DEFEAT BY INNUENDO
With only the Borough President of The Bronx (site of the Yankee Stadium) dissenting, the governing elders of New York City last week directed an enthusiastic nod at a wistful newcomer to big league baseball. The gesture, made in the form of official approval by the Board of Estimate for a new stadium in Flushing Meadow Park, assured Branch Rickey's new Continental League of at least the possibility of life, but in no way could it be considered a guarantee of success. Despite many an assurance to the contrary, the existing forces of big league baseball have shown no inclination to welcome the newcomer or make his way easy.
"I doubt if there has been a concerted action on the part of anyone in organized baseball to oppose the organization of the league," Rickey himself has complained, "but there has been a continuous accumulation of blocks and stoppages that—whether intended or not—has been very effective in delays."
By now virtually everyone interested in the game, from sportswriter to commissioner, is ready to admit that the nation wants more big league ball. Everyone claims he wishes the third league well. Yet virtually nobody in the established ranks is willing to lend a hand or cut a corner to make it possible. At every turn on every level the accent is on the insuperable difficulties that lie ahead, and the odds on overcoming them are quoted as slim indeed.
May 8, 1960
At the time those legally responsible for the city's finances were voting New York's new stadium into being, one metropolitan sportswriter, whose interest would seem to lie more properly with the game and the fans, was full of learned quotes from a financial weekly to prove New York couldn't afford the luxury of a new stadium. Other supposed sports fans filled their columns with dire figures to herald certain failure for the new league. The news of the stadium was scarcely in print before the Yankee management was dropping broad hints of a nameless National League club reportedly anxious to share the Yankees' own home in the Bronx.
Feigning welcome to New York's decision, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick himself crooned, "It's a fine move toward the realization of the Continental League." Then, scarcely pausing for breath, he added ominously, "Their main worry henceforth will be how to meet the qualifications necessary for acceptance." If the commissioner planned to ease that worry in any way, he gave no hint of it. Rather he seems determined that every comma and apostrophe in the rule book shall be meticulously respected. "Rickey has already tried to work outside the rules," he said, "but I put a stop to that."
It probably would be easy for Frick to put an equally firm stop to Rickey's entire enterprise, but if it is the intention of those who represent baseball to knock the Continentals right out of the ball park, they should do it in the open, not by innuendo.
VICTIM OF VIRTUE
The two organizations most responsible for the protection of amateurism in American sport are the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union). Both take their job seriously and both are stern disciplinarians, but the NCAA, whose fief includes the rich field of college football, approaches the task somewhat like the practical father of an attractive working girl. The AAU, on the other hand, exercises its control like the guardian of a vestal virgin.
Up to now, without ever formulating a very clear definition of the virtue they are protecting, each organization has respected the views of the other, agreeing to treat as a sin whatever the other says is wicked. Last year, however, when the AAU arbitrarily outlawed a whole series of NCAA-approved basketball games with a team of visiting Swedes because of a procedural technicality (SI, Jan. 11), this happy arrangement began to wear thin. Last week, citing the Swedish affair as one excuse, the NCAA announced that it would no longer necessarily honor all such highhanded AAU dictates. In that case, replied the AAU with some hauteur, "chaos" would result. Meanwhile, a third organization, the U.S. Olympic Committee, which has some pretty firm ideas of its own, was left to wonder whose brand of amateurism it would respect.
All of this might be merely comical were it not for a very real need for order in the world of amateur sport, particularly in an Olympic year. But by bickering over technical aspects of the purity they seek to protect, the guardian groups may end by making amateur sport itself a sacrifice on the altar of its own virtue.