VEECK AS IN BROKE?
Reports from Chicago indicate that Bill Veeck and the White Sox may be in fairly deep trouble. Before Veeck and his syndicate bought the club in December of 1975, the Sox were on the verge of moving to Seattle. Veeck's purchase saved the team for Chicago, but, if you recall the maneuvering before the sale was consummated, he and his partners stretched themselves financially in buying the Sox. They were then blindsided by the astonishing surge in salaries brought on by the free-agent draft. The White Sox were not at all competitive in going after free agents, and they have had trouble signing players they do have. Veeck invoked the renewal clause with several players who refused to sign, which automatically extends their contracts for one more season at a 20% reduction in salary (this could save the Sox nearly half a million dollars this year, no small amount when you consider the club's net loss in 1976 was $667,100), but after that they become free agents, too. Further, the Sox reportedly have shied away from possibly advantageous trades that would have brought high-salaried players to Chicago. In sum, the team seems badly undercapitalized, and rumors that it will move—possibly to Washington, D.C.—have revived.
"I don't know where these stories get started," Veeck said last week. "I presume it's because our bidding for free agents was not comparable to that of some other teams. But I felt it was simply unwise to spend that kind of money on those players. Cleveland gave Wayne Garland $300,000 out front, plus $200,000 for 10 years. I wouldn't gamble like that on anybody. We haven't signed all our players, and that creates the impression that we haven't got any money. We have money. The real reason we haven't signed everybody is that we try not to spend it foolishly. I think we'll do better with our theory in the long run. What we are trying to do is stay in business, which means conserving."
Asked about the possibility of losing those players who have decided to play out their options, Veeck says, "They're mine this year. I'll worry about next year when it comes."
CATCH A WAVE?
Sidewalk surfers riding the crest of the skateboard craze may soon find themselves off the streets and onto the tracks. There are already more than 100 skateboard parks in the U.S., and a company called Skateboard Parks of America hopes to build more "skateboard racetracks" where daredevils can challenge built-in pipelines, bowls, channels and rills. Safety will be a key factor—gloves, helmets, knee pads and elbow pads, available for a small rental fee, must be worn. Just bring your own board.
Fans browsing through the program during the opening round of the Eastern College Athletic Conference basketball championships in Syracuse, N.Y. were startled to read that "St. Bonaventure University was founded 750 years ago by St. Francis of Assisi." But Tom McElroy, public-relations director for the Bonnies, was delighted. He gleefully points out that the ECAC program note makes St. Bonaventure the oldest university in the country. "Before Harvard," he says, "before the Pilgrims, before Columbus, there was St. Bonaventure, out in the wilds of western New York."
McElroy concedes that some people continue to believe that the school was founded in 1856 by a group of Franciscan friars, 630 years after the death of St. Francis, founder of their order. To these doubters McElroy says, read the program. Would the ECAC lie?
Maury Wills' son Bump (page 24) is only one of several youngsters coming up in baseball whose fathers played in the major leagues. Dale Berra, Yogi's 20-year-old, was in the Pittsburgh Pirates' training camp this spring—"I'll play Dale nine innings against the Yankees and see who Yogi [now a Yankee coach] roots for," said Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner—but will spend another summer in the minors. Tim Murtaugh, whose father Danny was the Pirate manager, manages the Pirate farm in Columbus, Ohio. Another Pittsburgh farm hand is Pitcher Rick Peterson, whose father Hardy caught for the Pirates in the '50s.
Eddie Ford, 23-year-old son of Whitey, scored the game-winning run for the Red Sox in a spring exhibition win over the Yanks, his father's alma mater. Ford, a shortstop, is slated to play this year for Boston's Triple-A farm at Pawtucket in the International League. Ken Boyer's son Dave, 21, is an infielder in the Cardinals' farm system, while Hank Sauer's son Henry John, 24, is an outfielder on a California Angel farm club. Two other promising youngsters, neither a son of a former major-leaguer, bear famous major league names. Willie Mays (Ack Ack) Aikens, California Angel prospect, will likely play for Salt Lake City this summer. Ted Williams May of Cleveland, Tenn. was drafted in January by the Chicago White Sox.
In thoroughbred racing the situation is called a walkover. All the entrants but one have failed to show up, and in order to make the race official all the "winner" has to do is walk the course and cross the finish line. The Old Town, Maine high school girls' track team found itself in a walkover recently, when neither Hamden Academy nor Bucksport High was able to field a team for the 640-yard relay during a meet in Castine. All the Old Town Indians had to do was jog around the track to pick up five easy points. But officials spotted a passing-lane violation and the Indians were disqualified. Even winning the meet, eventually, wasn't enough to save face.
In the face of predictions of impending economic doom in various sports, The Wall Street Journal points out that the presence of a major sports team has an impressive upbeat economic effect. Citing the Pittsburgh Pirates, the WSJ says that team pumped more than $21 million into the Pittsburgh metropolitan area last year. Says the Journal, "A survey shows that direct results, or the Pirates' own local spending, totaled $5.7 million. Induced effects, or spending by fans, visiting teams and supporting personnel, were $8.3 million. Indirect effects, such as spending at the wholesale level to support direct and induced retail activity, came to $7.5 million."
As an example of induced spending—that is, not at or in the ball park—the survey found that nearly 16% of those people on their way to a game stopped someplace and spent an average of $4 each. After a game 28% spent an average of $5.77 each at one stop or other.
Obviously, if attendance falls off, spending sags. Because winning teams usually draw bigger crowds than losing ones, The Wall Street Journal findings could provide inspiration for stirring locker-room speeches by managers and coaches. "Come on, guys," they could cry. "Let's go out there and win one for the economic well-being of the entire metropolitan area!"
Spring training means getting into shape, which inspires the following tribute to exercise by William Shakespeare, as told to Edward F. Murphy:
"How look I...?" Cymbeline.
"Put on some other shape." Richard III.
"Changed to a worser shape thou canst not be." Henry VI, Part One.
"I am the fellow with the great belly...." Henry IV, Part Two.
"...do not bid me remember mine end." Henry IV, Part Two.
"You ruinous butt...." Troilus and Cressida.
"Hark, how hard he fetches breath." Henry IV, Part One.
"Lay aside life-harming heaviness." Richard II.
"The pound of flesh which I demand...is dearly bought." The Merchant of Venice.
"So long as nature will bear up this exercise, so long I daily vow to use it." The Winter's Tale.
"I will gain nothing." Hamlet.
" 'Twill do me good to walk." Othello.
"...sweats to death, and lards the lean earth as he walks along." Henry IV, Part One.
"Beads of sweat have stood upon thy brow, like bubbles." Henry IV, Part One.
"You should run a certain course." King Lear.
"Come, stretch thy chest...." Troilus and Cressida.
"Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood...." Henry V.
"Say, are you not stronger than you were?" Henry VIII.
"Never man so changed." King Lear.
"I am transformed...both in mind and in my shape." The Comedy of Errors.
"O, it is excellent to have a giant's strength." Measure for Measure.
MONTAGUE AND CAPULET
Speaking of Shakespeare, Larry Snyder, the leading jockey at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., regularly rides one of the track's top handicap horses, named Romeo. He was hoping that the owner of one of the top fillies in the U.S. would bring her to run at Oaklawn. "She's a front-runner and mine is a come-from-behind horse," Snyder says. "I can imagine the call in the stretch of the $100,000 Oaklawn Handicap. 'It's My Juliet in front by two lengths, and here comes Romeo.' "
The San Francisco Giants were the worst draw in the major leagues last season, and their performance on the field was generally dismal. This season's prospects don't look much better, but the Giants do have one distinction: Mayor George Moscone of San Francisco broadcasts their ball games. Well, he broadcast one ball game. All right, all right. Two and a half innings of one exhibition game.
The mayor, who had been an outstanding athlete in high school and college, popped over to Phoenix a couple of weekends ago to watch the Giants work out, and during a game between the Giants and the Chicago Cubs he was invited to sit in the broadcasting booth with announcer Lon Simmons. Once there, Moscone ended up doing the play-by-play for a few innings.
He wasn't bad, either, although Simmons had fun chiding him from time to time. Shaky at first, the mayor warmed to the task and soon was using such glib phrases as "that evens out the count" and "the score is even at zero." His big problem was lapsing into silence between pitches. During one such silence Simmons said, "George, you might sing or something between pitches. Or mention a lot of names. Maybe practice a speech." On one long foul ball, the only thing Moscone said was, "Ooooooh." Simmons said, "I'm afraid 'Ooooooh' just won't do it, George."
On the other hand, Moscone once kept talking straight through a station break. He also admitted, "Hey, it's hard to tell balls and strikes from up here." Simmons agreed but said with tongue in cheek that he had a special arrangement with the umpires, the man behind the plate raising his right arm to signal Lon if a pitch was a strike, not raising it if the pitch was a ball. Simmons also advised the mayor, who is having political problems in San Francisco (one opponent wants him to submit to a recall election), to be gentle in his comments on the umpires, because "One of them may move to San Francisco and become a voter."
THEY SAID IT
•Walter O'Malley, Los Angeles Dodgers owner, invited to a luncheon where he would meet some millionaires: "If I want to meet millionaires, I don't have to go anywhere. I just have to look up my own players."
•Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboy quarterback, accepting the Columbus (Ohio) Touchdown Club's Player of the Year award: "I don't know what to say. I'm waiting for Coach Landry to send somebody in with a statement."
•Pat Toomay, Tampa Bay Buccaneer end, asked what his memories were of the Bucs' 0-14 first season: "Dim."