THE UNDETERRED YANKS
This is an article from the June 9, 1980 issue
Lord Killanin, president of the International Olympic Committee, said last week that athletes from the U.S. and other boycotting countries might be permitted to take part in the Moscow Summer Games as individuals, a gambit meant to blunt the boycott's impact. But some Americans may compete in Moscow without special dispensation from the IOC—and despite President Carter's efforts to keep U.S. citizens away. They are Americans who, because they have dual citizenship, might qualify for the Games under the flags of other, non-boycotting countries.
University of Oregon pole-vaulter Tom Hintnaus, for example, is a citizen of both the U.S. and Brazil. He was born in Brazil, where his parents settled after fleeing their native Czechoslovakia in 1949, but grew up in the U.S. and became an American citizen when his parents did so. He has vaulted 18'½", and because the national record in Brazil is only 15'7", Brazilian Olympic officials were receptive when he expressed interest in representing their country in Moscow. But now there are indications that Brazil's foreign ministry may not want to risk offending the Carter Administration by giving him the necessary clearance to join the Brazilian team, and Hintnaus himself wonders whether he could compete in Moscow "with a clear conscience."
A more likely Moscow competitor is long jumper Billy Rea, who was born in Austria, where his father, a U.S. Army man, was stationed; his mother is Austrian. Rea placed fourth in the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1972, barely missing the third spot on the Munich-bound team, and has since graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and become a dentist. The 28-year-old Rea remains haunted by his near-miss in '72 and says he had been hoping to compete for Austria even before anybody dreamed the U.S. might boycott the Olympics. Rea has been virtually assured of a spot on Austria's team by Olympic officials of that country, and two weeks ago in Knoxville, Tenn. he jumped 26'7", one of the best performances in the world this year and more than a foot better than the Austrian national record. Rea is scheduled to leave for Europe next week to join his Austrian teammates.
There is always the possibility that other Americans will turn up unexpectedly in Moscow, just as Washington, D.C.-born, Dartmouth-educated hammer thrower Bill Dinneen did at Munich in '72, when track buffs were startled to see him competing as a member of Puerto Rico's team under the surname of Silen, the maiden name of his mother, a Puerto Rican. Which brings up the question of whether Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth that fields a separate Olympic team, will send athletes to Moscow, as it is threatening to do in defiance of the White House and Puerto Rican Governor Carlos Romero Barceló. If it sends boxers and a full-strength basketball team, Puerto Rico would figure to have an outside chance of winning medals in both sports, as would Rea in his specialty. The mere suggestion that U.S. citizens could yet mount the awards stand at Moscow in the troubled summer of 1980 strikes a slightly surreal note.
On the day after being knocked out in the fifth inning of a game last week against Cleveland, Jim Palmer was interviewed on the Today show about the revealing ads he appears in for Jockey underwear. That, notes Baltimore radio personality Larry Hall, gave the Oriole pitcher two brief appearances in as many days.
BREAK IN THE ACTION
One effect of the ever bigger salaries being lavished on baseball free agents is the discontent sown among players with less generous contracts. Among the disaffected is the Texas Rangers' Ferguson Jenkins, who beat Oakland 3-1 on a two-hitter the other night for his 250th career victory but failed to dress for a game the next day, demanding that the club sweeten his three-year, $200,000-a-year contract, which runs through 1981. Jenkins returned after Texas Board Chairman Eddie Chiles agreed to discuss his grievance, but the club docked him a day's pay and refused to renegotiate his contract. Manager Pat Corrales said, "When you put your name down on a piece of paper, you make a deal. If you don't mean it, don't sign it."
But Jenkins pleaded extenuating circumstances. "When I signed this contract [before the 1979 season], my attorney didn't get me the money I deserved," he said. "When you think about it, $200,000 is just a drop in the bucket."
Next to, say, Nolan Ryan's million-dollar-a-year deal, Jenkins' salary is modest. And Corrales to the contrary, there's a long and honorable tradition of renegotiation in baseball; over the years owners have frequently torn up contracts and offered improved ones. Still, there is something unsettling about a player under contract walking out in a salary dispute during a season, especially one in which a strike has just been averted. Such an action seems to presage the sort of situation described in The 80s: A Look Back, a wacky, brisk-selling satirical history of, yes, the 1980s (it was released by Workman Publishing in August 1979). In a game played in 1982 a Yankee base runner, Gary (Stilts) Murchison, suddenly pulls up 30 feet short of home plate and demands a raise. As the ball is being chased down in the outfield, Stilts' agent and Yankee attorneys rush onto the field and hammer out a new contract. The player, now satisfied, resumes running, sliding safely into home plate with his new contract clutched in his right hand.
Which, figuratively, is what Ferguson Jenkins is trying to do.
FOOT-DRAGGING IN THE PAC-10
After Arizona State's academic-credit scandal broke last fall, the Pac-10 Conference ordered the Sun Devil football team to forfeit three conference victories and also declared the school ineligible for the 1981 Rose Bowl. Since then, transcript irregularities or other transgressions have been discovered at six additional Pac-10 schools: Southern Cal, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State and California. So what punishment will now be imposed on Arizona State's fellow sinners? Will the race for the Rose Bowl be reduced to Stanford, Washington and Washington State, the conference's three remaining schools?
Last week Pac-10 athletic directors and faculty representatives wound up their spring meeting in Bellevue, Wash. without recommending any penalty against any of the six. The official explanation was that the conference was awaiting completion of an investigation it was conducting. Oregon State faculty representative John R. Davis said the investigators had been hampered because they lack subpoena power, adding that disciplinary action by the presidents and chancellors of Pac-10 schools may be forthcoming in early August, just before the start of football practice.
Davis also said he hopes that expected grand-jury proceedings will produce evidence useful to conference investigators; last week a grand jury in Eugene indicted two former assistant basketball coaches at the University of Oregon, Mark Barwig and Ron Billingslea, on charges involving the pocketing of refunds for unused airline tickets purchased with Athletic Department funds.
There was speculation that in at least some of the pending cases, penalties ultimately agreed upon by the Pac-10 will be confined to declaring players implicated in transcript scandals ineligible for conference games, a punishment that had been meted out to Arizona State in addition to forfeiture of games and the Rose Bowl ban. It is no secret that Pac-10 officials are particularly reluctant to crack down on Southern Cal lest the NCAA, which also is investigating Pac-10 improprieties—and which also cites the lack of subpoena power as an excuse for foot-dragging in such matters—feels obliged to bar that school, one of college football's biggest TV draws, from appearing on television. Reason for their reluctance: TV revenues from any game involving a Pac-10 team are shared by other conference teams.
AFTER STREAK, AFTERSHAVE
Baltimore Oriole Pitcher Scott McGregor stopped Ken Landreaux's hitting streak at 31 games Saturday, and now Bowie Kuhn is trying to stop the Minnesota outfielder, too. The baseball commissioner is unhappy that the makers of Aqua Velva aftershave lotion plan to give the ballplayer with the season's longest hitting streak a cash award totaling $1,000 for every game it lasts. The award was introduced last year, much to Kuhn's distress, and Pete Rose won it by hitting safely in 23 straight games—for a $23,000 payoff, which he gave to the Philly coaches. Assuming that Landreaux's streak, the longest in the American League since 1949, is not surpassed this season, he stands to pocket $31,000.
According to Kuhn, however, there is a major league policy against ballplayers receiving cash performance bonuses. Tom Villante, the commissioner's marketing director, told The Minneapolis Star's Dan Stoneking last week, "Imagine a situation where a player on a streak came to bat where he had to move a runner into scoring position by giving himself up by making an out."
Villante's point is persuasive but has become muddied in the resulting dispute with Aqua Velva. Informed of the objections to direct payments to a player, Aqua Velva offered to give the prize money to a charity of the player's choice or the players' pension fund. But Kuhn preferred that the cash go to something like the Hall of Fame Foundation, which is run by the baseball Establishment. This makes him appear less interested in the dangers posed by performance bonuses than in getting the loot for baseball. As for Aqua Velva, it says that rather than accede to Kuhn's suggestion, it may simply go ahead and give the money to the winning player. Meanwhile, it is reaping more publicity from the controversy than it could possibly hope to from the award itself.
STEP RIGHT UP, PLEASE
It's time for the start of the big summer carnival season, which means, says Gene Sorrows, that it's also time to be extra careful. Sorrows is a former carnival game operator who tells of having bilked a colonel in Atlanta out of $2,700 in a carnival numbers game that had no winning number, a miner in West Virginia out of $800 in a game in which he tossed rings at blocks too big for them to slip over and a soldier in Tennessee out of a good part of his $7,000 savings in yet another midway con. But all that was before Sorrows was overcome by conscience and began traveling the country to warn against rigged carnival games, some of which, he says, have been infiltrated by organized crime. Last month he tipped police in Washington, D.C. to rigged games he said he observed at a neighborhood carnival. The ensuing raid resulted in the arrest of five operators and seizure of a number of games, including one in which stuffed cats were said to contain weights that prevented them from being knocked down when struck by a rubber ball.
The alleged rigging of carnival games has also caused concern in Kansas, where there have been reports of fairground officials receiving payoffs from midway operators. At last year's state fair in Hutchinson, agents of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and local officials singled out several operators and gave each of them 50 chances to win at his own game; all failed. William T. Collins, a carnival industry lobbyist in Washington, insists that charges of dishonesty at carnivals are greatly exaggerated, but Kansas authorities believe otherwise. They say they intend to begin prosecuting offenders under a tough state law originally enacted to deal with point-shaving and other sports fixes.
THEY SAID IT
•Dr. Henry R. Winkler, University of Cincinnati president, who recently ended a much-publicized search by appointing Mike McGee as his school's athletic director: "I'm tempted to call a press conference and announce our new librarian, who is more important to the university."
•Ted Turner, predicting success for his 24-hour TV news network: "We're going to be on the air until the end of the world. Then we'll play Nearer, My God, to Thee and sign off."