A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME
After 15 months and enough testimony to fill up 5,674 pages of transcripts, arbitrator Thomas Roberts came to the obvious conclusion on Monday that the major league baseball owners were guilty of improperly engaging in "concerted conduct" to limit the market for 62 free agent players after the 1985 season. Roberts was ruling on a grievance filed by the players' union, and he specifically cited the case of Kirk Gibson, the Detroit Tiger outfielder who found that none of the other 25 teams wanted him. Said Donald Fehr, the executive director of the union, "This dismisses once and for all the idea that this came about by accident." The decision does not cover such 1986 free agents as Jack Morris of Detroit and Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos; a second arbitrator, George Nicolau, is scheduled to hand down a decision in November on a grievance involving the class of '86.
Now comes the hard part. What are the ramifications of Roberts's ruling? Fehr feels that Gibson and the other wronged players should be awarded "full and complete damages." Fehr also thinks the free agents should have the right to void their existing contracts. Awards could be determined on a case-by-case basis, or the Players Association could ask for a huge indemnity and distribute the money itself.
The owners made their own bed. As Roberts pointed out in his decision, they were the ones who insisted that Article XVIII, Paragraph H be put in the Basic Agreement: "Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs." And then they went out and violated it.
What is needed is both a free labor market and fiscal responsibility by the owners—not owner collusion. In other words, something between the giddy bazaar in which the owners used to shop and the bargain basement they conspired to create.
When Pittsburgh radio personality Trish Beatty was in Moscow in July, working on a documentary about a Soviet-American peace walk, she joined a pickup baseball game that drew both from participants in the walk and from prospective members of the Soviet national baseball team. During a ceremonial postgame exchange of gifts, a Soviet pitcher-outfielder by the name of Andrei Tselekovsky somehow lost his mitt.
Baseball gloves are as rare as VCRs in the Soviet Union, where fledgling ballplayers usually depend on the kindness of visiting foreigners to equip them, so Beatty resolved to replace the glove. Back in the U.S., she called the Phillies' Kent Tekulve, an old friend from his Pirate days, and got a glove from him, personally signed. She forwarded it to former NFL quarterback Guy Benjamin, now with Athletes United for Peace, who was on his way to the Soviet Union.
Benjamin could not locate Tselekovsky, so he left the glove with a Soviet Olympic official. Beatty had no idea if the glove reached Andrei. But some weeks later she was reading The Pittsburgh Press when she came across an Associated Press dispatch on Soviet baseball that described a player named Tselekovsky as having "a glove autographed by Kent Tekulve."
In recent weeks the NCAA has reduced penalties it previously had imposed on 1) Pitt defensive back Teryl Austin for accepting $2,500 from agent Norby Walters; 2) Auburn quarterback Jeff Burger for being bailed out of jail by assistant coach Pat Sullivan; and 3) Minnesota quarterback Rickey Foggie for receiving a loan of a plane ticket from assistant coach Larry Beckish. Austin, Burger and Foggie had at first been declared ineligible this season for their infractions, but, upon appeals, Burger had his entire eligibility restored, and Austin and Foggie were given two-game suspensions. The decisions, which were all made by the Eligibility Committee, seemed to indicate a more lenient—some would say more understanding—attitude on the part of the incoming NCAA executive director, Dick Schultz.
Apparently, though, the right hand of the NCAA does not know what the left hand is doing. Last week a different group, the Academic Requirements Committee, denied an appeal by Iowa State in the case of freshman volleyball player Tracy Graham. Her crime? She took the ACT college entrance exam on a date not approved by the NCAA. Graham, a B+ student at North Scott High School in Eldridge, Iowa, scored far above the NCAA-required minimum for freshman eligibility. But she had taken the ACT in July of '86 because she was competing for her track team in the shot put on a nationally approved testing date in April of that year. The NCAA requires that prospective athletes take the ACT on national testing days so it can better monitor the results.
Graham, a three-time all-state player, had no idea that she was jeopardizing her college eligibility. "We're just sick about this," said her mother, Julie Graham. "We had no idea there would be a problem." When asked to comment, Schultz pointed out that it was the fault of Graham's high school advisers and Iowa State athletic officials, who should have informed her of the NCAA rules.
Bill MacLachlan, the women's volleyball coach at rival Drake University, was outraged. "I guess you have to get bailed out of jail by your coach, accept money from agents or take illegal loans from coaches to be able to get your eligibility back," wrote MacLachlan in a letter to The Des Moines Register. "This is a senseless tragedy that leaves me disgusted, mad and wondering Why?
Why? One hesitates to think that it's because Tracy Graham does not play big-time college football. For now, blame it on the inconsistencies inherent in the labyrinthine committee structure of the NCAA.
RUNNING FOR OFFICE
More than 500 runners raced toward the "bureaucratic red tape" in last week's seventh annual Nike Capital Challenge in Washington, D.C. The three-mile race to benefit the Special Olympics aims to determine "who is fittest, the Legislative Branch, the Executive Branch, the Judiciary or the Media." Twenty-nine senators and representatives and 13 federal judges took part. However, three members of Congress decided they would not run, let alone serve, and walked instead.
The fastest senator was Montana Democrat Max Baucus, who ran as a member of a team called the Baucus Caucus and finished in 19:48. Rhode Island Republican Claudine Schneider of the Rhode Runners won the title of Fastest Woman in the House for the third straight year. The hottest competition, though, was for the title of best team name. The winner was McDonald's Golden Arches, captained by Kim McDonald of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Also-rans in the name category included Taxation Without Hesitation from the IRS and—our favorite—Legs Meesèrables from the attorney general's office.
WASN'T HE A CARDINAL?
Mike Sadek, a former catcher for the San Francisco Giants, was in Candlestick Park last Friday for the visit of Pope John Paul II and arranged to have the Pontiff autograph a baseball. Which the Pope did, signing it "JP II."
O CANADA CUP: A ROUSING FINALE
Numerologists and hockey fans could delight in the Canada Cup, which came to a stirring close last Tuesday night when Mario Lemieux beat Soviet goalie Sergei Mylnikov with 1:26 left in the third and deciding game to give Team Canada a 6-5 victory. The first two games of the Cup final had ended in identical 6-5 scores in overtime, with the U.S.S.R. winning the first one and Canada the second (SI, Sept. 21).
Lemieux's dramatic winner immediately recalled a similar goal 15 years earlier in Moscow in the eighth and deciding game of the first summit series between the Soviet Union and Canada. Paul Henderson beat the splendid U.S.S.R. goalie Vladislav Tretiak with 34 seconds remaining in that game for the victory. The score? Six to five.
Lemieux, like Henderson, quickly became a national hero in Canada. His climactic goal was his 11th of the tournament—with Wayne Gretzky assisting on nine of them—and eradicated the doubts of his countrymen about him. Before this competition, Lemieux had drawn criticism for declining to represent Canada in international competition. In addition, the effortlessness with which he has played for the Pittsburgh Penguins had led observers to believe that he does not go at full throttle.
But he and the rest of Team Canada were certainly going all out last Tuesday. The U.S.S.R. jumped off to 3-0 and 4-2 leads in the first period. Team Canada coach Mike Keenan said afterward, "The mood in the room [after the first period] was that we were about to participate in the greatest comeback in the history of the game." Keenan may have been overstating things, but not by much.
THEY SAID IT
•Joe Magrane, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, on his small hometown of Morehead, Ky.: "Not much goes in or out of there, except Charles Kuralt a couple of times a year."