It was reported last week that a five-member owners' disciplinary committee had fined Milwaukee Brewer General Manager Harry Dalton $50,000 for speaking his mind to the Washington Post concerning baseball's labor negotiations, which are expected to end in a players' strike on May 29. The committee apparently thought Dalton had deviated from the party line by sounding too dovish about the negotiations. The fine—indeed, the very existence of a committee empowered to impose such a whopping penalty—suggests that the owners don't much trust one another, a possibility further borne out, as it happens, by the dispute itself. By asking the players to consent to the payment of stiffer compensation by teams signing free agents, the owners are hoping to put a lid on salaries, which have soared for the simple reason that the owners are unable to control themselves or one another. Labor-management dispute? The fine imposed on Dalton serves as a reminder that this is also very much a management-management dispute.
Not counting punters or placekickers, 47 different college football players were honored last season on All-America teams chosen by the AP, UPI, Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, Football News, Walter Camp and Kodak. All 47 played for schools that had winning seasons. The selectors of those teams are either sports-writers or college coaches. By contrast, two players from losing teams, Texas Tech Defensive Back Ted Watts and Wake Forest Guard Bill Ard, earned All-America recognition from The Sporting News. Its selectors are NFL scouts and personnel directors, the same fearless judges of talent who included four players from below-.500 college teams among the 28 first-round picks in the recent draft: California Quarterback Rich Campbell (Green Bay), Kansas Wide Receiver David Verser (Cincinnati), Watts (Oakland) and Auburn Running Back James Brooks (San Diego).
Why do the All-America teams selected by writers and coaches have no players from losing teams? Hazarding a guess, one NFL personnel chief, the Dallas Cowboys' Gil Brandt, says, "TV teams dominate the All-America squads because that's the way most writers and coaches get a look at players out of their conference or area. And how many losing teams play on TV? Not many."
May 17, 1981
Brandt and other NFL personnel directors clearly parted company with All-America selectors over Purdue Quarterback Mark Herrmann, who led the Boilermakers to an 8-3 record last season. Though he was a consensus All-America, earning first-team honors from all the teams selected by writers or coaches except the NEA's (Ohio State's Art Schlichter got the nod on that one), Herrmann was ignored by The Sporting News, which chose Stanford's John El-way, a sophomore. Herrmann was also passed over in the NFL draft until Denver finally selected him in the fourth round, the 99th player taken overall. That put him exactly 93 picks behind the first quarterback selected, Campbell, whose team had a 3-8 record.
HOLD THAT LINE
James Strong, a local cattle rancher, wasn't happy with the way his boy fared last season under James Anderson, the football coach of the Rolla (Mo.) High School Bulldogs. Lance (Boomer) Strong, a 6'1", 205-pound sophomore, played fullback and linebacker on the junior varsity but quit after getting into only two varsity games. The elder Strong, who hopes his son will get a college football scholarship, showed his displeasure by trying unsuccessfully to get Anderson fired. Then he took another tack. Strong's 470-acre ranch is right on the boundary line separating the Rolla School District from the St. James School District, and he's now attempting to get the line redrawn to enable Boomer to attend and play football at the high school in St. James, 10 miles away.
Some townspeople in Rolla feel that Strong should have freedom of choice in the matter of which side of the boundary his ranch lies on. Others disagree, less because of Boomer's football talent—he's considered a good but not spectacular prospect—than because the desired boundary change would mean less real-estate tax revenue for Rolla, more for St. James. Accordingly, after Strong collected the 260 signatures on petitions necessary for placing the question on last month's general election ballot, the boundary shift was rejected by Rolla voters but approved by those in St. James. Because of the split decision, this week the Missouri Board of Education is expected to appoint a three-member arbitration board to resolve the issue. Strong says of the upcoming vote on the boundary-line adjustment, "I will go by the wishes of the majority." As for Boomer, he says that he'll miss his Rolla friends if he winds up playing for the St. James High Tigers, adding, "They'd like for me to stay, but they understand." A surprisingly equable note is also struck by Anderson. "Parents don't always agree with coaches," he says.
Did you know it can be Clear and Rainey in the Boston Red Sox bullpen at the same time? Well, it can—just the other day, relief pitchers Mark Clear and Chuck Rainey were successively called into action in a stormy 8-4 Bosox loss to Texas (Starter Frank Tanana having long since gone to the showers)—and the coexistence of Chuck and Mark on the same pitching staff was duly noted by Warner Fusselle in a recent issue of his weekly Fuse-Letter. Privately circulated, Fuse-Letter is an informative, sometimes irreverent compendium of baseball oddities, gags and such recondite information as the fact that Tom Seaver's first, 1,000th, 2,000th and 3,000th major league strikeout victims were all first basemen.
An announcer for Major League Baseball Productions, which is responsible for Major League Baseball: An Inside Look, The Baseball Bunch and other TV fare related to the national pastime, Fusselle began turning out Fuse-Letter last year as an in-house memo to provide ideas for one of the most successful MLBP features, This Week in Baseball. The initial circulation was two. But Fuse-Letter soon gained a wider audience, and now—talk about a success story—there's a spin-off, a weekly column syndicated to 735 daily papers by Newspaper Enterprise Association. It contains such tidbits as this wry question about one of the young season's hottest sluggers and the hottest team: "Will Tony Armas and the Oakland A's vote to go on strike?" As for Tom Seaver's milestone strikeout victims, they were Donn Clendenon, Willie Montanez, Dan Driessen and Keith Hernandez.
GETTING IT ALL TOGETHER
First he was Ross Fields, a quarter-miler on the American University track team and small-time nightclub operator in Washington, D.C. Then he was Harold Smith, a free-spending track and boxing promoter who disappeared during the investigation of an alleged $21.3 million bank embezzlement. Subsequently apprehended and unmasked, he now hopes to merge his two disparate selves, or so it appeared last week when he filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to have his name legally changed to Harold Rossfields Smith.
ON WITH THE SHOW
Few things are more sacred to NFL bosses than Monday-night football games, extravaganzas that showcase the sport and produce abundant television riches. Trouble is, when Monday-night games are played in the East, the kickoff is at the late hour of 9 p.m. to accommodate the West Coast TV audience. This brings out younger fans, many of whom tune up for the game by drinking and carousing. Some of the worst problems occurred last season on the occasion of the New England Patriots' 23-14 victory over the Denver Broncos at Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. As reported at the time (SCORECARD, Oct. 13), the game wasn't sold out, there was a last-minute crush of ticket buyers, fistfights broke out and a 69-year-old man was fatally injured when he was struck by a vehicle as he walked toward the stadium. Police said the driver, a teen-ager, had been drinking. During the game, cups of beer and Frisbees were recklessly hurled through the crowd, cops were doused with beer as they tried to quell disturbances and one was hospitalized after being kicked in the back. There were at least 50 arrests and more than 100 people were evicted from the stadium. When the game ended, youths rampaged through the parking lots, damaging cars.
It wasn't the first outbreak of violence on a Monday night at Schaefer, and Foxboro police reiterated their previously expressed opposition to such games. But the NFL, no doubt concerned about setting an unwelcome precedent, let it be known that it considered Monday-night football "a 28-team thing," as Val Pinchbeck, the league's director of broadcasting, puts it. By way of compromise, the Foxboro Board of Selectmen suggested a 7 p.m. kickoff that would leave less time for pregame drinking, but this was ruled out by the NFL, which complained that the earlier start—4 p.m. on the West Coast—would result in the loss of both viewers and revenue. Another suggestion is that the sale of beer be banned at Monday-night games in Foxboro. But the concessionaire, Canteen Corporation, wants no part of this, nor does the company that runs Schaefer, Stadium Realty Trust, which gets a cut of the beer revenue. They point out—correctly—that the banning of beer sales wouldn't prevent people from drinking before the game or sneaking liquor into the stadium.
The Foxboro Selectmen are due to meet May 18 to consider whether to permit Monday-night games at Schaefer. What makes this an interesting exercise is that the NFL has already gone ahead and scheduled a Monday game at Schaefer for Sept. 21—at 9 p.m.—between the Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. Asked whether the league had given any thought to what it might do if the Foxboro elders ruled out such a game. Pinchbeck replied, "None whatsoever." Expressing annoyance that a reporter was even questioning him on the subject, Pinchbeck protested at one point, "Could I ask you something? Is this really that big a thing?"
CHARGE IT, PLEASE
University of Texas athletic department officials were taken aback by the bill they received from the Austin Marriott after weekend visits by seven high school basketball players being recruited by Coach Abe Lemons. The players had charged a total of $1,267.40 to their rooms for the purchase of sportswear, souvenirs and sundries in the Hotel's gift shop. Texas officials notified the hotel that the charges weren't authorized, and Lemons informed the athletes, three of whom had signed letters of intent to attend Texas, that they wouldn't be welcome at the school unless they paid up.
One of the Texas-bound recruits, Robert Hughes Jr., a 6'3" guard at Fort Worth Dunbar High, reportedly ran up the biggest bill—$525.80. He told the campus newspaper, The Daily Texan, "I don't know about that total amount but all I bought was some gum and peanuts." Hughes' father, who also happens to be the basketball coach at Fort Worth Dunbar, seemed less than convinced. Pronouncing himself "extremely disgusted" with his son, he said, "I don't know who he thought he was, charging those things, but I do know who is going to have to pay for it. I also know who is going to pay me back with his first paycheck this summer, or UT is going to be minus a player after I break both legs." Although Hughes later said that the threat to break his son's legs was a rhetorical excess, he also said that any money he might have to come up with to cover the unpaid bill would be loaned to his son at "the highest interest rates the law will allow."
THEY SAID IT
•Joe DiMaggio, reflecting on what his salary might have been in baseball's current free-agent market: "If I were sitting down with George Steinbrenner and based on what Dave Winfield got for his statistics, I'd have to say, 'George, you and I are about to become partners.' "
•Bill Lee, Montreal Expo pitcher, on baseball-card collecting as a hobby: "We live in a collecting society. Some people collect automobiles or guns, others just collect unemployment."