Over the years the lords of baseball have been treated as special characters by the U.S. Supreme Court (which granted them an exemption from antitrust laws), Congress (which declined to eliminate that exemption) and local politicians and taxpayers (who provided public funds to build most of the major league ball parks). The game's owners have even been indulged by their players, who voluntarily agreed in 1976 to limitations on their newly acquired freedom to sell their services to the highest bidder—a right enjoyed by most Americans. But the owners, feeling it wasn't enough that the players had consented to limit free agency to those with six or more years in the major leagues and had further agreed that a club losing a free agent be compensated with an amateur player, demanded that such compensation henceforth consist of a major-leaguer. Unlike the courts, the politicians and the taxpayers, the players at this point dared suggest that, in the absence of more compelling justification for increased compensation than anybody had heard so far, there might be a limit to special treatment for the owners. In other words, it was the players' refusal to grant their bosses yet another whopping concession—not, as popularly believed, the other way around—that led to last week's unprecedented midseason strike.
Outstanding athletes are often forced into retirement by injuries, defeat and old age, a process that leaves many of them bitter and frustrated. Maren Seidler, 30, who holds the American women's record of 62'7¾" in the shotput, appears to be a blessed exception. In June 1980, competing in the U.S. track-and-field championships in Walnut, Calif., Seidler won her ninth straight national outdoor title and 11th in 14 years and said, "I may be around a long time." She added, "I wouldn't do this unless I enjoyed it."
Now, suddenly, Seidler, a wonderfully bright and ebullient woman, apparently doesn't enjoy it—or not enough, anyway. After making the 1980 U.S. Olympic team—she also made the '68, '72 and '76 squads—she took a long layoff, planning to return to competition this summer. But she has changed her mind and now says she's retiring. She leaves her sport with a sense of fulfillment rather than frustration. "I've been putting the shot for 16 years, more than half my life," she says. "I feel finished. I guess it's been in the back of my mind for a while. I simply didn't think I had enough to give to shotputting. There was no good reason to do it anymore. It just seemed silly. The other day in practice I picked up the shot to throw it and instead just laid it back down."
SWIFT, SURE AND PLEBEIAN
Members of the yachting set in the Pacific Northwest are still shaking their heads over the outcome of this year's Swiftsure, the prestigious 136.2-mile race that runs from Victoria, British Columbia, through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and 15 miles out into the Pacific, then back to Victoria. The overall winner was the 41-foot sloop Heather, which flew the burgee not of any of the old-line yacht clubs that usually dominate the Swiftsure but of the upstart and plebeian Sloop Tavern Yacht Club, which operates out of a bar on Seattle's waterfront. What's more, Heather was manned by eight Explorer Scouts, aged 15 to 19, from Seattle Post 950 and skippered by their adviser, Fred Roswold, a 35-year-old data processor for a Seattle bank. Except for Roswold, the winning sailors were too young to attend an impromptu victory party at the Sloop Tavern, whose owner, Wayne Schmidt, said, "What do you want me to do, lose my license?"
Drinking ages aside, the affiliation between the tavern and the Scouts is a natural. The Sloop Tavern Yacht Club consists of 150 members, mostly "weekend sailing couples who like to race a little," as Schmidt puts it. Explorer Post 950 has 25 members, who take turns practicing aboard Heather on Puget Sound. The Scouts don't hail from sailing families. "Most of our members have never sailed before joining the Scouts," says Roswold. "I've got kids who can't even afford foul-weather gear. And the sailing program costs them only about $15 a year, and we're not real strict about that." This year's Swiftsure was the second in which Post 950 competed aboard Heather. Roswold says the light air that prevailed was ideal for Heather, adding, "We were really up for this race. The kids spent a week getting ready and they didn't fool around. They worked hard, ate the right foods and got plenty of rest."
While the Scouts aren't bluebloods, Heather is. She was built in 1975 for John Buchan, a member of one of Seattle's most prominent yachting families, who donated her to Post 950 when his new 53-footer Glory was christened last year. Ah, noblesse oblige. Buchan and Glory were first across the line in the Swiftsure but, on a corrected-time basis, finished 14 places behind the cast-off boat that, thanks to Buchan's generosity, now represents Post 950 and the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club.
A BRACING DRAFT
Pro basketball reporter Roy S. Johnson reflects on last week's NBA college draft:
"By allowing teams to pick in more or less the reverse order of their finish in the regular season, the draft is designed to help equalize competition, but in the past the weaker clubs all too often defeated this worthy purpose by sacrificing their high choices in ill-considered trades that demonstrated how they got to be weak in the first place. This time around, Dallas, Detroit and New Jersey, which had the three worst records in 1980-81, held on to their top selections. Not only that, but the Mavericks and Pistons also contrived to have not one but two first-round choices each, while the Nets had three. And, most uncharacteristically of all, all three clubs used their picks wisely.
"The happy result is that the poor will, for a change, get richer. After leaning toward Indiana's Isiah Thomas for weeks, Dallas, which picked first, instead took Mark Aguirre of DePaul, who was, after all, the best player available. The Mavs' other first-round choice was Rolando Blackman of Kansas State, the most promising of 1981's big guards, and for good measure, they picked up hardworking Jay Vincent, a forward-center from Michigan State, in the second round. The Mavericks will be much improved. Detroit gladly grabbed the leftover Thomas, the best point guard to enter the NBA since Phil Ford, as well as Notre Dame's Kelly Tripucka. The Pistons will also be improved, although it didn't seem to bode well for them when Thomas reacted to being drafted by Detroit by saying he'd now have to get used to losing, while Tripucka looked as though he'd just been sentenced to life imprisonment. The biggest winners may have been the Nets, who not only landed a terrific power forward, Buck Williams, but also Williams' University of Maryland roommate, Forward Albert King, and Indiana Forward Ray Tolbert, while making deals for Kansas City's All-Star Guard Otis Birdsong and Knick swingman Mike Woodson—all in the space of 24 breathless hours. By contrast, powerhouses like L.A., Philadelphia and Milwaukee didn't help themselves all that much, which is the way these things are supposed to work out but too seldom do."
As if their countries haven't already exported enough products to the U.S., please meet 7'8", 300-pound Yasutaka Okayama of Japan and 7'2", 250-pound Uwe Blab of West Germany. Okayama was selected in the eighth round of the NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors, and it wasn't a publicity stunt. Nicknamed Chibi, which means midget in Japanese, the 25-year-old Okayama is a former star for the Osaka University of Commerce and now plays for a team representing Sumitomo Metal Industries, where he's employed as a $680-a-month salesman. Okayama said that while he was honored to be drafted by the Warriors, he wasn't interested in trying to make the team—a decision applauded by his former coach at Osaka, Saburo Shimada, who considers him "far too slow by American professional standards." But the man who recommended Okayama, Warrior scout and consultant Pete Newell, called Okayama an "intelligent player" with undeveloped potential; Newell notes that Okayama appears to have finally stopped growing and, therefore, may now develop some needed coordination. Despite Okayama's avowed lack of interest, he'll be invited to Golden State's rookie camp.
Blab came to Effingham, Ill. in 1979 from his native Munich on a Rotary International exchange program and averaged 16.6 points a game as a junior and 26.4 as a senior for one of Illinois' strongest high school basketball teams. He decided to attend college in the U.S. and was recruited by 160 schools, including NCAA champion Indiana, whose coach, Bobby Knight, showed up to see Blab in Effingham after the deadline that the boy and his high school coach had set for such visits. Discussing his encounter with Knight with Bob Hammel of the Bloomington (Ind.) Herald-Telephone, Blab said, "I asked him, 'Why do you come in so late?' He told me, 'We don't recruit like other schools do. We don't recruit players that hard. Every player we recruit we want.' And then he said, 'I don't recruit you—you recruit me.' " There was also this exchange:
Blab: "I had never even heard of you before last year."
Knight: "Well, just how the hell long do you think I've heard of you?"
Bobby strikes again. Explaining that he liked Indiana's campus and players and also that he'd developed grudging admiration for Knight's unorthodox recruiting style, Blab decided to enroll this fall at Indiana, where he'll become the tallest player in Hoosier history.
The case of Kenny Wright, the former high school football star who shot himself to death with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun in woods near Ledyard, Conn., is closed. Wright, despondent after being paralyzed from the chest down by injuries suffered while roughhousing after a party (SI, March 9), had been taken to the woods in his wheelchair by two friends, Brian Taylor and Billy King. He killed himself when they left him to go for beer. Taylor and King pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, and Superior Court Judge Seymour L. Hendel gave them two-to-four-year suspended sentences. Referring to their role in Wright's suicide, Hendel said, "You will have to live with that. He was your friend. That's a severe punishment."
During his seven years with the NFL's Houston Oilers, Billy (White Shoes) Johnson was noted for his distinctive footwear, his flashy pass receptions and punt returns, and the well-choreographed wiggle in the end zone with which he punctuated his touchdowns. Now with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, Johnson is still a standout. Making his CFL debut on June 7 in a 27-21 exhibition loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, Johnson performed some fancy moves on the receiving end of a 55-yard pass thrown by another NFL refugee, former Ram Quarterback Vince Ferragamo, and entertained the crowd with his patented end-zone dance following a TD on a 78-yard punt return that was nullified by a clipping infraction. Only one problem. While Montreal sportswriters deferentially refer to Johnson as Souliers Blancs, the nickname, whatever the tongue, is rendered rather meaningless by the fact that all the Alouettes wear white shoes. "Maybe I'll go to blue," says Billy.
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Walsh, San Francisco 49er coach, after watching his 6-10 team score touchdowns and perform other wondrous deeds in the newly released 49er highlight film: "It's amazing what they can do with electronics."
•Tom Beckerle, former University of Hawaii basketball player, after breaking his right arm in four places and sustaining radial nerve damage in his first parachute jump: "It wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be."
•Bob Ferry, Washington Bullet general manager, during a lunch at Dominique's in Washington to announce the signing of Center Jeff Ruland: "This is the best restaurant in the world, and one of the finest in the Washington area."