"The lockout was designed to produce an agreement before the season and prevent a work stoppage during the season, and it worked," said Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig in the wee hours of Monday morning. Several hours earlier, at about 10 p.m. on Sunday, Selig and the five other owners on the Player Relations Committee (PRC) had come to an agreement with the Players Association on a new four-year collective-bargaining contract, thus ending baseball's 32-day spring training lockout. Camps opened on Monday; the regular season is expected to begin April 9, a week late. A full 162-game season may yet be salvaged by rescheduling lost games.
The players seemed to get most of what they wanted. The new contract raises the minimum salary from $68,000 to $100,000, forces owners to increase their contribution to the players' pension fund from $39 million a year to $55 million, calls for expanding rosters from 24 to 25 players starting in 1991 and, on the stickiest issue of the lengthy negotiations, makes some players with between two and three years' big league service (the 17% with the most service, assuming they were with a club for at least 86 days during the previous season) eligible for salary arbitration. Under the expired contract, no player with less than three years' service had been eligible for arbitration. Now, about 15 a year will be.
Was the lockout really necessary? Of course not, despite what Selig says. Cities and businesses in Florida and Arizona were needlessly hurt, as were fans who had scheduled trips to spring training sites. The truncated spring training may yet result in player injuries and sloppy early season play.
March 26, 1990
Said Chicago White Sox owner and PRC member Jerry Reinsdorf, "I wouldn't say both sides are incredibly happy, but we're both happy that it's over." Amen to that.
BACK TO OAKLAND?
Los Angeles Raider managing general partner Al Davis announced on March 12 that if final details can be worked out, he will move his team back to Oakland in time for the 1992 NFL season. In an astoundingly generous offer, Alameda County and the city of Oakland have agreed to give Davis $54.9 million in cash and to refurbish Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum at a cost of $53.5 million. In addition, they have promised to make up the difference if the Raiders don't take in at least $416.8 million in ticket revenue and $130.8 million in revenue from stadium club membership and luxury boxes over the 15 years of the deal. The $416.8 million figure is based on the projected sale of 57,000 of the stadium's 63,500 seats for every game.
Davis is said to be worried that tax-payers may shoot down the deal as too extravagant. East Bay voters certainly ought to be asking if a pro sports franchise—especially one that deserted Oakland in 1982 in hopes of finding greater riches in L.A.—is worthy of such a public outlay. As Oakland resident Gary Robinson pointed out at the public meeting at which city and county officials approved the offer to Davis, "Our schools need help. Our social-welfare programs need help. Our police need help. We have to turn kids away from Little League teams because we can't afford places for them to play, and here they want us to come up with this kind of money for the Raiders." Oakland city councilman Wilson Riles Jr., who wants the deal put to a referendum, says he is "aghast" at "the amount of money being handed to Davis when the city is in dire need in aiding education and fighting crime."
Proponents of the deal, including Oakland mayor Lionel Wilson, say that the Raiders would generate millions in economic activity and tax revenue. But such financial benefits are generally overstated. Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest (Ill.) College, has researched the economic effects of big league franchises on numerous cities and found the benefits to be minimal in most cases.
"These studies treat sports spending as new spending, but people have limited budgets and leisure time," says Baade. "If a person is eating and drinking at the ballpark, then he's less likely to be eating at a restaurant or going to a bar that night." The Giants, Athletics, Warriors and 49ers might be interested to hear that, according to Baade, "the more sports teams there are in a region, the more revenue a new team detracts from the others."
Oakland and Alameda County are counting on Davis to keep his team in Oakland for more than 15 years. But how can he be trusted to do that? After moving the Raiders to the Los Angeles Coliseum, an action that Oakland unsuccessfully fought in court at a cost to its taxpayers of $2.8 million in legal fees (the NFL also tried to block the move, and wound up paying Davis an $18 million settlement after losing an antitrust suit he brought against the league), Davis found himself in a dispute with the L.A. Coliseum Commission over stadium renovations. He threatened to move the Raiders to nearby Irwindale, but after pocketing a nonrefundable $10 million deposit from that city, he decided to look elsewhere. He ended up back in Oakland.
The hunger for pro franchises has become so great that cities are all but throwing themselves at the feet of Davis and other owners. These owners haven't hesitated to play cities against one another. For example, Gordon and George Gund, owners of the Minnesota North Stars, say that the team will move to Oakland unless a local interest buys the club. The Gunds, who have been complaining about poor attendance, are nevertheless asking $50 million for the team, nearly $20 million more than has ever been paid for an NHL franchise, and a particularly outrageous sum considering that the North Stars have recently been among the NHL's worst teams.
"Maybe sports have gotten a bit out of hand," says George Vukasin, president of the Oakland Coliseum. "[The deal with Davis] is a very high price to pay. But when you're paying baseball players $3 million a year, that puts what we've done in some perspective. Basically, if Oakland and Alameda County want to be considered major league, they've got to step up and pay major league money for a team."
Of course, Oakland already has two big league teams, the Warriors and the world-champion A's—and the city got both of them a whole lot cheaper.
The referees at a Stevens Point, Wis., recreation-league basketball game not long ago were named Larry Kokkeler, Curly Marquard and Jim Moe.
If you don't believe that women's college sports programs still get second-class treatment, consider what happened last week to Penn State's outstanding women's basketball team. The Lady Lions had gained the right to host a first-round NCAA tournament game against Florida State on March 14 but were forced to move the game to Florida State because Penn State had reserved its gym for a men's NIT game that night between the Nittany Lions and Marquette. Not incidentally, ESPN broadcast the men's game nationwide.
Penn State athletic director James Tarman explained that the NIT had required a commitment in late February, two weeks before Penn State knew that its women's team would need the gym. "It was a facility decision, not a gender decision," he said. But would Penn State ever force its men's basketball team to play a key game on the road to suit the needs of its women's team? It's almost unimaginable.
In the end the Lady Lions earned an 83-73 victory at Florida State, and the Penn State athletic department suffered some well-deserved embarrassment. As the Nittany Lion men were defeating Marquette 57-54 before a crowd of 3,729—just 128 more than the attendance at Penn State's last home women's game—protesters marched outside the gym with banners, one of which read MEN'S STATE.
University of Houston quarterback Andre Ware, who said after winning the Heisman Trophy that he would stay at Houston to play his senior season (SCORECARD, Dec. 11), announced last week that he will enter the NFL draft in April. Ware would not say why he changed his mind, but he has good reason to believe his market value could only decline if he remained at Houston. He could get injured, have a poor season or simply be victimized by the NFL's next collective-bargaining agreement, which, if the owners have their way, will limit rookie salaries.
Ware figures to be drafted higher than any of this year's weak crop of senior quarterbacks. "The only questions on Andre come from people who don't know him," says new Houston Oiler coach Jack Pardee, Ware's college coach the last three seasons. "He's strong, fast and thinks well on his feet." Actually, the top three quarterbacks selected next month may all be underclassmen: Ware; Utah southpaw Scott Mitchell, who has drawn comparisons to Boomer Esiason; and, if he enters the draft as expected, Jeff George of Illinois.
Readers of last Thursday's San Diego Union had to be startled by a story about a memorial service held in Beverly Hills. Calif., for Eugene Klein, the former Charger owner and thoroughbred breeder. Klein died on March 12 of heart failure at the age of 69.
"For all his wealth," the beginning of the Union's story read, "Eugene V. Klein was remembered yesterday for the delight he took in filching the silverware in restaurants...."
The next day, the Union printed a correction of its report of Klein's supposed liberties with the cutlery, an account that had been based on a eulogy delivered at the service by one of his three grandchildren, Benjamin King. "It was incorrectly reported in yesterday's editions that Eugene Klein was remembered as one who 'took delight in filching silverware in restaurants'..."the correction said. "Review of a poor-quality audio tape made during the service established that King actually said his grandfather 'flipped' silverware in restaurants for the amusement of his grandchildren."
TALK, TALK, TALK
Memo to Jim Lampley: Please shut up now and then. Your nonstop, high-decibel blather during the HBO broadcast of the Julio Cèsar Chàvez-Meldrick Taylor fight (page 16) was intrusive. The thrilling action spoke for itself. Please attend a class or two at the Tim Ryan school of fight commentary, or try to emulate your broadcast partner, Ray Leonard, who spoke only when he had something to say.
HE'S NO. 1
While most eyes were on the NCAA tournament last week (page 22), an obscure red-haired center for David Lipscomb University, a Church of Christ-supported school in Nashville, Tenn., became college basketball's all-time leading scorer. In an NAIA tournament game against Pfeiffer College in Kansas City last Friday night, Philip Hutcheson, a 6'8½" Lipscomb senior, sank a hook shot to break the mark of 4,045 points set by Kentucky State's Travis Grant between 1969 and '72. Hutcheson, whose team was eliminated from the tournament the following night, finished with 4,106 points and a 26.5-point career average.
Most of Hutcheson's points came on hooks and turnaround jumpers taken eight to 12 feet from the hoop. "I stole from the book of tennis pro Vic Braden, who said [to] learn to hit the same boring winner," says Hutcheson. "I learned to make the same boring shot, time after time after time. You don't catch me working on three-point hook shots or between-the-legs layups."
Both Hutcheson and his team are exceptional. The Bisons, the No. 1-ranked NAIA team most of the season, finished with a 41-5 record; they're the first college team ever to win 40 games in a season. And Hutcheson, who's looking more toward law school than a pro career, is a true student-athlete. He carries a perfect 4.0 grade point average (he's majoring in political science communications) and works part time as a sportswriter for the Nashville Banner. When asked last week how he would headline his basketball achievements, Hutcheson replied, with his usual self-effacing humor, "Big Dork Does O.K."
It's hard to say which was more disturbing: the tasteless performance of the Miami Heat's mascot during a home game against the New York Knicks on March 11, or the glee with which fans in Miami Arena cheered it. The mascot—actually Wes Lockard, 29, who dresses in an orange feathered costume that makes him look like a distant cousin of the Phillie Phanatic—was attempting to poke fun at New York City. During a fourth-quarter timeout, as Frank Sinatra's rendition of New York, New York blared over the P.A. system, Lockard walked onto the court wearing an outfit of rags on top of his costume and pushing a shopping cart. In case any fans didn't recognize that he was imitating a stereotypical bag lady, Lockard pulled out a bottle in a brown paper sack and pretended to guzzle from it.
There was more. As Lockard drank, a coconspirator slowed down the music on the P.A. system to make Sinatra's words sound drunkenly slurred. Then two other participants in the skit dashed out, pretended to club him on the head, snatched a giant wristwatch from him and ran off, disappearing under the stands.
Someone should inform Lockard, the Heat and their fans that homelessness, alcohol abuse and violent crime aren't joking matters.
THEY SAID IT
•Clint Hurdle, minor league manager in the Mets organization, pondering the ethnically mixed name of pitching prospect Vladimir Perez: "I think some people in his family got together during the Cuban missile crisis."