THE FINLEY PERPLEX
What is one to think about Charlie Finley? Is he an ogre, an Ebenezer Scrooge? Or a hardheaded, practical man who, on the basis of results, must be doing something right? Finley insisted last weekend that his reason for not releasing his resigned manager, Dick Williams, from the two years remaining on his contract (so that Williams could sign with the Yankees) was not to cause trouble, or to revenge himself against erstwhile enemies in baseball, but merely to gain compensation for losing a valued employee.
"I don't mean money," Finley said, possibly thinking of the fines slapped on him by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for his antics during the World Series. "I mean a player or players." Finley said he had received a phone call last Friday from Gabe Paul of the Yankees. "I told him," Finley said, "that if he wants to give us somebody like Mel Stottlemyre or Bobby Murcer or Thurman Munson, fine, I'll let Williams go. He didn't seem very interested." Finley said Paul hired Hank Peters away from the A's several years ago when Paul was with the Cleveland Indians (others say Peters quit the A's first), and that two years ago Paul hired Phil Seghi after Seghi left Oakland, both for front-office jobs. "I told Gabe it was about time he went out and built his own organization."
Finley said, "Look, I resent losing my manager. When someone steals my manager, it doesn't register too well with me. It's like someone stealing your wife. Sure, I can find another manager, but I want Dick Williams. If Dick elects to sit out the contract, that's his prerogative, but he'll have to sit out two years. I always told Dick that if he wants to make a change, that's fine with me. But what's right is right and wrong is wrong. You don't stop a man from resigning, but I smelled a mouse all along."
November 5, 1973
Meantime, in Hertford, N.C., Finley's star pitcher, Jim (Catfish) Hunter, had a few things to say. Hunter played hookey from the A's victory parade in Oakland after the Series. "I asked Mr. Finley about going on home," Hunter said, "and he said, 'Now, Jim, you know there's a $1,000 fine for missing the parade, and I'm throwing this big parade to promote baseball in the Bay Area.' But I told Mr. Finley I hadn't seen my wife and kids in six weeks, and I told him that if we hadn't promoted baseball by winning two straight World Series then we'd never do it. So far I haven't seen anything about the fine."
Hunter talked about Williams ("He left because Finley was putting the pressure on, doing little, irritating things"); about Mike Andrews ("That was the worst thing I've ever seen in baseball. Mr. Finley tried to railroad Andrews right out of a career, and there was no way we were going to stand by silently and let it happen"); and about Finley himself. "Really, he's good to the players," Hunter said. "He'll invest money and give them good returns. He's done this for me. But at other times he puts you in a corner. Like in the Series, we knew what was going on, but Mr. Finley acted as though we were children and didn't know what to do."
Japan, enjoying the enormous advantage of not having to support an army or a navy, is infiltrating the world economically. Latest evidence of Japanese expansion is the Ginjiyama Golf Club's purchase of the Montecito Country Club in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can read any significance you like into the fact that the principal owner of Montecito was the old Olympic bear and lover of Oriental art, Avery Brundage.
In a period when thoroughbred and harness racing tracks are crying poverty and resorting to gimmicks from rock bands to superfectas to build up trade, quiet little Del Mar in Southern California is enjoying a boom. It has been helped considerably by the fact that Caliente, 30 miles south in Tijuana, Mexico, has been inoperative since a fire in 1970. But beyond that, simply by sticking to business as usual, which means one daily double and two exactas and that's it, Del Mar has had a 52% increase in attendance since 1969, its betting handle has gone up 64% and the state's share of the take has risen 75%.
Del Mar thinks its success may be largely because it is a nice place to visit for a day's racing. It lies along the seashore above San Diego, and its architecture is California Spanish. Maybe the bettors like the idea of losing their shirts under old log-beam ceilings and tile roofs. In any case, the charm and atmosphere of Del Mar, built in the 1930s by a group headed by Bing Crosby and Pat O'Brien, is paying off handsomely.
Ernie DiGregorio, the Providence College guard who signed a reported $1.5 million contract when he joined the National Basketball Association's Buffalo Braves, has picked up a new nickname. In college, he was known as Ernie D. In the pros, he is being called Ernie No D, for No Defense. The 6-foot Ernie had enough trouble with lesser players, but the nickname was hung on the Buffalo rookie after he defended against Jerry West in a game the Braves lost to the Lakers 125-122. West, playing on an injured foot that required medical treatment the next day, scored 35 points in 32 minutes. "They had DiGregorio on me most of the night," said West in an unusually candid postgame interview, "and I was able to go pretty much wherever I wanted. I could get 12-foot jumpers, 10-foot jumpers, 4-foot jumpers. If I was in shape, I could have had a pretty big scoring night."
Then West said, "Ernie has to be more aggressive, use his hands more, grab and hold as we do in the NBA. I think ultimately he's going to be a great player for Buffalo on both offense and defense."
Football coaches place a lot of faith, or at least interest, in polls (We're No. 1, and so forth), and head Coach T. W. Alley of the University of Louisville was therefore a bit miffed earlier this season when his star senior defensive back, Lonnie Schuler, was beaten out for Defensive Player of the Week in the Missouri Valley Conference by an unknown from North Texas State named Walter Chapman.
"Who's Chapman?" Alley asked.
"A freshman. Defensive tackle. Five feet, 10 inches. Weighs 244."
"A freshman?" Alley said with some irritation. "What did he do?"
"Well, he had 22 tackles and knocked down a pass."
There was a moment of silence. Then Alley said, "Where can I go vote for him?"
Paul (Bear) Bryant, Alabama's renowned football coach, was never one to confine his activities to the football field. If Bear is richer for that, so is Alabama and so is college football. Bryant recently donated $100,000 in stocks to the university, the annual yield from which will be used for scholarships for handicapped young people and children of former Alabama players. "And they don't have to be A students," said Bryant, who wasn't one himself, adding that he was "glad to be able to give something in return for all the university has given me."
Among the things the university has given Bryant is the opportunity to make commercial hay; that he is a coach who can afford to lay $100,000 on his alma mater is evidence that he is as shrewd in financial matters as he is in football. Bear has a partnership in a highly profitable meat-packing plant, an automobile distributorship (Bear Bryant Volkswagen), a clothing factory and, with Sonny Werblin, a New York hat company. He is on the board of directors of the meatpacking plant, the First National Bank of Tuscaloosa and the Cotton States Life Insurance Company, and he also has various holdings in securities and real estate.
Put all that with Bryant's football record and it adds up to an uncommon American success story. If you want to know more about it—right from the Bear's mouth—Bryant will be glad to tell you, for $25, plus postage. This latest venture is a 47-minute tape cassette, a first-person narrative as folksy as it is informative. It's called Bear Bryant on Football, but is really Bear Bryant on football, money, life and anything else that happens along. "It's about living football and making a living," Bryant says, and he expects coaches to besiege the Alabama athletic office for copies. The tape may not turn a listener into the best coach in the country, but it will certainly give some insight into one who has been. And maybe still is.
Everybody was scandalized a while back when it came out that the winner of the sacrosanct Soap Box Derby was driving a fixed car—in the gambling sense of fix, not the mechanical. The winning driver's car had been altered at the suggestion of an uncle, who last week was ordered by a judge to donate $2,000 to a Boulder, Colo. boys' club for his part in the affair.
This was shocking enough, but the district attorney's office in Boulder said that apparently six of the top 10 finishers in the race had doctored cars (the boys are supposed to build their own, staying within certain simple rules of construction), and that at least 34 boys had illegal vehicles. Assistant District Attorney Jack Kerner said such charges could not readily be proved, but all indications were that cheating was widespread, and that people built derby cars for competitors on a year-round basis.
"Soap Box Derby officials told us that they had been suspicious of entries from some cities," Kerner said, "because over the years cars from those cities tended to be more professional than those from other areas."
90 YEARS AGO
The Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs affair is well past us, and the chauvinist male vs. liberated woman theme has been more than amply covered. However, even at this late date it seems a justified contribution to the literature on the subject to mention an article that appeared 90 years ago this month in the Jacksonville (Fla.) Times-Union, a reprint of a story that originally appeared in the Amherst Student. It was titled Why a Girl Cannot Play Tennis, and it said, in part, "The first difficulty is found in grasping the racket. This is due to the fact that in the female hand a layer of adipose tissue makes the palm too rounded to hold the racket firmly."
Such soft little hands. The article goes on, authoritatively, "The female arm differs from the male arm, also, in that the ulna of the female is much shorter proportionately than that of the male. On this account the female cannot hold the racket on a line with the arm.... When the ball is returned the action of the arm tends to knock it sidewise. This peculiarity is especially noticeable returning swift balls."
What else? "The articulation of the humerus with the ulna and radius is imperfect.... When, therefore, the racket hits a ball, it tends to knock it high up in the air. Some have said that this defect is the chief one in causing the female to be a poor tennis player. The smallness of her ribs, the thinness of the scapula, and the shortness of the clavicle unite to prevent her from reaching high balls."
The article concludes, "Were it not for these anatomical peculiarities of the female she would doubtless far surpass the male at tennis. She can run faster, see more quickly and is not easily confused. But the scientific fact remains that tennis is not a game for the human female."
Bobby Riggs knew all this. Why didn't Billie Jean King?
THEY SAID IT
•Casey Stengel, asked if he would like to manage again: "Well, I'll tell you, young fella, to be truthful and honest and perfectly frank about it, I'm 83 years old, which ain't bad. To be truthful and honest and frank about it, the thing I'd like to be right now is an astronaut."
•Jackie Stewart, racing driver, on his young son's reaction to Stewart's retirement from racing: "I asked him what I should do, and he said, 'Write books and drive our school bus.' "
•Lee Corso, Indiana football coach, asked if he had read Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes' book You Win with People!: "I haven't read the book, but I've seen the movies."