ON THE BEACH AT WAIKIKI
The annual winter baseball meetings ended last week in Honolulu and a disgruntled observer said they were a lot like the Don Ho show that the minor leagues presented at their association's banquet: Both the meetings and Ho (hum) promised a lot but delivered little.
The Hot Stove League was supposed to be fueled by winter-meeting trades, and when the Red Sox sent star Third Baseman Carney Lansford to the A's for slugging Outfielder Tony Armas on the first day, the press conference in the Koko Crater Room of the Sheraton Waikiki was uwila with anticipation of more. But then, for a couple of days, nothing. Oh, sure, Bowie Kuhn made a dandy speech. Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I. showed up and was given a Detroit Tiger cap by Sparky Anderson. The Mets announced the marriage of Broadcaster Ralph Kiner to Di Ann Shugart. And the Cubs showed off some snappy stationery.
After that, things heated up a little. George Steinbrenner signed free agent Steve Kemp to a five-year contract, which for the moment gave the Yankees 10 outfielders at an annual cost of around $8 million. "George is collecting outfielders like nuclear warheads," Baltimore owner Edward Bennett Williams said. "What's he building? Dense Pack?" Later that day Steinbrenner thinned the pack by sending Dave Collins, one of his prize catches last year, to Toronto, along with two other players and $400,000 the Blue Jays could use to help pay Collins' salary. The Yankees got a pair in return.
The biggest deal—hardly a blockbuster—came when the Phillies traded Second Baseman Manny Trillo, Outfielder George Vukovich and three excellent young prospects to the Indians for Outfielder Von Hayes, who had 14 homers and 82 RBIs as a rookie last summer and who baseball men feel is a coming star. Actually, the trade was made for Hayes and Cleveland President Gabe Paul's orange sweater. Philadelphia General Manager Paul Owens said, "I told Gabe that if we made the deal he had to give me the sweater. I love the color. There's a pair of slacks to be named later, too."
The Astros signed free agent Outfielder Omar (The Outmaker) Moreno, the Mets announced they had agreed in principle to bring Tom Seaver back to New York from Cincinnati, and there were a couple of other bits of news. But where was the really big trade? Excitement grew when the two Chicago clubs announced a joint press conference for 5 p.m. last Friday. What would it be? Bill Buckner for Greg Luzinski? Leon Durham for Harold Baines? Well, no. It turned out to be Reggie Waller for Tye Patterson, or Tye Waller for Reggie Patterson. Whatever.
In all, there were only eight transactions, involving 26 players. Two years ago, 59 players were moved, and it has been ages since the number of deals fell below double figures. What the meetings in Hawaii demonstrated is that baseball trading is moribund, if not actually dead, mostly because of the complexity of present-day contracts. "It's ridiculous to fly all the way to Hawaii and nobody does anything," said Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog.
It's not that no one tried. The Rangers and the Dodgers announced a trade in which Catcher Jim Sundberg would go to Los Angeles. But the Dodgers wanted Sundberg to renegotiate his highly favorable contract. Sundberg refused, and the trade was off.
"I don't blame Jim." said Texas General Manager Joe Klein. "I don't blame the Dodgers. I blame the collective bargaining agreement. It used to be that after a name was mentioned for a trade I'd run up and look at the scouting report on the player. Now the first thing I look up is his contract."
ASK MR. J
The week before the Virginia-Georgetown basketball confrontation (page 14), sportswriter George Vecsey of The New York Times got to wondering what Thomas Jefferson, who, among many other things, founded the University of Virginia, would think of the ballyhooed event, with its 19,035 spectators and $575,000 TV rights. Vecsey talked to Merrill Peterson, dean of the faculty at Virginia and author of several books on Jefferson, who said Jefferson would be "astonished. [Jefferson]...did talk about physical fitness as an extracurricular activity—he provided for a dance-master, for example, and, of course, young men belonged to the militia—but big-time sports would be out of his ken."
There's at least one antisports quotation from Jefferson to suggest that Peterson's judgment is too mild. In one edition of his Writings, Jefferson noted, "Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind."
When Dale Brown became LSU's basketball coach a decade ago, he formed a group called the Tiger Tykes, a bunch of youngsters, aged 3 to 13, who put on a sort of Globetrotter show to entertain folks at halftime of LSU games. The kids would do a lot of fancy dribbling and passing and shooting and got so good at it that they were invited to appear at other games and even on national TV. The Tykes put on their act all over the Southeast for four seasons.
Youngsters who can perform that well must have a lot of athletic ability, and time has proved it so. Among the Tiger Tykes were John Tudor, who's now a junior guard for LSU; Bobby Tudor, John's brother, a former Rice player; Derrick Taylor, who starred at guard for LSU as a freshman last year but is scholastically ineligible this season; Dana Moore, a football player at Mississippi State who beat LSU this fall with a 45-yard field goal with 25 seconds to go; Neal Dellocono, who'll be a starting linebacker for UCLA in the Rose Bowl; and Mike Dellocono, Neal's brother, a wide receiver at Louisiana Tech.
THE DOCTOR AND THE POSTER
The Philadelphia 76ers are doing nicely on court this season, with Moses Malone and Julius Erving making beautiful music, but they're not performing quite as well in the public relations area. Some picky 76er fans noticed that a 5½-foot-high poster of Dr. J given away to kids at a Philadelphia-Chicago game in the Spectrum didn't look right. For one thing, there was a Nassau Coliseum banner in the background. The Coliseum is where Erving played when he was a New York Net (1973-76). Erving had on a 76er home uniform, which he would not have worn at the Coliseum. And he was wearing his hair in an Afro, a style he discarded some time ago. It turned out to be an old photo of the Doctor that had been airbrushed to sub a Philly uniform for the Nets uniform he had on when the picture was taken years ago.
It seems a bit shabby, although the Sixers say they've had no complaints. Maybe Philadelphia fans, griping already because the club charges $50 for some seats and $16 for most of the rest, can't get too upset over a little thing like a poster. Even if it is 5½ feet high.
When Washington State upset Washington a few weeks back and knocked the Huskies out of a third straight trip to the Rose Bowl there was dismay in Seattle, but it was nothing like the gloom that hit Yreka, Calif. Yreka (pronounced why-REEK-a), a city of about 5,000 in the northern part of the state, isn't to be confused with Eureka, a larger town not far away on the Pacific Coast. Yreka is inland, and its reaction to the Washington-Washington State game can be traced to the fact that it sits athwart Interstate 5, about halfway along the main north-south route from Seattle to Pasadena.
In short, Yreka is a natural stopping-off place for Washington football fans journeying to and from the Rose Bowl. Yrekans have grown accustomed to opening their arms—and their cash registers—to motorists from the north. They've taken to wearing Washington buttons and stringing banners saying YREKA HAS HUSKY FEVER across Main Street. The local radio station carried broadcasts of Washington's games, the only station in California to do so on a regular basis.
Last January, Yrekans grew especially fond of their friends from Washington when a big snowstorm closed down the Interstate just as folks were returning north from the Rose Bowl. Stranded in Yreka, they spent a lot of money there as they waited out the storm.
Naturally, Yreka was looking forward to the Huskies playing in the Rose Bowl again. A dinner this fall for local merchants was repeatedly interrupted by cheers for announcements that Washington was beating Arizona State, a victory that seemed to assure another prosperous holiday season in Yreka.
But the Huskies lost to State and blew the Roses and are traveling instead to the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu. Yreka isn't on the road to Hawaii. And that's why Yrekans won't find the New Year so happy this time around.
The cries of poverty emanating from NBA owners have reached all the way down to the Continental Basketball Association, that minor league testing ground of equipment, rules and players for the NBA. Though the 1982-83 season is long since under way, the big league has yet to renew its player development contract with the CBA. Last year the NBA paid $152,500 for the right to sign any CBA player at any time. This year there hasn't been a dime.
That good deal cost each NBA club only $6,500 last season, or about $560 more than Moses Malone gets per day to tote his lunch pail. Some observers think, too, that the NBA balked because of the CBA's audacity in expanding into Detroit, long the territory of the Pistons. That the big league would worry at all is a surprise, because a) the CBA has coexisted with the NBA on four other occasions, most recently in Philadelphia two seasons ago, b) the CBA's Detroit Spirits hardly play the quality basketball that the Pistons do, and c) the Spirits play in downtown Cobo Arena, 30 miles from the Pistons' Silverdome home in Pontiac.
CBA Commissioner Jim Drucker says, "The NBA is misguided if it thinks we're a threat to it. That's not the case." Indeed, though the Spirits drew a CBA-record crowd of 5,048 to their Dec. 5 home opener against the Wisconsin Flyers, the Pistons are averaging more than 14,000 fans per game, 38% higher than last season's club-record pace and the fifth best in the NBA.
As for the NBA saving money, Drucker is currently negotiating individually with several NBA teams for the signing rights the league as a whole enjoyed last year. And at higher rates.
A QUESTION OF EMPHASIS
A scandale of sorts erupted in Colorado recently when Henry Cotton, the principal of suburban Denver's Cherry Creek High, the state's largest (enrollment: 3,400), was quoted in The Denver Post as saying he'd like to do away with high school football. Cotton's remarks were particularly volatile because he made them the week 13-0 Cherry Creek was to play Regis High for the state championship. "I hope nobody shows up," the principal said. As it turned out, about 8,000 fans saw Cherry Creek prevail 22-13 and win the title.
Cotton's remarks made the front page of The Post and were circulated all over the country by the wire services. Reaction was lively. "The media has been ripping me pretty good," Cotton says, "and a number of kooks have called to express their anonymous opinions." On the other hand, he says phone calls to the school after the story appeared ran 14 to 1 in his favor. "I had letters from other school officials, from politicians, from people who didn't want to stick their necks out, but who supported me," he says.
At a school pep rally just before the Regis game, when Cotton rose to speak to the 2,400 students in attendance, there were some boos, but members of the football team began to cheer and clap, and the cheerleaders joined in. "That was that for the booing," Cotton says.
He's not against sports, Cotton explains, just the overemphasis on sports. He concedes it would be all but impossible to abolish high school football, but he'd like to stop post-season tournaments, bar college recruiters from the school, eliminate organized off-season physical conditioning programs for varsity sports and get rid of television coverage of high school games.
"This year we had a TV contract—for high school games," he says. "That's ludicrous. You've got high school kids holding press conferences, announcing what college they're going to. That's so far out of perspective, it's ridiculous."
It's not just football, he says. Cherry Creek has a 6'11½" senior basketball center named Mike Burns who has received letters from more than 120 colleges. "We had to get him his own mailbox," Cotton says. "He gets more mail than our whole faculty. There's something wrong about a 17-year-old receiving that type of treatment.
"It's funny. The day we make a major breakthrough in heart surgery [the artificial heart implant performed in Salt Lake City], I was on the top of the front page with Ted Kennedy, while the surgery was down at the bottom. That's what I mean about overemphasis.
"I don't want to see high school athletics go the way of college athletics—excessive attention, the cable-TV power struggles, the corruption. I see high school sports as the last amateur sports in America. I'd like to keep them that way."
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Marchiony, Georgetown sports information director, on the extraordinary demand for press credentials to last Saturday's showdown between Georgetown and Virginia: "The most suspicious request came from a radio station that wanted a seat for a photographer."
•Calvin Peete, pro golfer who at 40 won more than $300,000 this year, after passing his high school equivalency test: "Now that I'm a high school graduate, all kinds of opportunities should open up for me next year."
•Hugh Durham, Georgia basketball coach, on his 7'2" freshman Center Troy Hitchcock, who weighed only 180 before the season began: "He pulled a muscle in practice the other day. That was bad news because he had to miss practice, but it was good news because 'we discovered he had a muscle."
•Sugar Ray Leonard, in an address to students at Harvard: "I consider myself blessed. I consider you blessed. We've all been blessed with God-given talents. Mine just happens to be beatin' people up."