UEBERROTH'S POWER PLAY
Commissioner Peter Ueberroth last week bypassed the Major League Baseball Players Association and took his drug-testing crusade directly to the players. Ueberroth sent a letter to each of the 650 major league players asking them to agree to three unannounced drug tests a season beginning next year. He also asked the 26 player representatives to poll team members on his proposal. He told the players they were in a position to "restore our good name."
Ueberroth's actions escalated his drug-testing war with the Players Association. He had already brought public pressure on the association last May when he ordered all nonunion employees of baseball—including players in the minor leagues—to be tested. The association had balked at mandatory testing, arguing that the voluntary drug-testing program negotiated in 1984 was working.
Ueberroth's latest power play seemed to have mixed results: Although the players criticized the commissioner's tactics and generally refused to vote on his proposals, player reps and union officials sounded more willing than before to negotiate possible changes in the drug-control program. As Chicago Cubs player rep Keith Moreland put it: "I'm not trying to make it sound like we're totally against things. What we are for is to go through proper procedures and work something out."
October 6, 1985
Ueberroth was buoyed by such sentiments. He said he perceived an "overwhelming consensus" that players had "expressed their clear belief that a drug-testing program is a viable solution," but that they wanted their union "to represent them in making arrangements for the program."
It apparently didn't bother the commissioner that his direct appeal to the players may have been an unfair labor practice. "Yes, the players want to remove this drug cloud from baseball," complained Gene Orza, associate general counsel for the union. "But we have a combined sadness and resentment that he made an end run around the association." A source at the National Labor Relations Board said, "If the union filed a charge accusing the commissioner of a violation—that he didn't go through proper channels, and that he pressured labor—yes, I could see somebody making that a plausible theory."
WE'RE REALLY FLATTERED, BUT...
Over the last decade Babson College has won three Division III national championships in soccer and one in hockey, five New England titles in skiing and two Massachusetts championships in women's tennis. It wasn't surprising, therefore, to open The Boston Globe the other day and find Babson ranked No. 10 in a preseason poll in New England in Division III football.
Trouble is, Babson doesn't have a football team.
At a meeting of the U.S. ski team two weeks ago in Park City, Utah, it was revealed that starting this year national teams will be free to sell advertising space on the racers' uniforms. Up to 30 square centimeters of ads per outfit will be permitted, with lettering limited to what officials feel is a tasteful 15 millimeters high. No cigarette or whiskey plugs, please—though ads for beer might be acceptable. The space may be sold for whatever money a ski team can get says the new ruling approved by the International Ski Federation, the sport's governing body. Some of the proceeds may be shared with the racers; in the U.S., the kickback will be 15%.
As if that's not crass enough, the racers themselves will be permitted to sell space on their crash helmets and ski caps. The skier can sell the spot for whatever he can get from Moe's Bar and Grill, and he gets to keep 90% of the dough.
All of this clearly marks the federation's final surrender to creeping commercialism. It was probably inevitable, but the white flag came sooner than expected. What spurred the FIS was an incipient revolt this summer among skiers, including some of the world's best down-hillers, who threatened to form their own pro circuit to compete with the FIS World Cup. Permitting these new ad liberties will stop the grumbling, the FIS hopes, and bring everybody back in line.
Maybe so. But the scheme raises problems. Like where to put the ads so they'll show up when the racer appears on TV. Put one on the chest, and it covers the racing bib. Ski parkas and racing suits already have a manufacturer's logo on the arms and legs (an earlier FIS surrender), which leaves only the elbows and kneecaps. And helmets are even more of a bother: The national team emblem usually goes up front, and manufacturers get the spots over the ears. What advertiser wants his ad on the back?
"All the skiing nations are scrambling to figure out how to make this work," says Jim Page, the U.S. Nordic team director. "It can provide needed revenue for the teams and the racers." Indeed, the U.S. team hopes to sell its high-speed ad space for a very cool $250,000.
HE RAN LIKE THE WIND
Neither Hurricane Gloria nor the urgings of New York City officials could stay Yiannis Kouris from his appointed rounds. Running on a one-mile loop in Flushing Meadow in Queens, the 29-year-old Greek ultramarathoner set out with 36 other competitors at 8 a.m. Friday and was on world-record pace for a 24-hour race when the storm, as predicted, moved into the area. Parks department security officers descended on Flushing Meadow and told the racers to cease and disperse. They refused. Shortly after noon on Friday, parks commissioner Henry Stern relented, and the race continued through heavy rain and 60-mile-per-hour winds. By 8 a.m. Saturday, Kouris had covered 178 miles in one wet, windy day, blowing away his own world mark of 177 miles. How could he storm to such a record? "Hurricane, sunshine—it's all the same when you are one with nature," Kouris said grandly.
DOING AWAY WITH WESTWAY
Those who praised Westway have finally been forced to bury it. In a joint statement two weeks ago, New York Governor Mario Cuomo and New York City Mayor Ed Koch said, "After more than 12 years of effort to begin the construction of Westway, we have reached an impasse." And last week Cuomo and Koch made it official: The grandiose highway-and-real-estate project proposed for Manhattan's West Side was dead.
Westway's backers hoped to fill more than 200 acres of the Hudson River from midtown to the Battery. A road would be tunneled through the fill, while new buildings sprouted atop. The Federal Government was to pay 90% of West-way's estimated $4 billion cost. The project had enlisted powerful supporters: four presidents, three governors and three mayors, both current New York senators, all three New York daily papers, trade unions, the construction industry, David Rockefeller and Donald Trump.
But Westway opponents correctly saw it as an unnecessary exercise that would enrich developers while endangering the Hudson's striped bass, a species whose numbers are in sharp decline. The river serves as a vital nursery for the fish, and might have lost 30% to 60% of its bass to Westway. In 1982 Federal District Court Judge Thomas P. Griesa blocked a landfill permit, accusing public officials of manipulation of dates and other deceptions in examining Westway's impact on the stripers.
This year pro-Westway forces tried again to push it through, and Griesa said new government studies of impact on the fish were riddled with more inconsistencies and misrepresentations. He was upheld on Sept. 11 by a federal appeals court, and that same day the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to block Westway funds for fiscal 1986.
Under federal law, Westway money could be traded in for other transportation funds, but the deadline for applying for such a swap was Sept. 30. When New York Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Alphonse M. D'Amato found little support among congressional colleagues for extending the deadline to give Westway supporters more time to overcome legal and political hurdles, they decided to throw in the towel.
Last Thursday, Koch and Cuomo said that some $1.2 billion of the nearly $2 billion in trade-in money would go to mass-transit projects and the rest to a less elaborate highway on Manhattan's West Side. Apparently without irony, Koch said that the new road "cannot be equal environmentally to Westway." We hope he's right.
Don't ever think that if illegal recruiting is going on the coaches don't know about it. They are right in the middle of it.... Don't believe that if a player is bought he doesn't know exactly what he is doing.
—DICK LOWE, Fort Worth oilman, who has admitted paying football players to attend TCU, in a letter resigning from the school's board of trustees (SI, Sept. 30).
The alumni entice you. It's about the same at all the schools. They offered it. They made us look like the rats, gnawing away. But they put the cheese out there.
—KENNETH DAVIS, TCU All-America running back who was suspended for accepting money from Lowe, in an interview with The Washington Post.
I was trying, along with the others, to protect [TCU's] program, not hurt it.
—LOWE, same letter.
In a certain sense, I never gave it a thought. It never crossed my mind if it was wrong.
—DAVIS, same interview.
EQUAL UPRIGHTS NOW!
Everyone from Ted Koppel to Tank McNamara has commented on Beth Balsley, the 16-year-old New Jersey girl who, as a wide receiver on her high school jayvee football team, is breaking down barriers this season. But few seem to have noticed Bridgette Farris, 16, a junior at Hoover High in Fresno, Calif. A week ago the 5'1½", 100-pound Farris put her size-6 shoe into a point-after attempt in Hoover's 9-0 win over Dinuba. Farris' PAT is believed to be the first point ever scored by a girl in a varsity game in this country. The kick was apparently no fluke. Farris is a three-year veteran of youth soccer and in practice routinely hits 75% of her attempts from 30 yards.
THEY SAID IT
•Actress Jane Russell, who was once married to the late Los Angeles Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield, remembering what she told Marilyn Monroe before the latter married Joe DiMaggio: "Well, they're birds of a feather and you'll get to know lots of other athletes. Otherwise, it's great."
•Sandy Koufax, on Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden: "I'd rather have his future than my past."