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THE SIMPLE, AFFORDABLE PLEASURES OF STAYING A TRIPLE A TOWN

IMAY BE in the minority here. But the more I hear about the major-league expansion crusade, the better $5 tickets, low-priced parking, a 21,000-seat stadium and good ol' Triple A baseball looks.

I mean, get serious.

Firstly, $95 million for a new franchise, which doesn't include about $70 million in start-up costs. Basically, the financial equivalent of a daylight mugging. Existing teams, complete with farm systems, go for less.

Then I read how the Texas Rangers, a perennially mediocre squad, have a modest payroll and can't afford to spend a lot of money to sign players who would improve the team. They can't because the owners are strapped by the interest payments on their $90 million purchase, and will be for some time. And this is a team in a large market that draws well.

This does not bode well for the Bisons, who will also have to foot a large price tag and are not in a huge market.

It would be nice to have a major-league team, but if they're going to be the league's doormats for 10 years, one suspects the initial thrill might wear thin. As would the accompanying prestige of having a major-league squad. To put it another way, when was the last time anybody in Cleveland bragged about the Indians?

Now, predictably, the Bisons want the city and county to cover their backs with tax revenues, should the ink start running red.

Well, I don't know. The city and county aren't exactly rolling in dough. There will always be roads to repair, bridges to build, schools to staff and orchestras to fund. The looming recession doesn't improve the long-range outlook. Making a profit involves taking a risk, which is how you decide whether it's worth jumping into the pool in the first place.

True, a major-league team brings economic benefits. Hotel and restaurant people will be happy. Some jobs are created. Mainly, though, those jobs are low-wage -- ushers, custodians, snack stand attendants. The only high-paying positions created will be at third base, in the outfield, on the mound. You get the idea.

Remember, it's not a cure for cancer within reach here. It's the difference between watching guys who are pretty good vs. watching players who are a notch better, but about 10 times more famous.

The catch is, you have to pay twice as much to see them, get gouged on parking, get stuck in traffic coming and going and fight the crowd at the game. Plus pay to expand the stadium and, if the Bisons have their way, divert tax revenue to help keep the business afloat.

Now, if an existing team went on the block, at a sane price, that's something else again.

Although Bob Rich hasn't called here for advice lately, if he did that's what I'd say. Forget this expansion thing. Keep your eye out for a team on the move. Then make an offer they can't refuse. We might all be happier in the end.

What I want to know is: What was wrong with the guys who did the singing for Milli Vanilli? Too old, too fat, too bald, too what? I mean, if Phil Collins can become a superstar in the music world, why do these fellows have to stay locked in a room somewhere?

Actually, the whole thing would have been easier to stomach if Phil Collins had been the one lip-synching, and the guys who sing for him look like Milli Vanilli. At least there's some justice there. It's ordinary-looking guys who need a little help, not sexy dudes with slim hips and long hair. They do all right on their own.

News item: Hunter mistaken for a turkey is wounded.

Not just once. Twice. Two different incidents, two different hunters-mistaken-for-poultry, in a one-week period.

Fortunately, neither victim was seriously hurt.

Makes you wonder, though.

Do we really need to require hunter education classes? Cardboard cutouts in the front of a classroom? "This is a human being. This is a turkey. Please memorize the difference. Do not mistake one for the other."

OK, I know it's hard to see through all that scrub brush. And if the other guy is using a turkey call and crawling on his belly, it's easy to get excited, especially if Thanksgiving is a few days away. But still . . .

Rule 1: Don't discharge a weapon until you are absolutely sure what you are aiming at.

The life you save could be mine.

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