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Topper to This Story Is That He Likes Caps

And now, a word about baseball caps.

I am wearing one right now, as I type this. I was wearing one yesterday, in some fancy-schmancy restaurant. I will wear one tomorrow, whether attending the opera or hang-gliding over El Segundo.

Wherever I am, I wear a cap. I have some sort of hat on at all times, day or night, like Ed Norton on “The Honeymooners.” Were I allowed to climb into a hot tub with Morgan Fairchild and Kathleen Turner, I would still have a hat on.

Caps and me go ‘way back. I was wearing baseball caps when Tom Selleck was still trying to grow a mustache at USC. In fact, he probably stole that Detroit Tigers cap idea from me. I would even call and accuse him of that, if I were speaking to him.

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Last summer, I tried to telephone Selleck to inquire about that Tiger cap he always wears on TV. I knew he was born in Detroit, and since the Tigers were the hottest team in baseball at the time, it seemed like a good idea.

He was shooting a movie called “Runaway"--which was not about the 1984 pennant race--when I reached the on-location publicist in Vancouver. The guy said Selleck would rather not talk to me. “He says if he does it for one, he’ll have to do it for everybody.”

This really bothered me, because I was a big fan of Tom Selleck’s, as well as one of the 17 living Americans who eventually saw the movie “Runaway.”

Anyway, to get back to baseball caps, my friends far and wide know me as the man who always covers his head. Most of these people say they don’t blame me a bit, considering the head in question. Some have even recommended ski masks.

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My closet at home is like Fibber McGee’s. Whenever someone opens the door, caps come tumbling down from the top shelf. Dozens and dozens of caps. An orange Houston Astros cap. A yellow Pennzoil cap. A blue U.S. Space Shuttle cap. A green Mayflower Classic LPGA cap. A black Pac-Man cap.

I own a traditional blue Detroit cap with a white D. It’s like Selleck’s, except with a homelier head to slip under it. I also own a blue Detroit cap with an orange D. That one is for road trips. For formal occasions, I even own a white Detroit cap with a blue D. With a white dinner jacket and a red carnation, it looks tasteful and distinguished. Gentlemen’s Quarterly will discover this new look, any day now.

Some people consider the wearing of a baseball cap in public, well, pretty tacky. Indoors, in particular.

One such person: Mr. E.J. (Buzzie) Bavasi.

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Buzzie was a bigshot with the California Angels. Executive vice president, his title used to be. He has retired, but back when I was in his ballpark, the Big A, a couple of years ago, Buzzie was still on the job.

I was sitting in the Big A dining room before a game. Another guy, a bare-headed writer from Palo Alto, was with me. Buzzie, who didn’t know me from Tom Selleck, came up to the table and said, in a rather gruff voice: “Take that hat off.”

I laughed. Good one, Buzzie.

“You think I’m kidding?” he asked.

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It suddenly occurred to me that the boss of the California Angels might not want a guy in his ballyard wearing a Detroit Tigers cap.

But then I got to thinking about the Constitution and the First Amendment and all that other good stuff, and I decided that I would leave the damn thing on. Give me headwear or give me death.

“Look, I’m not kidding,” Buzzie said. “This is my place, and if you want to wear a hat, you can eat someplace else.”

I ate someplace else. Buzzie made me feel like a bum, a low-life, a slob. I only wish he could have asked me more politely, because personally, I thought he was acting like a big A.

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Fine restaurants have honored my caps. They would never have asked Groucho to remove his beret, or Truman Capote to take off his Panama, or LBJ to get rid of his Stetson. Why should they hassle me?

The ballcap rage is catching on. You can’t turn on your television without seeing somebody plugging his favorite team. There’s Selleck with his Tiger cap, on “Magnum, P.I.” There’s Howie Mandel with his Red Sox cap, on “St. Elsewhere.” There’s Brian Keith with his Yankee cap, on “Hardcastle and McCormick.” There’s Jamie Farr with his Toledo Mud Hen (really Texas Ranger?) cap, on reruns of “M*A*S*H*.”

Before long, you might see Ted Koppel wearing a Mets cap while doing “Nightline.” Or David Brinkley doing one of his shows from Washington, wearing one of those cute little Oriole caps with the bird on the front.

Maybe Ronald Reagan will give the next State of the Union address in a Cub cap. No matter what he had to say, he could count on a nice story the next day by George Will.

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A friend of mine has been walking around in a Denver Zephyrs cap. If you have never heard of the Denver Zephyrs, it is only because they do not exist. There are people in Colorado who believe the best way to get a big league baseball team is to give it a name in advance. So, you already can buy Zephyrs merchandise--including caps.

I want one, desperately.

Perhaps some stranger will even send one to me.

There is just one problem. I remember a time when Elvis Presley matter-of-factly remarked that he was fond of teddy bears. Before long, Elvis’ office was practically stuffed with stuffed animals. He received them from all over the world.

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I am not saying that my expressed affection for baseball caps will bring me any such response in this week’s mail.

However, my size, I am proud to say, is 7 3/8.


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