The assertion that ours is a mobile society is one that is not borne out by this week's cover subject, Rick Barry—nor by a small but persistent minority of athletes who, when it comes to moving, would rather fight than switch. Despite the advent of the jet plane, which has made nomads of us all, and the rapid erosion of old verities like "Home is where the heart is." these players cling to old ties as if they were million-dollar TV contracts.
This is an article from the Aug. 24, 1970 issue
Obviously, there is more than sentiment involved when a man like Barry balks at moving with the franchise that pays his salary, as Peter Carry points out in his story beginning on page 16. But in a surprising number of cases unearthed by SI correspondents and Reporter Jane Gross, professional athletes show they are burdened with the same sentimental baggage as the rest of us—wanting to be near friends, family and that new grammar school where Johnny did so well last semester.
Babe Ruth was one of the earliest geographic holdouts. In 1920, already an established pitching and hitting star, he was traded from the Red Sox to the New York Yankees. He announced he wouldn't go—having read, no doubt, about the appalling traffic and overcrowding—until the Yankees promised to double his salary. That somehow made it seem all right, and Ruth went down to start the Golden Age of Sport.
Certain cities seem to encourage disenchantment. Jack Kemp, born and bred in California, was certainly less than pleased when the San Diego Chargers sold him to Buffalo in 1962. But he went, endured several winters on Lake Erie and now is running for Congress. O.J. Simpson, also from California, balked when he was drafted by Buffalo in 1969, but in the end he too discovered that most geographic differences can be resolved with money.
Some, apparently, cannot. Billy Cunningham of the Philadelphia 76ers let it be known after last season that he was thinking about sitting out this one so that he could play for the Carolina Cougars in the next one. Subsequent negotiations cooled that plan somewhat, but Cunningham's idea was born less from greed than homesickness—he played college ball in Carolina, his wife's a Carolina gal, and like that.
Occasionally outside activities—insurance businesses, bowling alleys, nightclubs—play an important role in an athlete's thinking about relocation. Bernie Casey, the wide receiver, began his pro football career with the San Francisco 49ers, then was traded to Atlanta after six years on the Coast. Not unusual. But Casey, a serious and talented painter who had exhibited his work in galleries in San Francisco and Los Angeles, probably perceived the limitations on a black artist in the heart of Dixie and refused to go. So the 49ers switched signals and traded him to the Rams, who in turn dealt off a player to satisfy Atlanta's claims. As it happened, the L.A. player involved was Tom Moore, who had already told the Rams that his other career, a mortgage business with a branch in Atlanta, made returning to L.A. impossible. They all lived happily ever after.
Entire teams have been known to resist uprooting. Players from the NBA Hawks, most of them black, were apprehensive at first about their shift to Atlanta from St. Louis. But the team management, assisted by Bill Bridges, put on a PR (for "player relations") campaign that assuaged the team's fears. At the moment, the L.A. Stars of the ABA are reported skeptical for similar reasons about moving to Salt Lake City, where the black players have reported some community resistance.
Club owners probably wish players like Barry would take a leaf from the book of the late Louis (Bobo) Newsom, a pitcher who exchanged uniforms 17 times among nine major league clubs in a 20-year career. Now there was a man for all regions.