ALICE IN BASEBALL-LAND
Baseball's stalled labor negotiations were scheduled to resume early this week following a three-week recess. The main stumbling block to reaching a settlement before the players' May 23 strike deadline is a demand by the owners that a team signing a free agent be compelled to compensate the signee's previous club with an active player; at present such compensation consists of no more than a future draft choice. The owners obviously hope that an increase in compensation might curb the frantic bidding for free agents that has helped send player salaries soaring.
Some club executives become quite worked up on the subject of player salaries. Last week Padre President Ballard Smith was quoted in San Diego's Evening Tribune as saying, "I've reached the point where I almost hope they do strike. I think a strike might be the only way to get the players back in touch with reality.... If there is a strike, it will be the players who will have to give in because it won't be the owners. Believe me, we're much better prepared for a long one than they are. You can't satisfy a ballplayer anymore. A lot of these guys make hundreds of thousands of dollars and all they do is complain. They don't care about the game. They don't care about the fans. All they care about is themselves."
With passions running very nearly as high on the players' side of the bargaining table, a welcome note of sobriety was sounded when the Los Angeles Times' respected labor writer, Harry Bernstein, took it upon himself to analyze the baseball dispute. A non-fan who has been writing about the labor movement in the U.S. and abroad for two decades, Bernstein found that baseball's labor-management relations were suffused with "an Alice in Wonderland feeling" that was "difficult to dispel and impossible to duplicate anywhere else in the world." He wrote, "Many of the workers are rich young men, astonishingly famous, who seem to love their jobs most of the time. Their employers are even richer men, with an exception or so, who make money from a wide variety of corporate interests other than baseball, which is economically healthier than it has been in years. With workers and bosses like those in baseball, it's hard to generate much sympathy for either side."
May 11, 1980
Despite his pox-on-both-their-houses tone, Bernstein came down harder on the owners, who, he pointed out, are the ones offering the big salaries they complain about even though nobody is forcing them to do so. Wrote Bernstein, "It may be hard to believe, but the club owners are giving this message to their employees: 'Please restrain us, stop us from paying you so much money. We can't resist when you ask for multimillion-dollar contracts. And if you don't prevent our foolhardy generosity, we could wreck the whole wonderful business of big league baseball.' " Concluded Bernstein: "In effect, team owners are the first bosses in history to insist that the workers use their union to at least slow their employers' impetuous generosity."
FOGGY BOTTOM FEEDERS
In case anybody's wondering, William Oscar Johnson's story about muskies (page 62) wasn't prompted by the appointment of Senator Edmund Muskie as Secretary of State. But it might be noted that Muskie's surname did originate in a marine setting of sorts, New York's Ellis Island, where his father, an immigrant tailor, arrived from Poland in 1903. When immigration officials had trouble spelling the newcomer's name, Stephen Marciszewski (take that, Zbigniew Brzezinski!), they shortened it to Muskie. And now the second of the tailor's six children is being counted on to bring needed improvement to the conduct of U.S. foreign relations just as a celebrated 19th-century Secretary of State lent a touch of distinction to the troubled administration of Ulysses S. Grant. His name: Hamilton Fish.
GOOD DEEDS, INDEED
Please understand, the Boy Scouts in Jackson, Wyo. didn't mean to get involved with the Oriental aphrodisiac-trade. When they started their unique fund-raising project in the 1950s, it was in purest innocence. It seems that the big elk herds from Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks migrate each winter to nearby Jackson Hole, where in the spring the mature bulls drop their antlers. The Scouts found that by getting permission to harvest the antlers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manager of the Jackson Hole elk refuge, they could pick up a modest amount of cash from artisans who used the antlers to make belt buckles, buttons and bolo tie clasps popular with local tourists.
But then, a decade ago, Jackson Hole elk antlers were discovered by discriminating Asians, who attributed to them medicinal, nutritional and, not least, aphrodisiacal properties. The antlers soon were being ground into powder and sprinkled on food in Seoul or sliced into wafers to be brewed into tea in Kyoto. Chinese, Japanese and Korean buyers quickly bid the prices at Jackson's annual antler auction up to astronomical levels. Whereas antlers, which can weigh 10 pounds or more apiece, once fetched 6¬¨¬®¬¨¢ a pound, the Scouts last year received more than $6 a pound. The resulting $51,000 take—for nearly four tons of antlers—raised eyebrows among some townspeople, prompting the Scouts to perform a good deed: they donated $31,400 of their windfall to buying feed for the migrating elk.
John Wilbrecht, the Fish and Wildlife official who manages the elk refuge, is quick to point out that the antler harvest does no harm to the animals. "The antlers are deciduous, just like the leaves of trees," he says. "They drop naturally to the ground, where the boys collect them. Once the antlers are shed, rapid re-growth begins immediately. By mid-August the antlers are fully regrown." If Wilbrecht sounds a mite defensive, it's no wonder. In some other places the elk antler trade has resulted in accusations of cruelty to animals; in fact, one of the chief buyers at the Jackson auction stirred up controversy in California by removing "green" horns from elks, a process that is believed to be painful to the animals. California officials recently outlawed the practice, and the entrepreneur has moved the green-horn portion of his business to Texas.
As for the appropriateness of their trafficking in a commodity used as an aphrodisiac, the Boy Scouts and their leaders apparently find comfort in the fact that elk antlers are also reputed to be rich in iron and various vitamins. Whatever, the Boy Scouts have already harvested this year's crop in preparation for the auction on May 17, during which they hope to take in $60,000. Says the mother of one Scout, "It beats selling Girl Scout cookies."
DIAL SWITCHERS' DILEMMA
As expected, Boston Marathon officials last week nullified Rosie Ruiz' disputed victory in the women's division of that race, naming runner-up Jacqueline Gareau as the winner. Two days earlier taped highlights of the marathon, a race Ruiz is accused of sneaking into just half a mile from the finish line, were shown during a one-hour TV special on San Francisco's Channel 9. At precisely the same time Bay Area viewers could watch, on Channel 36, a 1968 movie about an eccentric millionairess who did her road racing in a Ferrari in everyday city traffic while attired in helmet and goggles and whose children were plotting to have her declared insane. The movie, which had been scheduled for that time slot long before the Ruiz controversy, starred Rosalind Russell and was called Rosie!
ABRUPT & BIZARRE
Rosie Ruiz isn't the only one accused of trying to rig a sports event. In Miami Beach Kenneth Harper, a 19-year-old welterweight, claims that before his professional debut on April 15, his manager changed Harper's name to Jimmy Clark in the pre-fight publicity, altered his amateur record—from 4-5 to 13-2—and asked him to lose to his opponent, Rocky Scarfone, explaining that Scarfone was "a ticket seller."
Harper leveled his accusations against his manager, Emmet Sullivan, after a fight that ended abruptly and bizarrely. Notwithstanding his claim that Sullivan had instructed him to lose, Harper broke Scarfone's nose and cut his mouth in the first two rounds. This made it all the more startling when the ringside doctor, Robert LaVey, entering the ring to examine the battered Scarfone at the end of the second round, suddenly detoured and examined Harper instead. The doctor found that two of Harper's teeth had been broken and the fight was stopped, resulting in a TKO for Scarfone.
LaVey said that Sullivan had called him over to look at Harper's broken teeth, whereupon, "The kid quit. He asked me to stop it. He told me, 'I got enough. I don't want no more.' " But Harper said, "Why would I say anything like that? I would have had the guy in the next round." He insisted that the fight had been stopped against his will.
Although he admitted changing Harper's name and amateur record, Sullivan denied asking him to lose. The promoter of the fight, Chris Dundee, who virtually runs boxing in Miami Beach, also disclaimed knowledge of any such request. Dan Roth, chairman of the Miami Beach Boxing Commission, said last week he didn't plan to investigate Harper's allegations, which had been prominently carried in The Miami News. "There's nothing for us to investigate," Roth said. "It was just a newspaper story. You read all kinds of stories."
A SLIGHT CHILL
While pushing successfully for a U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics, President Carter stopped well short of opposing all sporting contacts with the Soviet Union. As a result, not only were Soviet athletes allowed to compete in the Winter Games in Lake Placid, but a number of other competitions with the U.S.S.R. have also taken place as scheduled. Last week the Soviet junior basketball team began a nine-game U.S. tour and four Soviet athletes competed in The Lite Invitational track meet in Houston. Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau has followed a tack similar to Carter's. Although supporting an Olympic boycott, he says, "We are not condemning all contacts with Russian athletes.... We are condemning the Moscow Games."
Nevertheless, the campaign aimed at the Moscow Olympics appears to be creating a boycott mentality that's spreading a chill through international sport. Despite the distinctions Trudeau tried to draw, the Canadian Olympic Association made it clear when it voted two weeks ago to boycott the Moscow Games that it considered it grossly unfair that Canada's amateur athletes were asked to make such a sacrifice even as their country was preparing to welcome a Soviet team to compete in the Canada Cup, a six-nation hockey tournament scheduled to be held in several Canadian cities next September. Many NHL players, from whose ranks Canada's team in the tournament was to be selected, agreed, and last week the 1980 Canada Cup was canceled.
Meanwhile, Florida Southern College, an NCAA Division II basketball powerhouse, last week declined an invitation to represent the U.S. in the Friendship Cup tournament in Cuba next month. A spokesman for Florida Southern, which is located in Lakeland, said that school officials felt it would be inappropriate to consent to participate in such a tournament at a time when so many Cuban refugees were braving harassment and rough seas in hopes of making it to Florida. Although this might seem to have nothing to do with the Olympic boycott, the spokesman also said, "One of our thoughts was, 'How can we justify going to Cuba when our Olympic team isn't going to Moscow?' "
THEY SAID IT
•Dave Bristol, the Giant manager, addressing his struggling team: "There'll be two buses leaving the hotel for the park tomorrow. The 2 o'clock bus will be for those of you who need a little extra work. The empty bus will be leaving at 5 o'clock."
•Janet Guthrie, race car driver, dismissing the importance of strength in her sport: "You drive the car, you don't carry it."