With no immediate prospect for settlement of the baseball strike—although a breakthrough couldn't be ruled out—Milwaukee Brewer Centerfielder Paul Molitor last week expressed the view that unless the dispute is resolved by the July 13 All-Star break, it will be too late to save the rest of the schedule. "We'll need at least 10 days to reach playing condition, and that would leave only two months of the season," said Molitor. Although 120-odd games could be worked in for each team under such a timetable, Molitor fears that so abbreviated a schedule would make a mockery of the divisional races.
Few other observers set so early a date for scrapping the season. One widely held view is that play could resume if the baseball strike were over by the first week in August. Allowing time for the players to get back into shape, most teams could then complete a 100-game season. Oakland A's President Roy Eisenhardt would be willing to go further. "We have to get the taste of the strike expunged, to think of selling season tickets for next year," he argued. "So even if it were only one month, September, we would want to play ball. The playoffs and World Series generate tremendous interest. Even in this 'asterisk year,' it would be unwise to cancel those events."
Despite the difficulty in fixing an exact date, general agreement exists that there is a point at which, in the absence of a settlement, it would be advisable to cancel the rest of the season. Seattle Mariner President Dan O'Brien notes that because non-contending teams generally fare poorly at the gate in September, they would have scant interest in starting anew so late in the season. There are also considerations of tradition and competitive fairness. The strike has already played havoc with divisional races, working a hardship on the second-place Texas Rangers, who might have been able to overtake the Oakland A's in the American League West during a four-game series that had been scheduled for last week, while benefiting the pitching-thin Cardinals, who would have been in the midst of a grueling 16-game, 14-day road trip. As the strike drags on, such inequities will be compounded and the value of league championships further debased. O'Brien again: "It would be difficult to recognize a legitimate champion if the teams played less than 100 games. Even a 100-game figure would be a little difficult to comprehend for those who've been around the game for a long time."
July 5, 1981
ARE YOU LISTENING, KEN MOFFETT?
Players on several teams in the Chino (Calif.) Little League recently threatened to strike after the league board decided, for economy reasons, that only members of first-place teams would receive trophies, while other players would have to settle for pins. Under threat of a walkout, the board decided that trophies would be awarded to everybody. Would that the major league dispute be settled so easily; to buy the extra trophies, league officials simply tapped funds that had been earmarked for next season.
GOLDEN BEAR AND GOLDEN CUB
A number of photographs, one of them in this magazine (SI, June 29), showed 19-year-old Jack Nicklaus II caddying for his famous father during the U.S. Open at Merion. So where was Angelo Argea, who has caddied off and on for the elder Nicklaus for 18 years? "I'm trying to find something for Angelo to do besides caddie the rest of his life," says the Golden Bear, who has most recently found work for the 50-year-old Argea greeting patrons in the restaurant at the Nicklaus-owned Frenchman's Creek course in North Palm Beach, Fla.
Nicklaus also explains that he wants to spend more time with his five children. Thus, 18-year-old Steve, a wide receiver and defensive end who will enter Florida State on a football scholarship in the fall, caddied for his father in last year's Canadian Open. And Jack II, who had toted Dad's bags in the 1976 British Open, did the same in the Memorial tournament in May at Muirfield, the Nicklaus home course in Dublin. Ohio. In so doing, Jack II was repaying a debt. A member of the "B" golf team last season at the University of North Carolina, the younger Nicklaus played in a U.S. Open qualifying tournament at Frenchman's Creek in June and enlisted Jack I as his caddie, a ploy that enabled the father to legally give the son on-course advice. Jack I used a golf cart—"What else would you expect?" he asked—and afterward crowed, "I had all the yardages for him perfectly." Though Jack II shot 82-76 and missed qualifying by eight strokes, he said in a relieved tone, "At least my dad and I are still speaking."
They remained on speaking terms at the Open, where Jack I finished in a five-way tie for sixth. After a second-round double bogey on the 16th hole, the result of a shanked ball into the woods, Nicklaus was asked whether his son had counseled him on the shot. "My caddie talked to me after the shot," he said. "He told me I didn't keep my head down."
FAULTING THE RULES
John McEnroe's outrageous behavior at Wimbledon during his first-round victory over Tom Gullikson pointed up the impotence of tennis officials when it comes to disciplining players. Under existing Grand Prix rules, which Wimbledon by and large purports to follow, nothing McEnroe did—break rackets, curse officials, etc.—was, by itself or in sum, grounds for ejection from the tournament. A hysterical British press urged that he be given the heave-ho, but it's just as well that the All England Club, after duly deliberating the matter, restrained itself. Otherwise, it could have been argued that the Wimbledon brass flouted propriety even more than McEnroe did.
To be sure, the Grand Prix disciplinary procedures are laughable. Reflecting the reluctance of tournament promoters to risk losing the services of their star attractions, the rules require five separate acts of wrongdoing before a miscreant can be ejected—with a warning issued for the first offense, imposition of penalty points for the second and third, forfeit of game for the fourth and, finally, default. A similar five-step process is needed to eject a player for stalling. Thus, a player could commit eight transgressions before being shown the exit. Interpreted literally, the rules make it impossible to disqualify a player on the spot for a single offense—or two, three or four—even if he spits at an umpire or gar-rotes a linesman.
Without excusing McEnroe's boorishness, one point must be made about tennis' rampant permissiveness: It has helped create the monster he sometimes becomes on the court. McEnroe has long been allowed to misbehave with impunity, as have Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and others. Referring to McEnroe's behavior during the Gullikson match, Arthur Ashe, captain of a U.S. Davis Cup team on which McEnroe is scheduled to play this month against Czechoslovakia, told SI's Curry Kirkpatrick: "John's conduct was unbecoming a professional, but you can't ask him to bear too much burden for the system's failures. He has been given too much leeway. He's like a little kid who has been allowed to get away with too much."
There are indications that fans, promoters and many players are, at last, growing impatient with misconduct on the court. While the elders of Wimbledon were well advised in refraining from ejecting McEnroe, it was a welcome development that they did sock him, legally, with a $1,500 fine, the first fine in the tournament's 104-year history, and also fined three other players for unseemly behavior, Fritz Buehning ($1,550), Kevin Curren ($500) and Mark Edmondson ($350). Wimbledon officials also were talking about putting more teeth into disciplinary procedures in the future, as were representatives of the Grand Prix and the players' organization, the Association of Tennis Professionals. Tougher rules should indeed be adopted. That done, those rules should be consistently, fairly and firmly enforced so there can no longer be any doubt on the part of McEnroe or anyone else that the authorities mean business.
For the benefit of fans deprived of baseball by the strike, Mattel Electronics has arranged to bring Mike Schmidt and George Brett, last year's National and American League MVPs and World Series rivals, to a Manhattan pub this week to match skills in a baseball game played on Mattel's video system, Intellivision. In the process, Mattel hopes to attract some newspaper attention, which may not be easy. As a curious byproduct of the strike, many papers have been busily filling their sports pages with mythical ball games of their own.
In Lexington, Ky., Rick Bailey, sports editor of the Leader, played a baseball board game with his wife Susan in which, as Bailey wrote the next day, Cincinnati scored a 5-4 victory over Montreal. The Bellevue (Wash.) Journal-American ran an account of an electronic baseball game played in a bar in which the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Mariners by the truly fantastic score of 21-20. The Minneapolis Star has run daily box scores and standings based on results of games played on a board game. Persuaded by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to participate in yet another board game, Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog guided the Cards to a 4-1 win over San Diego, after which he said, "The guys played well considering they're on strike."
Some papers are simply making up game accounts and other baseball "news." Under the pseudonym Grant Wheat (apologies to Grantland Rice), the San Francisco Examiner's Stephanie Salter reported that Rennie Stennett, the Giants' $600,000-a-year bust of a second baseman, had, in a rush of abnegation, given away his money and was living on the beach, subsisting on abalone. Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News has run ersatz Phillie stories that included an interview with the taciturn Steve Carlton, who was said to have abandoned his no-interview policy because the strike had made him realize "what a large role major league baseball plays in the lives of millions of Americans." Then there's Strikeball, which is what the Los Angeles Herald Examiner calls its fictional coverage. On Father's Day the Herald Examiner, at the request of the father of Red Sox Catcher Gary Allenson, had the player hit a called-shot home run in his dad's honor against the Angels. But the paper flubbed when it said that the Dodgers had kept Steve Garvey's consecutive-game streak alive at 902 games by using him as a pinch runner. Informed that pinch running doesn't count as a game appearance, Sports Editor Allan Malamud, exercising the prerogatives of literature, adopted a rules-be-damned posture and decreed: "Garvey's streak is going to continue in Strikeball."
Some of the newspaper fantasies have clashed with one another. The strike came just after Pete Rose had tied Stan Musial's National League record of 3,630 career hits, and the Philadelphia Journal's Gene Collier reported Rose getting No. 3,631 the next day against the Braves' Rick Mahler in a board game. "The game was stopped and the dice were mailed to Rose," deadpanned Collier. But the Daily News' Conlin had the record-breaking hit coming against the Braves' Gaylord Perry. Meanwhile, Salter arranged for Rose to go 28 at-bats before getting a hit—and to take out his frustration by trashing the Phillie clubhouse.
"Baseball fans want to read about baseball even if it's a fantasy," says Milwaukee Journal Sports Editor Jim Cohen, defending the excursions into make-believe. But the suspicion lingers that fans aren't reading the mythical stories quite as eagerly as the writers are creating them. Even the writers concede that the fantasies could quickly pall. One of them, Salter, says that when interest in her fictionalized accounts wanes, she'll have the players go on strike.
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Liut, St. Louis Blues goalie, on rule changes he'd like to see in the NHL: "Make the puck bigger and softer."
•Bobby Curtis, Florida Tennis Association junior coordinator, explaining a new rule outlawing grunting during matches: "I was at a boys' tournament in Ocala where nine matches were going on at once and it sounded like a pigsty."
•Jim Palmer, Oriole pitcher, on the baseball strike: "I kind of look at this as a long rainout."