A TRANQUIL INTERLUDE
The immediate effect of Bowie Kuhn's announcement last week that he was resigning after 14 years as baseball commissioner was to bring the game's 26 usually fractious owners together. Recognizing that his efforts to save his job were doomed, Kuhn decided to spare all concerned further acrimony by stepping aside, a move that brought sighs of relief from the 17 owners who supported him as well as the nine who didn't. Suddenly and blessedly, the owners found themselves speaking with a single voice on these two (count 'em) issues:
1) They unanimously agreed to modernize their procedures so that, in most matters, they'll no longer be voting separately by leagues but by majority rule (although ballots of the 12 National League clubs will be weighted slightly more heavily than those of the 14 American League clubs).
2) Also without dissent, the owners adopted a motion to keep Kuhn in office until Dec. 31 or until a successor is named, whichever comes first.
August 14, 1983
Those two actions are chronicled here for the sake of posterity. Since only the identity of the commissioner will be changing, not the identities of the fiercely independent owners at whose pleasure he serves, the spirit of unanimity, we promise you, will be shortlived.
THE GREAT KEEL FLAP
The New York Yacht Club has intensified the controversy over the mysterious keel of Australia II, the runaway leader in the trials to select the foreign challenger for the America's Cup, with a letter to the International Yacht Racing Union formally requesting that the boat be remeasured. The letter argues that Australia II wasn't "fairly and equitably" rated when all the Twelves were officially measured before the start of the June trials and thus might not be a legal 12-meter. An irate Alan Bond, head of the Australia II syndicate, replied that he was "amazed at the lengths to which the New York Yacht Club was obviously prepared to go in their endeavours to avoid competing with Australia II."
The determination of what is or isn't a bona fide 12-meter is based on a complicated mathematical equation that takes into account, among other things, length, girth, draft and sail area. In June the IYRU's Measurement Committee, made up of an Englishman, an Australian and an American, measured all 10 of the competing yachts—seven foreign and three American—and certified all of them as Twelves. At Bond's insistence, however, Australia II was measured behind closed doors with armed guards standing watch. Since then, when the boat has been hauled out of the water at night to have its bottom scrubbed, the Aussies have shielded the keel from view.
If Australia II had turned out to be just another boat, the secrecy might have been shrugged off. But Australia II's showing so far in the trials makes it clear she could be a formidable rival to the Americans. In requesting a remeasurement, the New York Yacht Club is within its rights. At the same time, the club, which as holder of the "deed of gift" for the America's Cup has broad powers to set and change the rules for the competition, shouldn't throw its considerable weight around on the matter, as it has sometimes done in past Cup wars. A common correction for boats that are found to exceed the 12-meter rating, one that can be accomplished without chopping hulls to pieces, is a lessening of sail area. Since sails are the engines of a sailboat, this usually means a slower boat. However, it ought to be left up to the IYRU—and the IYRU alone—to determine whether Australia II should be remeasured and, if the boat is found to be misrated, to specify the remedy.
WORSE THAN SPARTAN
The IX Pan American Games are scheduled to begin on Aug. 14 in Caracas, Venezuela. As of Sunday, exactly one week before the opening ceremonies, it was impossible to find a timetable of events or a list of competitors. Officials conceded that electricity and running water would probably be unavailable at some venues. Engineers in Olympic Stadium, site of the track events, were still trying to figure out where to locate finish lines. Meanwhile, in a surprise 11th-hour development, the Pan American Sports Organization took over the games from the Venezuelan government, which earlier had wrested control from local organizers. Terry O'Neil, executive producer of the CBS-TV team that will cover the Pan Am Games, calls arrangements in Caracas "worse than Spartan." Nevertheless, word was that the games would go on.
ON THE ROCKY ROAD TO PEACE
Athletes United for Peace, an organization in Lawrence, Kans. that seeks to use sports to promote greater understanding between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., brought a Soviet women's basketball team to town recently for a visit that included a couple of awkward moments. One of the hitches occurred when the Soviets were taken to a meeting of the Lawrence city commission for a closeup look at democracy in action, only to have the commission retire behind closed doors to discuss some appointments to city boards. So much for open democracy. Then the visitors were whisked off to see a movie, which they "took in the right spirit," as one of their somewhat embarrassed hosts later put it. It seems that the Soviets had been taken to the James Bond epic, Octopussy, without anybody realizing that one of the film's villains is a U.S.S.R. general who tries to blow up a U.S. Air Force base in West Germany.
MOVES AND MACHINATIONS
Now for more substantial trouble involving a planned Soviet visit to the U.S. On orders from his government, 20-year-old Soviet grandmaster Gary Kasparov, considered by many to be the best active chess player in the world, failed to show last week for the start of his scheduled world championship semifinal candidates' match in Pasadena against Soviet émigré Viktor Korchnoi, 52. The international chess federation (FIDE) then declared Korchnoi the winner by default. At the same time, Soviet authorities refused to allow Vassily Smyslov, 62, to compete in the other semifinal candidates' match, against Hungary's Zoltan Ribli, 31, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It was uncertain whether FIDE would order that match moved to another site or would declare Ribli winner by default, too.
The Soviet explanation for keeping Smyslov home was simply that Abu Dhabi was too hot, but the situation in Pasadena was considerably more complicated. Soviet officials said they objected to Pasadena for security reasons and because the city hadn't been the first choice of either player. Sources in Pasadena and in Soviet chess circles translated this to mean that Soviet officials were afraid that Kasparov, who is half Jewish and who, by their lights, isn't considered politically reliable, might defect. It was also theorized that Moscow wanted to send signals to U.S. sports officials that a Soviet boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics was possible. There was further speculation, farfetched though it may seem, that the Soviets feared that holding the match in Pasadena, Bobby Fischer's home territory, might somehow lure Fischer back into action, thereby jeopardizing Soviet domination of the game.
If FIDE orders Smyslov to forfeit his match with Ribli, the latter would play Korchnoi this fall for the right to meet world champion Anatoly Karpov, a Soviet citizen who is considered politically dependable by his government. But Karpov has reportedly said he'd refuse to meet the winner of a match contested by two men who won their previous matches by default. FIDE has warned that if Karpov refuses to play, he would forfeit his title. Thinking a few moves ahead, as chess people are wont to do, some observers predict that the imbroglio will end with Soviet bloc countries breaking with FIDE and setting up their own "world" championships.
SOMETHING NEW TO GRIPE ABOUT
Regulars at the Taconic Golf Club, which is owned by Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., have the impression that management really doesn't want them to use the new suggestion box it has put up. The box is attached to a post implanted in the middle of a large water hazard on the 4th hole.
THE SEA GULL FOLLIES
(A Farce in One Act Featuring the Yankee Repertory Players)
Time: Thursday evening, Aug. 4, 1983.
Scene: Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, home of the Blue Jay and the herring gull (larus argentatus). Waiting for their accustomed postgame feast of half-eaten hot dogs, gulls from nearby Lake Ontario (line from the official Blue Jay song, "Is it a fly ball or is it a sea gull...?") perch in the stands, frequently descending onto the field. Completing his between-innings warmup tosses, Yankee Outfielder Dave Winfield throws a ball toward the bullpen that hits a gull on the field. The bird falls dead. As Winfield holds cap over heart in mock solemnity, catcalls are heard from the stands. Dissolve to a series of fadeouts.
TORONTO CONSTABLE (at local station house after the game): You're under arrest, David Mark Winfield, under Section 4.02, Subsection 1A, of the Criminal Code of Canada, for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. Maximum penalty: six months in jail, $500 fine. Bail is hereby set at $500.
WINFIELD: Believe me, this wasn't intentional.
BLUE JAY FAN (on the phone to the Toronto Star): I saw him point at the bird before throwing the ball. That's right, just like the Babe's called shot before that home run in Chicago.
YANKEE MANAGER BILLY MARTIN: If they think Winfield did it on purpose, they should see the throws he's made. This was the first time all year he's hit the cutoff man.
YANKEE THIRD BASEMAN GRAIG NETTLES: It's not like he killed a Blue Jay. It was a gate-crashing sea gull.
NEW YORK SUBWAY RIDER (reading aloud to a companion, in suitably hysterical voice, from a newspaper editorial): Listen to what the Daily News says, will you? "...They had some nerve charging Dave Winfield with cruelty to animals in a country where baby seals are clubbed to death—and with baseball bats!"
COMPANION: Hey, that's pretty heavy stuff.
ANONYMOUS TORONTO FAN: This whole thing makes our city look silly.
ONTARIO MAGISTRATE: After considering this matter for 24 hours, I find there was no criminal intent on Mr. Winfield's part and am therefore dropping the charges.
YANKEE BOSS GEORGE STEINBRENNER (dictating his inevitable statement to the press): Dave Winfield is perhaps one of the most caring players in baseball today. I can assure you that I, personally, and, I am sure, our players as well, care about wildlife in our country just as much as the Canadians do in their country. Blah, blah, blah...."
As Steinbrenner continues his monologue, the Yankees can be seen in the background deplaning in New York, where Martin is promptly suspended for two games by the American League office for having called an umpire a liar after an earlier game. It's the manager's second suspension of the season as a result of confrontations with umpires. Steinbrenner, who has also been suspended and has been fined $50,000 for baiting umps in this endlessly eventful Yankee campaign, drones self-righteously on. The lights dim, leaving the stage as dark as pine tar.
THEY SAID IT
•John McEnroe, when asked whether he wanted guards to evict a woman who yelled an obscenity at him during an exhibition match against Guillermo Vilas in Miami: "That's O.K. She just gave me a line for the U.S. Open."
•Roy Smalley, Yankee infielder, on the needling he receives from teammates over his designer wardrobe: "They get on me, but they all dress like Walt Garrison and think Giorgio Armani plays for the Cosmos."
•Samantha Smith, the 11-year-old girl who visited the Soviet Union at the invitation of President Yuri Andropov, explaining to Johnny Carson why her friends in Manchester, Maine had missed an earlier appearance of hers on The Tonight Show: "I got bumped by a Boston Red Sox game."
•Alberto Salazar, revealing his secret training regimen for coping with possible smog during the marathon at the L.A. Olympics: "I'll start the car in the garage and run in there."