Talk to real baseball fans and you'll find that in 9 cases out of 10 they're statisticians at heart. Baseball, in other words, is as much a sport of footnotes and trivia as stolen bases or home runs. So in that sense it seems only fitting that baseball has once again produced a grand footnote for the record books in the way the team owners have gone about tapping the newest baseball commissioner, to replace Bowie Kuhn. The new commissioner: Peter Ueberroth, president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee.
But, and here's the catch for the footnote fans, Mr. Ueberroth doesn't take office until October, at the end of the 1984 season. Until then, Bowie Kuhn, who has been in disfavor with many of the owners, continues on as commissioner.
Mr. Ueberroth, who made a considerable fortune in the travel business, is a sportsman in his own right - an enthusiastic skin diver and swimmer. Sports buffs say he'll need that athletic agility just to keep his head above water dealing with the diverse demands of the team owners - as well as the players, who are often known for their cantankerousness. Mr. Ueberroth will have his work cut out for him. Baseball owners and officials have yet to come to terms with the increasing use of drugs by players, which they concede privately is a far bigger problem than has been publicly acknowledged. There is also the issue of profitability. Only a few teams consistently make money, despite rising attendance. The players, meantime, continue to ask for larger salaries.
Still, Mr. Ueberroth appears to have started off well. In accepting the post, he demanded that the owners expand the powers of the commissioner to give him more disciplinary authority over both players and individual teams. And the ultimate footnote to Mr. Ueberroth's appointment may be that the owners said yes.