This Time Around, the Laughs Are on David Letterman

David Letterman has bought a piece of the Seattle Mariners, confirming once again that he is one of America's funniest people.

Dave is one of those Indianapolis investors who plunked down something like $76 million Tuesday to buy a baseball team that isn't worth $76.

Yes, that's right, one of America's favorite comedians owns part of one of America's favorite comedy acts, the Kingdome Kops.

Surely by now, the star of NBC's "Late Night With David Letterman" is familiar with most of the stupid Mariner tricks--like not having a winning record since joining the majors in 1977. Like never finishing higher than fourth place. Like being the biggest dog since Cujo.

The principal owners are going to be Indy businessmen Jeff Smulyan and Michael Browning, provided they are approved by the rest of the American League's owners when they convene in Milwaukee next month. For having purchased the Mariners, these guys undoubtedly will be asked to undergo psychiatric exams. You know, to see if the seams have come loose on their horsehide.

We do not know how much Letterman forked over for his chunk of the franchise. All we do know is that if it was anything over 200 bucks, he overpaid.

The Mariners are the only baseball players in captivity whose trading cards are worth more than they are.

Why did David Letterman buy into this ballclub?

Let's go to our top 10 list:

No. 10--Dave always wanted to own a team that played professional baseball, and since he couldn't get one, he bought Seattle.

No. 9--Dave got conned. He thought he was buying the Seattle Milliners, a company that made women's hats.

No. 8--Dave's girlfriend asked him to give her something with a big diamond.

No. 7--Dave wanted to follow in the footsteps of other great comedians who have owned baseball teams, such as Bob Hope, Danny Kaye and Ted Turner.

No. 6--Dave was determined to make sure that his good friend Bob Costas had a sportscasting job waiting for him, just in case his own late-night talk show goes down the toilet.

No. 5--Dave couldn't resist being the boss of a guy named Presley who performs in a place called the Kingdome.

No. 4--Dave won the team from Pete Rose in a poker game.

No. 3--Dave found out that Paul Shaffer always wanted to get his hands on a ballpark organ.

No. 2--Dave secretly wants to bring baseball to Indianapolis so tourists will have another reason to visit there besides the beautiful white-sand beaches.

And, reason No. 1 (drum roll)--Dave always wanted to own a business where it's OK to spit indoors.

One good thing: All Seattle telecasts from now on will feature Thrill-Cam.

Naturally, we can't wait to see what the new owners have in mind for the Mariners. A fire sale, maybe. Since the old bosses already have cut loose Mark Langston, Mike Moore, Danny Tartabull, Dave Henderson, Phil Bradley, Mike Morgan, Floyd Bannister, Ken Phelps, Glenn Wilson, Lee Guetterman and Ivan Calderon, about the only things of value left to unload are Ken Griffey Jr. and a box of used caps with Neptune's pitchfork emblems.

According to contractual agreement, the new guys cannot budge the team out of Seattle through 1995.

Trust us on this one: These guys will be the Indianapolis Mariners by Jan. 1, 1996.

If baseball's big shots would ever get off their duffs and expand the National League to 14 teams, Seattle might never lose its team. It could continue same as always, regularly packing in crowds of 50,000-plus--per month.

There are toxic-waste dumps that attract more walk-in business than the Seattle Mariners. Kids can sometimes take 30 or 40 minutes just to get to a souvenir foul ball. To save time at Seattle games, they introduce the spectators instead of the starting lineups. "Ladies and gentlemen, here is tonight's paid attendance: Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Feldman."

Letterman's studio audience is larger than typical Kingdome crowds. Letterman has more people breaking into his home at night than the Mariners draw. For an evening's entertainment in Seattle, couples rate Mariner games right behind buying Slurpies at the 7-Eleven and just ahead of having their cars vandalized. The Mariners are so bad, they get booed by umpires.

Their best record was 78-84. Their fifth best was 68-93. That was last year.

Somebody once said nice guys finish last. The Mariners must be the nicest guys alive. They have hitters who spray the ball to all parts of the infield. They have pitchers who throw just like Ryan--Meg Ryan. They have fielders who can make errors during intentional walks.

The Mariners are so bad . . .

How . . . bad . . are they? Uh, sorry, wrong talk-show host.

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