Waiting for Mr. Right, Princess Charming at Price Waterhouse, tales of a real tough Congressman. TAKING LEAVE

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Talk about serendipity. We have just spent hours hovering over the congressional debate on ''family leave'' and come away with one genuinely interesting fact: Jim Bunning hit 160 batters during his major league pitching career, vs. 40 for Juan Marichal. To appreciate Bunning's stat, you have to know that terrible-tempered Juan was considered quite scary in his days with the San Francisco Giants. The debate would have been hilarious if only it weren't so boring. Object of the bill, now passed by the House of Representatives: to create some new federal entitlements without adding to the federal deficit. Solution: a new right of private-sector employees to 12 weeks of unpaid leave any time a child comes into the family or some medical emergency arises. The proposal is coming at you with a lot of heavy breathing about the importance of preserving the family. Our very own solon, liberal Republican Bill Green of New York, quoted from the 1988 party platform in an immensely silly effort to prove that Bush was logically required to sign the legislation because the platform says children need parents or something. The bill's proponents represent that it is at once incredibly cheap -- only $5 per employee per year -- and staggeringly important. Both propositions are wobbly. The $5 figure refers only to the cost of providing health insurance for nonworking employees; but, of course, the main costs to companies would be those associated with temporary replacements for the workers on leave. The legislation would be important only to the few employees who (a) work for companies that do not already provide leave and (b) are in a position to go for weeks without pay. And, like all legislation mandating particular benefits, it comes with a hidden cost: the loss of alternative benefits that might have been better tailored to the needs of the company's particular work force. To be sure, the free-lunchers pushing the bill do not acknowledge that employers' resources are finite. When we found Representative Bunning of Kentucky making some of the above points in the May 10 House debate, it suddenly struck us that he might actually be the chap who once pitched for the Tigers, Phillies, and others (and is mainly famous for throwing no-hitters in both major leagues). Looking him up in the Almanac of American Politics, we found that the Congressman was indeed old Jim. It was also the Almanac that supplied those gripping details about hit batsmen. Their political significance eludes us -- or possibly the authors were saying this is about what you would expect from a hard-nosed conservative. (Bunning's American Conservative Union rating: a perfect 100. His ADA rating: 0.) Reading over the congressional arguments for the family leave bill, you could wish he had a ball in his hand again.