general is in Grant's Tomb. This doesn't make him unsuitable. Wherever a commissioner has his office becomes a tomb immediately anyway.

If Grant's not agreeable to the owners (some of them are Southerners), how about Napoleon? He comes with his own tomb, too. Saves overhead.

5. How about Claude Rains? If the job calls for invisibility--and it does--how about Hollywood's Invisible Man? Give him a few bandages and you don't know he's there. This is the way owners treat commissioners anyway. As if they weren't there.

6. There used to be a character in San Francisco known as Emperor Norton I, who thought he ran the city. He issued decrees, certified laws and, in general, ran around in epaulets and deluded himself into thinking he was a genuine ruler. The city humored him. It let him go about in his silly uniform and gravely assured him he was doing a good job but, of course, paid no real attention to him at all. He would be perfect for a baseball commissioner. Nick Nolte could play the part.

7. The Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland would make an ideal candidate. "Sentence first--verdict afterward" sounds a perfectly proper rule of procedure for the job. "Off with their heads!" is a solution worthy of the owners' basic philosophy. Lewis Carroll would love baseball owners.

8. It's often a good idea to consider someone with a labor background. For this reason, maybe Jimmy Hoffa should be given some consideration. Marvin Miller should be given some, too. Marvin \o7 was\f7 the commissioner of baseball back when he ran the players' union. But Marvin has two serious drawbacks: 1) he's alive; and 2) he's intelligent. Moreover, he'd probably be good for the game. That would never be tolerated. We have seen what the owners do to people who make decisions "in the best interests of baseball."

Schopenhauer said that "in order to destroy a man, it is only necessary to give his work the character of uselessness." Baseball owners do this better than anybody. They don't want a commissioner, they want a chauffeur. A valet. A footman. A ghost for their haunted house.

Do they need a (live) commissioner? Well, just look at their game--it's anarchy out there. If my game were in the shape that theirs is, I'd even consider George Steinbrenner.

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