The Cubs' Clause
Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent could be in for an embarrassing surprise next week. That's when a federal judge in Chicago will rule on Chicago National League Ball Club, Inc. v. Francis T. Vincent, Jr. The "Ball Club" is the Chicago Cubs, who brought the suit in response to Vincent's decision two weeks ago to realign the National League by moving the Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals into the Western Division and the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds into the East. The Cubs, who maintain that their lucrative superstation broadcast package would be diminished if they had to play additional games in the Pacific time zone, as the divisional shift would require, claim that Vincent overstepped his authority. Hence the suit in Chicago—a city that does not consider itself a part of the West. "This is not a cowboy boot city," wrote Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko.
Vincent thinks his "best interests of baseball" power gives him the authority to realign the league. But lawyers for the Cubs have put together a powerful argument to the contrary. Citing the Major League Agreement, an elaborate contract that created the office of commissioner 70 years ago, the Cubs say that Vincent's authority is limited to correcting "an act, a transaction, or a practice" that is "not in the best interests of baseball." The Cubs argue that Vincent's decision to realign the league was based on no such act, transaction or practice.
It's a nifty legal argument supported by the words of the Agreement and by longtime practices of the two leagues. According to the Cubs, the Agreement also prevents the commissioner from intruding into "league matters." Realignment is one of those matters, say the Cubs, and the National League constitution gives them a veto over any move involving them. In 1964, for example, commissioner Ford Frick's counsel, after consulting the Agreement, announced that if the Milwaukee Braves wanted to move to Atlanta, there was nothing the commissioner could do about it because it was "a league matter." Vincent says he has the authority to resolve "all disputes and controversies related in anyway to professional baseball." But those words cannot be found in the Agreement.
Vincent may have overestimated his power and underestimated the Tribune Company, the owner of the Cubs. The last time the company took on a commissioner in court, it triumphed. That happened two years ago, when it sued David Stern of the NBA to keep him from limiting the number of superstation telecasts of Chicago Bulls games. The legalities that defeated Stern are similar to the ones the company has raised against Vincent. They could very well work again.
Au Revoir, LeMond
In Europe, where the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500 are distant notions, the race to the top of L'Alpe d'Huez during the Tour de France is known as "the greatest day in sports." On Sunday, however, two non-Europeans—three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond and former Tour of Italy winner Andy Hampsten, both Americans—figured most prominently in the stage that ends, after a climb of 6,000 feet, at a ski resort in the French Alps.
LeMond never made it to the base of the mountain. After having lost 20 minutes on a lesser ascent earlier in the day, he decided to withdraw from the event he has made his own. He cited fatigue, which had dogged him since the race began two weeks ago—he stood 41st in the Tour, entering Sunday's stage—when a French truckers' strike turned the journey from his home in Brussels to the race's prologue in Spain into an ordeal.
Though by day's end Hampsten could only close to within eight minutes of overall leader and defending champion Miguel Indurain of Spain, he did become the first U.S. rider to win the most storied stage of the world's premier bike race. "I've dreamed about winning this stage every time I rode my bike," said Hampsten afterward. "It's absolutely the most incredible sensation for a rider, to have half a million people pulling for you. But the great thing is they're all for the last man, too."
Hampsten's charge moved him into third place, but with only one week to go in the race it's unlikely that he could overtake Induràin. "If you don't have it, you don't have it," said Hampsten. "And the Tour de France is not kind to people who don't have it."
A Designer Ty
Although she is accustomed to making fashion statements, New York clothing designer Nicole Miller has now made a fashion misstatement. One of the ties in her hot-selling line of neckwear with sports motifs is devoted to baseball. It presents a number of scenes, including Willie Mays's catch in the 1954 World Series and Jackie Robinson stealing home. The tie also features Babe Ruth as he appeared on his 1933 Goudey baseball card. The inscription above him reads GEORGIA PEACH.
The Ingrate One
After signing a six-year contract reportedly worth $15 million with the Philadelphia Flyers last week, Eric Lindros pulled on a number 88 jersey and blasted the hapless Quebec Nordiques, which had held the rights to him for more than a year. "It's the first time in a long time I've been wearing the sweater of a team that has the will to win," said the 19-year-old Lindros. Maybe he forgot that he was a member of Team Canada when it won the 1991 Canada Cup and that he played for the Canadian team that got the silver medal at the '92 Winter Olympics. Maybe Lindros should spend some of his new bounty on lessons in public relations.
Women among Boys
As a tuneup for the Olympics, U.S. women's basketball coach Theresa Grentz wanted her players to compete against opponents who were comparable in height and talent. So what if most of the opposition happened to be of the opposite sex?
In the past month the Olympians lost 93-86 to the Spokane (Wash.) All-Stars, an all-male team of former college and high school players; fell 74-66 to a coed squad of former University of Tennessee players, who rallied in the final four minutes by playing four men; beat the Mid-Atlantic All-Stars, a mostly male team of college and college-bound players, in two out of three periods; and edged the Central Jersey AAU boys' team, which included several top Division I prospects, 110-105 in overtime.
In addition to steeling the U.S. team for Barcelona, the series of intergender games provided an indication of how the play in women's hoops compares with that of the men's game. Said one Division I men's coach who was at the game on July 15 against Central Jersey, "They would get drilled by any Division I men's team and most Division II and III teams. Don't get me wrong, they're probably the best women's Olympic team ever. But they couldn't deal with the height and physical play inside."
Like its male counterpart, the female Dream Team has 11 professionals and only one amateur. Suzie McConnell, a 5'4" point guard who played at Penn State, is a high school basketball coach in Pittsburgh and the mother of a 21-month-old son, Peter. McConnell, 25, had a game-high 10 assists against the AAU team. "If there was any thought of this being a boys-against-girls game, that was gone from the beginning," said Central Jersey coach Rich Leary.
The game blurred gender lines in more ways than one. Afterward, McConnell walked up to Central Jersey guard Jason Murdock, a high school standout who's the cousin of Milwaukee Buck guard Eric, shook his hand and playfully tweaked his ear. "Nice earring," she said.
Oscars in Their Mitts
Jim Caple of the St. Paul Pioneer Press points out that several Academy Award nominees have played catchers on the big screen. To his list we have added a couple of names of our own. Though none of these thespians received nominations for their roles as receivers, here are their diamond credits: Buster Keaton (College), Robert De Niro (Bang the Drum Slowly), James Earl Jones (Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings), Kevin Costner (Bull Durham), Tom Berenger (Major League) and Geena Davis (A League of Their Own).
LeMond's quest for a fourth Tour de France title ended on "the greatest day in sports."
COURTESY OF NICOLE MILLER(TIE)
Miller's tie may be a hit, but it strikes out in baseball terms.
COURTESY OF COLLECTOR'S STADIUM(TRADING CARD)
[See caption above.]
McConnell excels against man-to-woman defense.
They Said It
Roger McDowell, Los Angeles Dodger reliever, when asked by a reporter if he had seen JFK: "The movie or the airport?"
Murad Muhammad, boxing promoter, discussing with another promoter the chances of a fight in Venezuela: "Great! That's the Italian city with the guys in the boats, right?"