Ball of dreams

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jul 30, 2003 12:00 AM

Sen. Jim Bunning has his baseball back.

This column reported recently that the Kentucky Republican's most-valued possession from his Hall of Fame career was stolen from his Capitol Hill office over the Fourth of July recess - an autographed baseball from the 1957 All-Star Game, in which he was the American League's starting and winning pitcher.

"It's been returned - no questions asked," says the senator of the baseball, signed by 1957 All Stars Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra and Willie Mays, to name a few. U.S. Capitol Police had been investigating the heist when the baseball suddenly reappeared.

As far as the delighted Bunning is concerned, the case is closed.

"I'm not even pursuing that," he says when asked who might have swiped - and now returned - the ball.

"Some good person brought it back when they read about it and what it meant to me," he says. "I don't care about its value (estimated at about $10,000) to a collector. It's a keepsake that has more sentimental value to me than anybody else in the world. It's never going out of my family."

Asked if the baseball would be displayed again in his office, Bunning replies "No."

"It is in a much more secure place," he says.

Bunning spent 17 record-setting years as a Major League Baseball pitcher. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame after becoming the second pitcher in history - Cy Young was the first - to record 1,000 strikeouts and 100 wins in both the National and American Leagues.

MY DOG ATE IT

Usually every day that Congress is in session, one or more lawmakers step up to the microphone and give a "personal explanation" as to why they were absent for a roll-call vote.

Others will approach the lectern and request that their vote be changed, explaining that they mistakenly voted "aye" when they'd intended to vote "nay."

Take Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), who wanted it made perfectly clear that he was not responsible for missing an important roll-call vote last week: "Mister Chairman, I was unavoidably detained due to a U.S. Airways plane malfunction," he said.

After Moore was finished offering his excuse, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-S.C.) stood up to explain, in no uncertain terms, why she had cast the wrong vote in the same roll call.

"Mister Speaker, due to exhaustion, I mistakenly voted on roll call vote 445. I should have voted 'nay,'" she said.

The tired Myrick and other physically and emotionally drained members of the House departed Washington hours later for their summer recess.

RED-MEAT AGENDA

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore's left-wing politics can be annoying, author Kay Hymowitz says.

For instance, while Moore used this year's Academy Award ceremonies to claim that President Bush was a "fictitious president," the director himself was accused of distorting the facts in his Oscar-winning film, "Bowling for Columbine."

Still, Hymowitz writes, Moore can at times be very funny - and accurate.

"In May, I went to see Moore give a talk to graduating seniors at a liberal arts college outside New York City, and it was easy to see why the kids went nuts," she writes in City Journal, a quarterly publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute.

Moore was "funny, confident, passionate, idealistic, full of possibility."

"As you might expect, he poked fun at conservatives, but also at liberals, those long-suffering targets of political satirists.

"'You must have a conservative in your family - an uncle or someone,' he said confidingly. 'That person never loses his car keys. He has every key marked: this SUV, that SUV.'"

Liberals, he continued, are prone to bumbling and doubt: "Our side goes, 'Do you know where my car keys are? ... Where do you want to go to dinner?' 'Gee, I don't know. Where do you want to go to dinner?'

"Right-wingers go," - Moore slammed his fist on the podium - "'Get in the car! We're going to Sizzler!'"

PLAYING WITH HISTORY

As far as the 3,600-member Historical Miniatures Gaming Society is concerned, this year's Iraqi Republican Guard counterattack against U.S. troops during a fierce days-long sandstorm is one of the great battles of history.

In fact, a hypothetical battle during a sandstorm, between the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division and the Republican Guard, was just played out, albeit on a tabletop. It's called "historical miniatures gaming," a relatively unknown slice of Americana that promotes the study of military history by simulating warfare through the use of hand-painted miniatures and three-dimensional model landscapes.

"Imagine a table covered with hills, trees and villages - a model landscape much like those seen on a model railroad layout," says Del Stover, a longtime war gamer and member of the Alexandria-based society's board of directors. "But then cover it with hundreds of hand-painted toy soldiers. And then watch as hobbyists maneuver their troops across this battlefield using rules much like chess."

Just this past weekend, "gamers" gathered at a convention in Lancaster, Pa., to re-fight not only the recent Iraq war, but other battles, such as "Crossing the Euphrates," depicting the U.S. Marines in battle with the Republican Guard during the Persian Gulf war. Also played out in miniature form was "Somalia 2002," in which American "Special Ops" strike at al Qaeda terrorist training camps in Somalia.

The convention displayed hundreds of miniature battlefields, from ancient Rome and Napoleon's campaigns in Europe to the U.S. Civil War, World War II and Vietnam.

Stover alone has a collection of more than 7,000 miniatures. Robert Cortese, a combat veteran of the 1983 U.S. rescue mission in Grenada and an author specializing in military technology and tactics, was on hand to lecture on "Baghdad 2003." His talk centered on urban warfare in Iraq and the ongoing low-intensity terrorist campaign being fought worldwide.

AMUSEMENT TRACKS

A leading congressman is telling the tax collector to quit snooping around auto racing. Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a bill Friday to settle a simmering dispute between the Internal Revenue Service and the booming motorsport industry.

The IRS recently has questioned a 29-year industry practice of depreciating motorsport entertainment facilities as amusement or theme parks, whose assets qualify for a seven-year depreciation schedule for tax purposes. The proposed legislation would clarify that a "motorsports entertainment complex" is entitled to the seven-year depreciation treatment. It defines a "motorsports entertainment complex" as a permanent, fixed racetrack facility that hosts automobile, truck or motorcycle race events that are open to the public for the price of admission. The Hayworth legislation covers more than 900 tracks nationwide, in all 50 states, from drag strips to super speedways.