"He'll be there," says Todd. "He just hopes I don't wind up in Edmonton."
One sure way for spring training to start on time would be for Congress to send baseball's antitrust exemption to the death it deserves. Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Don Fehr has said his members would return to work immediately if the law were repealed. The results of last week's election muddle the picture. Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, an exemption opponent, will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would have to approve any such legislation before it could come to a vote. Meanwhile, his likely counterpart at the House Judiciary Committee, Henry Hyde (R., Ill.), last month opposed legislative intervention that would constitute "blatant favoritism for any union." Owners are cheered by the failure of several antiexemption Democrats in the House, including Jack Brooks of Texas and Mike Synar of Oklahoma, to survive this election season; players are encouraged that President Clinton has said he'll sign any bill rolling back the exemption.
The big loser may be former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, who didn't run for reelection and made no secret of his interest in the commissioner's job. The owners were considering Mitchell because of the sway he would have had with a Democratic Congress. Now, says one Republican Senate staffer, Mitchell's hiring "would unify the Republican party in both houses against baseball. The antitrust exemption would disappear in a matter of minutes. Mitchell ticked off everyone with his partisanship, and it would be payback time."
Party lines blur completely on this issue. As a rule politicians from regions hunting for major league franchises support repeal to allow more franchise movement and expansion. For the moment, lawmakers from Florida and Arizona support repeal, too, because they don't want to lose out on the economic benefits of spring training. On the other hand, politicians from long-standing big league cities want to retain the exemption, to keep clubs where they are. Thus we have the strange state of affairs in Illinois, where the conservative Hyde and two liberal Democratic senators, Carol Moseley-Braun and Paul Simon, agree for perhaps the only time in their lives.
All of this may be moot if supermediator Bill Usery keeps wearing that test-pattern sweater he sported at last Thursday's bargaining session. You'd rush to settle, too, rather than be exposed to that eyesore any longer.
Ballpark of Dreams
The perfect place to watch and play baseball would have power alleys deep enough to allow for triples and spectacular catches. The bullpens would sit alongside the foul lines, so fans could better see who's up and throwing. Shangri-la Stadium, were it ever built, would seat about 45,000 people—enough to generate a roar of the crowd but not so many that the ballpark wouldn't have an intimate feel. And, of course, the grass would be natural and the parking free. Meccano Inc., the French company that makes Erector sets, collected suggestions like these from fans and former big leaguers before building its Dream Baseball Park out of struts and screws. The seven-by-seven-foot model, assembled at Meccano's factory in Calais, was shipped last week to New York City, where it will be on display in the lobby of the Empire State Building for three months beginning Nov. 17.
The designers clearly drew inspiration from baseball's dowager palaces. The park's irregular dimensions echo Yankee Stadium and Fenway, and the architectural details suggest such retro parks as the Ballpark in Arlington and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. There are nods to progress too, including a retractable roof and a Diamond Vision screen to go with the hand-operated scoreboard.
A few suggestions too minute to be integrated into the design have been left to the imagination. "I'd like a keypad at each seat, so you can order knockwurst in the sixth inning," said former Tiger pitcher Mark Fidrych. Young fans wanted seats that could be jacked up so short spectators might see better. And a 13-year-old girl suggested coin-operated Magic Fingers in each seat to relieve late-game stress. But perhaps the most fanciful suggestion came from a fan in Ithaca, N.Y. He proposed something baseball stadiums haven't come equipped with of late: ballplayers.